AWARDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
The challenging mountain landscape of the State with its inherent constraints of remoteness, sensitive ecosystems and marginality brings in unique challenges to rural management and development. The Sikkim Himalaya is the third highest landscape globally and the highest in the country, harbouring Mt. Khangchendzonga which towers at 8,598 meters. It has amongst the steepest setting, as the width of the Himalaya across its 3,000 km length is narrowest (80km) in Sikkim (Schaller, 1977). It is located in the remote northeastern region of the country, with no air or rail connectivity within the state. The fragile ecosystem, weak geology and heavy rainfall make the state prone to frequent natural calamities and road blocks. Heavy monsoon rainfall concentrated in five months followed by a severe winter, results in a compressed working season of just five to six months. The rural households are dispersed over steep mountain terrain, making the provisioning of basic amenities and services very challenging.
Over the last four years, the Department has demonstrated exemplary leadership, good governance and innovative policy, schemes and projects. Regular schemes related to sanitation and housing have been transformed into mission mode by adopting a saturation approach. Sikkim became the first and only Nirmal Rajya in the country by achieving 100% sanitation coverage in 2008. Also financial grants were provided to convert all the existing katcha houses to pucca. This program has ensured that the poorest of the poor in mountain areas will have access and earthquake resistant housing. Hence, they will be able to utilize their life savings in educating their children, healthcare and livelihood strengthening.
An iconic and innovative pilgrimage and rural tourism project - "Sidheshwar dham" has been crafted by recreating the spiritual landscape of India in South Sikkim. This pilgrimage complex is adorned by a massive 108 feet statue of Lord Shiva in sitting posture encircled by the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines and exact replicas of the Char Dhams (Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri, and Rameshwaram). This asset will boost the tourism industry especially the pilgrimage tourism in Sikkim and is already experiencing footfalls of thousands of tourists on a daily basis. This initiative bagged the "Most Innovative and Unique Tourism Project Award 2010-11" for the vision and construction of a world class Pilgrimage cum Cultural Tourism Complex.