- Hanle Dark Sky Reserve Is Expected To Boost Tourism And Wildlife Conservation At High Altitude
- India’s first ‘dark sky reserve’ or night sky sanctuary,lies at an elevation of 4,500m above sea level in a cluster of six hamlets that form Han le village inside the Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in southwestern Ladakh.
- The Hanle reserve is located around the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) spread over 1,073 sq km.
- It is one of the highest places in the world for observing celestial bodies and collecting scientific data about the universe.
- Although professional and amateur astronomers have been organising treks to secluded areas to observe the night sky, the Hanle reserve is unique because it not only promotes the eco-friendly activity of astrotourism but also aims to reduce artificial light pollution for the purposes of wildlife conservation, spreading awareness and education about astronomy, and strengthening scientific research.
- Places that have little light pollution compared with urban, peri-urban, and village landscapes are ideal for night sky observation.
- That’s why the Ladakh UT administration had on December 1, 2022 notified Hanle as India’s first dark sky reserve.
- The decision is likely to benefit local communities with additional income and help in the conservation of crepuscular wild animals (mammals active at dawn and dusk).
- The formal notification will require certification from international agencies, such as Starlight Foundation and International Dark-Sky Association.
- Globally, there are only 20 such certified reserves and 16 sanctuaries, with most of them located in Europe. These include Alpes Azur Mercantour (France), Cranborne Chase (England), Central Idaho (US), Rhon (Germany), Kerry (Ireland) and Aoraki Mackenzie (New Zealand).
- The department of wildlife protection has procured 18 community telescopes and IIA has provided training to 23 community members of the Hanle village cluster.
- These community telescopes have been installed at the homestays of the beneficiaries.
- Trained villagers as astronomy ambassadors and handed over 18 of 24 telescopes.
- They know how to use minimum light, whenever and wherever it is needed.
- This will make the entire area light pollutionfree – the best suited for astro-tourism and studies of celestial bodies.
- Hanle has clear skies throughout the year. However, enthusiasts may mostly prefer April-Septem ber because of warmer temperatures. In winter, people come to Hanle to spot elusive wildlife, such as snow leopard, Pallas’s cat, black-necked crane, etc.
- The project came to life through collaboration between the Ladakh administration, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, and IIA, and is being spearheaded by the UT’s department of wildlife protection, with support from the Central government, UNDP and Global Environment Facility (GEF) through their joint SECURE Himalaya Project.
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