North Sikkim hamlet tops UNDP heritage village sites

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Lachen, North Sikkim, Oct 20 (UNI) With the age-old Dzumsa (traditional Panchayat system) intact over the years and the colourful culture to boast of, Lachen, a remote hamlet in North Sikkim has immortalised itself on the world tourism map as the 'Himalayan heritage' village.

The initiative took roots when the village was chosen by the Union Ministry of Tourism in partnership with UNDP under its 'Explore Rural India Programme' as one of the 100 heritage village sites in the world.

An endogenous tourism festival was held here on October 17 and 18 to mark the conclusion of the ETP project with the display of local culture, art and crafts.

In the words of the Lachen Pipon (village headman) T G Lachenpa, ''Lachen has carved a niche as one among the top six UNDP sites.

Started in 2004, the project in Lachen concluded much before the stipulated time thus attracting interest from other UNDP sites to know about the uniqueness of the village.'' When asked about the success of the project, the Pipon said 90 per cent of the work under ETP was over and there was no misuse of funds in Lachen under the Dzumsa administration, adding, ''No one can misuse funds here.'' Dzumsa is the tradtional form of village governance practised in North Sikkim for centuries in line with Panchayati Raj system and a Pipon is equivalent to a panchayat.

The UNDP project would come to an end in December and the Dzumsa already had plans on how to keep up with the development.

The UNDP project had already started showing results. According to the Pipon, Lachen had only seven hotels when the UNDP project started in 2004.

Now the number of hotels had increased to 27, he said. Likewise, the number of taxis had increased from 15 in 2004 to 50.

This shows that tourist inflow to the village had scaled. The data collected by the Mountain Institute, the implementing agency of the ETP project, shows that 18,000 tourists have come till July this year while only around 10,000 tourists were recorded in the last few years. The data showed 30 per cent rise in tourist inflow to Lachen.

Moreover, the local administration had stressed on promoting homestays. At least eight homestays have been developed as of date and there were plans to increase it.

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