Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee (KCC), a non-profit organisation based in Sikkim, has provided six oxygen cylinders to aid trekkers on the popular trail through the Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP), a UNESCO-recognised world heritage site.
The KCC has also provided seven cooking gas cylinders and equal number of heaters for hikers at different places on the trekking route, including Bhakim, Tshoka, Dzonngri and Thangsing in Sikkim.Tshering Uden Bhutia, the president of KCC, said the idea behind providing oxygen cylinders and LGP heaters was to protect lives. “In the past, many lives had been lost due to lack of emergency oxygen and first aid services on the Yuksam-Gochala trekking route as no rescue facilities are available in this reason,” she told The Telegraph.
Bhutia said her organisation had requested the government several times to provide emergency services for trekkers, but to no avail. “Keeping all these in mind, the KCC itself decided to provide oxygen cylinders that can be used in an emergency,” Bhutia added.
Located on the northern part of Sikkim, the KNP — which was declared a world heritage site in July, 2016, — exhibits one of the widest altitudinal ranges of any protected area worldwide.
The park, has a vertical sweep of over 7 kilometres (1,220m to 8,586m) within an area of only 178,400 hectares and comprises a unique diversity of lowlands, steep-sided valleys and spectacular snow-clad mountains including the world’s third highest peak, Mt. Khangchendzonga.
Bhutia said the KCC had banned the use of firewood by trekkers along the Yuksam Gochala trail in 1998, but the guides continue to use firewood for cooking and to provide heat on the high altitude route.
“A large number of rhododendron trees have been cut over the years to provide services to trekkers which is disturbing the ecosystem of the national park. Rhododendrons are the key species to maintain the ecosystem of the park.”