The Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Chamling, has suddenly become an open supporter of the natural environment. In the past, Mr. Chamling has staunchly defended the construction of large hydroelectric power dams for the Dzongu region of northwestern Sikkim, an area that is sacred to the Lepcha people. He sees these controversial dams as viable sources of revenue for his state that contribute to the development of India. He has strongly disagreed with Lepcha groups such as the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), which are opposed to the dams.
On Friday last week, Chamling made a speech in which he described his commitment to the natural environment. He gave credit to the nature worshiping people of Sikkim—primarily the Lepcha—for the fact that their beliefs were responsible for the forest wealth of the state. He credited those people for their wise approach in trying to live with nature. “We are still working towards preservation of the forest wealth and protecting nature in many ways,” he said of his government.
He mentioned the importance of forests, waters, and animal life, but he also discussed environmental problems that seem to be arising. The Himalayan black bear has been moving into human habitats, which he says is a result of mismanagement and environmental imbalance. He committed his government to making sure that future roads in the state would be green and eco-friendly.
Chamling recently agreed to a temporary cessation of hostilities with ACT, which prompted that group to suspend its relay hunger strike until the government and the Lepcha representatives can see if they can work out compromise solutions to the issues that divide them. His attitudes may auger well for the upcoming negotiations.