The Sikkim government has taken the lead in making the throngs of tourists pay for the "existence value" of the glorious Himalaya and all that nature has to offer in this beautiful mountain state. The state government has decided to charge an environment fee from tourists and levy heavy penalties on tour operators who violate environmental conservation rules. The money is to be used to strengthen the state's tourism infrastructure and preserve its ecological heritage.
The fee has been fixed at $300 for a group of 5 foreign tourists, $400 for a group of 15 and $500 for larger groups, according to state tourism officials. While local Sikkimese trekkers are exempt from paying the environment fee, the fee for other Indian tourists is still under consideration.
The state government is also working out a scheme to encourage tourists to clean up the litter at favourite tourist haunts, especially the summits. A certificate of appreciation will be issued by the state to trekkers who carry down litter.
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