The government will set up a ‘night sky sanctuary’ in Ladakh – work on which will be completed within three months. The proposed ‘dark sky reserve’ will be located at Hanle, a historic village and will also be one of the world’s highest telescope sites. The decision – expected to boost local tourism and economy – was taken after a meeting in Delhi between Ladakh Lieutenant Governor RK Mathur and junior science minister Dr Jitendra Singh.

The minister said all stakeholders, including the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore, to be involved in the project, will work to preserve the night sky from unwanted light pollution and illumination – a serious threat to natural sky conditions as well as crucial scientific observations.

The government’s press release said Hanle – the site sought for the project – is considered ‘most suitable’ as it is located in Ladakh’s cold desert region, and therefore has clear sky and dry weather conditions with minimal human interference.

Hanle is already home to an IIA observatory – a high altitude station atop Mt Saraswati – and is also one of the world’s highest located sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.

The government also plans to set up a regional branch of the Central Leather Research Institute – headquartered in Chennai – as it believes Ladakh’s rich biodiversity – including the famous pashmina goats – can contribute to the field of leather research.

The minister announced that a team of scientists will be sent to Ladakh by the end of the year to explore the feasibility of this project.