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India honours saviour of Valley of Flowers

Posted: 23 Jul 2007

by Neeta Lal

Every year some 600,000 pilgrims make their way through the Valley of Flowers in the Indian Himalayas, and until recently, left behind a trail of garbage. Now the Valley and the adjoining Nanda Devi National Park has been cleaned and restored, thanks to the efforts of a diminutive female Forest Reserve Officer, Jyotsna Sitling, recipient of this year’s prestigious Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar, the country’s highest environmental honour.

The ecologically sensitive 19-kilometre buffer zone of the Valley of Flowers stretches along the trek route from Govindghat to Hemkund Sahib. But the annual pilgrim traffic had wrecked its beautiful surroundings,with an accumulated trail of plastic bags, bottles, raincoats and other non-degradable waste.

Jyotsna Sitling, 45, not only began a restoration project in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand but has helped win the Valley of Flowers World Heritage Site status. She has also set in motion a unique conservation movement that has helped save the ecologically fragile Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. [more]