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Ladakh will soon have South East Asia’s first Night Sky Sanctuary, says Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh

Ladakh will soon have South East Asia’s first Night Sky Sanctuary, Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, has said. 

The Minister informed that the Sanctuary is being set up with the help of Indian Institute of Astrophysics Bengaluru, which is affiliated to the Department of Science & Technology, Govt of India. He profusely appreciated the Lt Governor of Ladakh, Brig (Retd) B.D. Mishra for his active cooperation in the project.

On behalf of the Ministry of Science & Technology and CSIR, we will request the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to inaugurate the Night Sky Reserve at Hanle, the Minister said.

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, was addressing the gathering after inaugurating the exhibition ‘Ladakh’s Pride’ being held here to mark the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the Union Territory of Ladakh. 

The exhibition is organised by Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh at the initiative of Chief Executive Councillor (CEC) Tashi Gyalson.

The Dark Sky Reserve will be located at Hanle village in Eastern Ladakh as a part of Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary. It will boost Astro-tourism in India and will be one of the world’s highest-located sites for optical, infra-red, and gamma-ray telescopes.

Spread over 1,073 square kilometres, the Night Sky Reserve is located within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary and adjacent to the Indian Astronomical Observatory, the second-highest optical telescope in the world, of Indian Institute of Astrophysics at Hanle at an elevation of 4500 metres.

“At a time when the country is celebrating the success of Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1 solar mission, this Dark Sky Reserve will fascinate the stargazers, being among only the 15 or 16 of its kind in the world,” said Dr Jitendra Singh.

The Union Minister said that a tripartite MoU was signed among the UT Administration, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) Leh and the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) for launching the Dark Space Reserve. He said, the site will have activities to help in boosting local tourism and economy through interventions of Science and Technology.  

Dr Jitendra Singh complimented the LAHDC-Leh for organising the exhibition ‘Ladakh’s Pride’ outside Ladakh. The exhibition showcases GI-tagged treasures of Ladakh, – Seabuckthorn, Raktsey Karpoapricots, Ladakh wood carvings and Pashmina wool.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, the CSIR in the Union Ministry of Science & Technology is promoting “Leh Berry’,which is an exclusive food product of the cold desert.Referring to PM Modi’s visit to Ladakh in May 2018, Dr Jitendra Singh said the Prime Minister has strongly advised for widespread cultivation of Seabuckthorn, which is the source of “Leh Berry”. 

The Minister said that commercial cultivation of three medicinal plants is also being promoted at a height of above 15,000 feet. This includes “Sanjeevani Booti”, locally known as “Sola”, which has very high life saving and therapeutic properties.

Dr Jitendra Singh said that Department of Atomic Energy will set up facilities in the UT for Gamma Irradiation Technology for preservation/shelf life extension of fruits and vegetables. He was happy to note that Apricot from Ladakh is now being exported to Dubai.

“PM Modi accords highest priority to Ladakh and other remote regions of the country. For the first time under the Modi government, Ladakh has been granted a University, Hotel Management Institute, a Medical and an Engineering College,” he said.

Referring to the action plan for “Carbon Neutral” Ladakh as announced by PM Modi, Dr Jitendra Singh said, with a Rs. 50 crore Special Development Package for Ladakh, for the first time any Central government has been so liberal in funding the various projects for the region.

“This is the first of its kind roadmap devoted exclusively to the Ladakh region,” he said.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, an exclusive Examination Centre has been set up by DoPT at Leh for conducting the UPSC’s Civil Services Examination. Common Eligibility Test (CET) is also being conducted at Leh and Kargil for jobs in the Government sector through SSC, RRBs and IBPS. 

“This is not only a significant Governance reform but a huge Social reform for the job aspirant youth living in remote and far flung areas,” he said.

Dr Jitendra Singh informed that Snow Sculpture has been introduced in Ladakh since last year in a big way from the winter season as a tourist attraction, which will also create job opportunities for the locals.

Underlining that Ladakh is “India’s youngest Union Territory, but it is also India’s oldest civilization”, Dr Jitendra Singh said, “Ladakh, the land of the Buddhist Lamas, is a peace loving region, but confronted with a history of political and other turmoil. PM Modi, for the first time, fulfilled the aspirations of the Ladakhi people by forming the UT of Ladakh on 31st October 2019.”

“Though the first Ladakh Buddhist Association delegation met then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1949 seeking separate UT status for the remote region, the dream fructified only seven decades later under PM Modi,” he said.

“PM Modi walks the talk!”, said Dr Jitendra Singh, quoting PM Modi, “My efforts will be to fulfil aspirations of the neglected remote regions of the country including Ladakh and the North-East.” 

In his address, Chief Executive Councillor, LAHDC-Leh,Tashi Gyalson thanked Dr Jitendra Singh for his personal interest and initiatives to boost development and tourism in Ladakh. Executive Councillor (Minority/Forest), LAHDC-Leh, Ghulam Mehdi also spoke on the occasion.

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