Tourism prospects

Print edition : February 25, 2005

THE panoramic setting of the lofty ranges of the eastern Himalayas makes the northeastern region an ideal place for the development of adventure and eco-tourism. The region has snow-peaked mountains, gurgling rivers flowing from Tibet, exotic flora and fauna, dense forests crisscrossed with a network of trekking routes and diverse ethnic cultures and heritage.

An adventure camp in the foothills of Derang in Arunachal Pradesh.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

The evergreen forests of Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh, lush green grasslands of Kaziranga, the perfect eco-system of Manas in Assam, the floating mass vegetation on the Loktak Lake of Manipur are home to unique fauna such as the Asiatic elephant, all the members of the big cat family, one-horned rhinoceros, Sangai the dancing deer, golden langurs, pygmy hogs and numerous migratory birds.

Similarly, the colourful tribal festivals of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh, and the Buddhist monasteries perched on the lofty mountains of Sikkim showcase the rich culture and heritage of the region, attracting many travellers to the region.

Eco-tourism not only provides livelihoods for local communities and adds importance to local traditions and cultures, but can also directly generate revenue for environmental conservation and management. It also has the potential to sustain the tourism industry.

However, despite being endowed with such huge potential, the tourism industry has failed to flourish in the region largely owing to inadequate infrastructure and the lack of coordination.

The North Eastern Council (NEC), which now has the mandate of serving as a regional planning body for all the eight States in the region, has turned its focus on the tourism sector by developing manpower required for the industry, assisting the State governments and the private sector to develop tourism infrastructure and promote eco-tourism projects.

In recent times, the NEC has taken some special measures to boost tourism. The thrust is on developing and upgrading tourist facilities such as accommodation and wayside amenities, beautifying historical monuments, and procuring equipment for adventure sports.

A recent visit by a 10-member delegation of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) to a number of tourist destinations in the region has attracted the attention of leading tour operators in the country to the huge potential of nature tourism. The delegation was headed by Uma Pillai, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India.

However, the NEC will have to be cautious while promoting eco-tourism because mass tourism, if not properly managed and regulated, can have an adverse impact on the environment. The NEC will also have to ensure that the real benefits of eco-tourism accrue to local communities.

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