May 2, 2016 Shaunak Kar

Goecha La – A Green Interview with trekker, Shaunak Kar

Goecha La – A Green Interview with trekker, Shaunak Kar


The trek to Goecha La started in mid-October with the primary objective of exploring the region while observing the effect that the multitudes of fellow trekkers have had on the flora, fauna and the general environment of this trail. In other words, to answer a simple question- Have we succeeded to conserve one of the most beautiful treks that the Himalayas have to offer?

Yes. Yuksom (1700m), the starting point for Goecha La Trek is connected only by road. To get to Yuksom, I took a shared Jeep (the only option for commute) from Jorethang which is well to Siliguri, West Bengal by shared Jeeps and a few buses.
Goecha La Trail begins in dense forests of orchids and rhododendrons followed by rich rhododendron forests and high Pine forests. The scenery breaks into the vast meadows of Dzongri and Thansing which then leads up to the Zemathang Plateau, the land of glacial moraines and frozen sand beds.
Goecha La Trail begins in dense forests of orchids and rhododendrons followed by rich rhododendron forests and high Pine forests. The scenery breaks into the vast meadows of Dzongri and Thansing which then leads up to the Zemathang Plateau, the land of glacial moraines and frozen sand beds.

The climate in October was very chilly and cold as expected. The first day was the most comfortable at around 15C beyond that the temperature always under 10 in the day and under 2 after 6 PM. Overnight the mercury dropped to -5C on Day 2 at Dzongri(4000m) and to -7C on Day 3 at Lamuney(4200m).

Over my interaction with the porters and the guides the consensus was that the winter was definitely colder than the previous but it didn’t seem like the conditions had deteriorated over the years or the environment had degraded for the matter.

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I was pleasantly surprised through most of my trek when it came to the amount of litter on the trail and at campsites. Every campsite had a couple of garbage bins for disposing off non-biodegradable waste and these were well used and regularly cleaned. Garbage collectors come up the trail every 2weeks to 1 month, depending on the weight of garbage, during the season (April-Jun and Sept- Nov).

There was barely any litter on the campsites and minimal toffee wrappers on the trail.Waste on the trail was well manageable even for a single person to take up the job and clean the trail up!

Exception: Sachen is ridiculously littered and very ill maintained for some odd reason. The picture on the left is beside a campsite in Sachen where you can see food waste, plastic waste almost everywhere!

Waste is collected periodically from garbage bins and cement sacks from the campsites and brought back to Yuksom and segregated(Pic on the right). There is very less information available with regards to what happens to the waste after segregation. I got mixed inputs from different people- the Govt. claims that the waste is treated and recycled after segregation but contrary to that some of the local people say that even though the funding for the waste treatment is received by the Govt. not much is really done and the same old burn-it-away practice continues.
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I’d say 3.5. The people of Sikkim are very well aware of the climate change (if any) they are also aware of the kind of effect plastics and other non-biodegradable elements have on the environment. Sessions have been held in Yuksom by some NGOs regarding the same and even the Govt. tries its best to enforce cleanliness in the mountains.
Local tourism has definitely increased a lot in the last 5 years and the signs of that are visible in the town of Yuksom. Yuksom, I was told, was a village with a few houses on a single street but now that same street has plenty of shops to assist the trekker’s needs and it even sports a 3 Star accommodation! I didn’t hear anybody complaining about the rise in tourism yet as it has benefitted most of the locals.
The town of Yuksom and the state of Sikkim has the “Keep the Hills Clean” pasted at a lot of noticeable places but yes there’s definitely room for more campaigns and posters.

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The trail falls under the Kanchedzonga National Park which is basically a Pandora’s Box of Flora and Fauna. I’m not very aware of too many wildlife species and neither am I adept at identifying them so I’m not at the right position to comment on species and conservation status for the same. Winter is not the season for observing the fauna on the trail but I can’t imagine how brilliant it must be, walking up the trail of orchids and rhododendrons with the chirp-symphony making up for the background symphony!
A minimum of 60% of the whole goes back to the locals. The 40% is for kerosene and raw material for food. The ratio may vary as the rates for Foreign tourists is a lot more than the Indians and this is of a great significance because of the number of foreign tourists swarming the place!
No.
Dubdi Monastery, Tshoka Monastery, Dzongri Top, Goecha La View Point 1 , 2 , 3

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Shaunak Kar
Shaunak Kar pilgrim on a mountain

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