Mr. Chezung Lachungpa, IFS

15 October 1958 – 20 April 2011
Hailing from the Lachung village in a remote corner of North Sikkim, Mr. Chezung Lachungpa, IFS was a true conservationist. His knowledge of the local biodiversity hardly had parallels, having come through his many years of experience in the field and his passion for conservation.

Many of his actions were based on first hand information gained over the years travelling extensively through some of the harshest and remote areas of the Sikkim. He joined the Forest Department in June 1977 as a Wildlife Warden and completed his Diploma in Wildlife Management from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun in 1980. He was promoted to the rank of a DFO in 1986. He was the CCF, Land Use & Environment, Forest Environment and Wildlife Management Department with additional responsibilities of Member Secretary State Land Use Board and State Environmental Appraisal Authority, when he passed away.

He added many feathers to his conservation hat during his career. He was among the first officers of the Sikkim Forest Department to launch massive anti-poaching and trap demolition campaigns. He was awarded by the All India Soil Conservation Society of India in 1996.

A friend of WWF
Mr. Lachungpa was closely associated with WWF – India. In the 1990s, jointly with Mr. Lachungpa, WWF-India conducted a survey of the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary. Since 2005, when the Khangchendzonga Landscape office was set up in Gangtok, he associated with WWF-India in implementing the Sikkim Lake Conservation Guidelines at Tsomgo Lake and facilitated the formation of Tsomgo Pokhari Samrakshan Samiti. WWF-India also associated with him for conservation activities in the North Sikkim district.

This is what WWF-India’s team members, say about him…

Lak Tsheden Theengh: With the shocking demise of Late Chezung Lachungpa, both the Sikkim Forest Department, as well as WWF-India have lost a great supporter. He was a promising and dedicated officer, one who was very active in the field. When it came to working for the wetlands of Sikkim, he was the person in the Department that one would want to talk to, in order to get the much needed help and support.

I still remember the days when our wetland work had just begun in Sikkim. Then a Conservator of Forests (CF), he called me to his office and together we discussed the way forward on what exactly we wanted in order to save Sikkim’s wetlands. We started off by selecting 11 important wetlands of Sikkim and included Tsomgo in the pilot phase. The work which started then is continuing till date. Despite his hectic schedules, throughout this period, he never failed to make his presence felt in every meeting and every programme related to the wetlands’ work. He motivated the communities in the field with his eye opening ideas.

Not long ago, I visited him on his hospital bed in Delhi wishing him speedy recovery. I never knew that would be my last meeting with him. Despite his immense knowledge and vast experience, I remember him as a humble person and a good being. Mr Lachungpa indeed has a big role in the conservation achievements of Sikkim. We will always miss him and pray his soul rest in peace.

Priya Shrestha: Mr. Chezung Lachungpa was a true conservationist with excellent knowledge of the local biodiversity, combined with a strong passion for conservation. He always had interesting stories to share from his observations gathered over the years.

My association with him during his tenure as CF and later on as CCF, Land use and Environment, was mainly for the conservation work of Sikkim’s wetlands. His pro- community approach facilitated the formation of the Pokhari Samrakshan Samiti (PSS) for Tsomgo Lake, the first such committee in the state. Under his patronage and constant feedback, particularly in the initial years, the functioning of PSS was streamlined.
When I last met him in his office, which doesn’t seem long ago, he was very keen to survey the state’s hill-top wetlands and expressed interest to collaborate with WWF-India. Little, how ever, did I know that this work would never see the light of day with him around. We will all miss his support and encouragement. He was truly an inspiration for all of us.

Dipankar Ghose: I remember meeting 'Chezung-saab', as I fondly addressed him, for the first time in 1997. This was during my visit to Sikkim for a reconnaissance study of Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, his bold voice and forthcoming attitude reverberating in me throughout. I revisited Sikkim to initiate WWF-India's Khangchendzonga Landscape (KCL) Programme in May 2005. "Partner, you have to help WWF" he mentioned to some of his colleagues and "Bhai, you will have to spend nights in the forests and walk miles before you see a red panda," was his advice for some of the biologists from WWF-India. These were two prominent comments of Chezung-saab as he heartily welcomed us to start the KCL Programme.

Till I left the state in 2008, I remember him been providing critical support to implement collaborative activities of the state forest department and WWF-India. Be it the Tsomgo Pokhari Samrakshan Samiti; monitoring of plantation sites under the catchments treatment plan in East and North Sikkim; or, collaborating with the tourism service providers in North Sikkim, throughout our association Chezung-saab was always at hand to help us, both in his official and personal capacities.|

A few days weeks ago, I received a copy of Sikkim ENVIS bulletin Panda, where Chezung-saab, as its editor, wished every reader a happy and prosperous 2011. I will miss his bold voice and firm extended hand. My heartfelt condolence goes to his family, his near and dear ones.
© WWF-India
Mr. Chezung Lachungpa, IFS
© WWF-India
© WWF-India
Mr. Chezung Lachungpa addressing participants of a training programme at Lachung Valley, North Sikkim, Oct. 2007
© WWF-India
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