2nd December, 2003
NORTH-EAST


SIKKIM: THE PARADISE OF NATURALISTS


Sikkim, the tiny mountainous State situated at the flank of the eastern Himalaya between 27 05-28 09 north latitude and 87 57-88 56 east longitude having a total area of 7300 sq. km. is popularly known as the paradise of naturalists. Because of its variable climate conditions and topography, there is a reciprocal relationship between its area and bio-diversity. The State not only has exceptional scenic beauty but is equally rich in its bio-wealth.

Because of its elevations the rainfall in the State varies from 500 mm to 5000 mm per year. Though Arctic conditions are quite common in the higher elevations, the temperature varies between as high as 30 degrees Celsius to below 0 degree Celsius with relative humidity up to 95 per cent. With only about 0.2 per cent of the total geographical area of the country, the State shelters around 25 per cent of the flowering plants of India. It provides a luxuriant floral diversity comprising about 4500 species of flowering plants, about 350 species of bryophytes and fungi and about 250 species of lichens and algae. Its unique geographical position, varied topography and high annual rainfall make the State a treasure house of flowering plants. The vegetation of tropical forests occurring up to 900 metres consists of moist deciduous to semi-evergreen tree species.

The temperate forests are confined between 1500 and 3500 metres altitude. In the higher elevations coniferous forests are ubiquitous. The Alpine vegetation occurs above 3500 metres and up to the snow line. The lower altitudes of this zone comprise the shrub species.

Sikkim is famous for its orchids. They are most beautiful. The State has about 45 per cent of orchid species found in India. Orchids have a great potential of commercialization. The flowers look exquisite and beautiful and bloom in various shapes, sizes and colours. Besides, they also have medicinal value.

The faunal diversity in Sikkim is also remarkable. The animals in the State are estimated to comprise about 150 species of mammals, more than 550 species of birds, 26 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians, 48 species of fishes and more than 600 species of butterflies.

The conservation of this bio-diversity is possible only by adopting suitable management practices to preserve all elements of the ecosystem. The first step in this direction is to stop further destruction, fragmentation, depletion and degradation of forests and to ensure their adequate regeneration. Legal and administrative measures like strict control of habitat and regulated extraction needs to be undertaken. Above all, the people by and large would have to be fully involved in preserving the unique bio-diversity of Sikkim. (PIB Features)

*Inputs from Debabrata Maity, Associated with the Botanical Survey of India, Sikkim Himalayan Circle, Gangtok.

 
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