Night Sky Sanctuary

Since the abrogation of Article 370, Ladakh has been a top priority of the GoI, with consistent efforts to develop it and put it on the global tourism map. Unique projects have been allocated to Ladakh, and that too with a carbon-free Ladakh in mind. These include a gigabyte solar plant and India’s first geothermal power generation facility. Ladakh, which is in the headlines for all the good reasons to promote tourism there, has electric buses, solar street lights, solar pumps for water, solar-heated swimming pools, and heritage homestays-the real landscaping that the administration is trying to build up in pollution-free Ladakh. The pristine, mesmerizing beauty of nature is in abundance there, and it’s just a question of providing the requisite infrastructure to make it a preferred tourist destination. The latest addition to administration’s efforts is again unique: India’s first-ever Night Sky Sanctuary, which is ready for inauguration. Set up by the CSIR under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology in Ladakh’s Hanle, fitted with an optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescope, it will be the world’s highest-located telescope, which will boost astrotourism not only in Ladakh or India but worldwide. Spread over 1,073 square kilometres, the Night Sky Reserve is located within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary and adjacent to the Indian Astronomical Observatory. It is going to be a lifetime opportunity for every tourist to explore the night sky at an altitude of fifteen thousand plus feet without air pollution or atmospheric moisture, with a background of sparkling stars and planets to watch without any hindrance or disturbance. There is no shortage of unique destinations in Ladakh, and this Night Sky Sanctuary is going to be another feather in the cap.
Preserving the Ladakhi language is another important effort initiated by the GoI. A Ladakhi dictionary with 25,000 words, 4500 articles, and around 1000 local folk songs is commendable. The areas that experience winters with minus temperatures are cut off from the rest of the world, but they are ideal places for local art and culture to develop. Ladakh has such a vastly preserved culture, so much so that these are now projected as tourism sites like Buddhist monasteries.
Efforts are also being made to get GI tags for unique Ladakhi products. Certainly, even the majority of the Indian public may not be aware of the Raktsey Karpo apricot of Ladakh and its unique sweetness. The very fact that this apricot is one of the sweetest on the sweetness index, which means it is of the best quality, is enough reason for it to get a GI tag, the first one for Ladakh. With this tag, the doors of the business world have opened up for the farmers of Ladakh, offering the best value for their product and, of course, a motivational factor for others to follow.
The strategic importance of Ladakh, the natural resources, and the unique natural attributes make it unique. All these projects in science, environment, and astrophysics, when combined, present a destination that no other place on earth can provide.