Beyond The Walls of Tomorrow

The natural and scenic beauty of our State will not go anywhere, they are here to stay, but the question arise will they remain pristine and intact as it is? Looking at the growth trend and booming in Tourism Sector, no doubt it is a good sign in terms of economic development and employment, but there is always that unanswered question in my mind: what next? Tourism in Meghalaya in general and that of Sohra in particular requires immediate address, with the lack of comprehensive tourism policy coupled with the rush for commercialization and to capitalize on booming trend in the sector, there is always the danger of unplanned growth; Tourists-host conflicts on infrastructure and public utilities, conflict on space and on natural resource which we already seen the evidence in the present scenario. It is already evident that we as the host population have not benefited much from opportunities that Tourism has to offer; looking at the scarcity of public utilities, plan infrastructure and Human Resource Development, in the long run this will lead to chaos and conflicts, which ultimately will put pressure on the environment and surrounding ecology of our State. The  physical impact which the present scenario indicates is not a healthy one, congestion and overcrowded in different location, the mismanagement of waste disposal, lacking of space, lacking of emergency and safety measures indicate the lack of management and control which is vital for sustain growth. If the healthy and pleasant experience of tourist is not addressed, in the long run,this will lead to negative effects; our roads are already choking and plague with pot holes and degradation; different tourism sites operate like a standalone entity lacking in any support system, they are lacking in connectivity, accommodation facilities, electrification, waste management these are only few scenario to mention here; apart from this there is also regional imbalance in terms of Tourism growth in the State.

There is no doubt Tourism and environment are two aspects of the same coin which will push economic growth in our State, but it is still ignored by stakeholders and by those sitting in the chair alike; though all and often they talk about sustainable growth and employment, but there is no comprehensive mechanism and policy alike, the urgency is still lacking to create an awareness and to take comprehensive action at all level, dirty streets, dirty markets, unhealthy and clog drains, garbage laden forest and rivers are neither attractive nor conducive for Tourism. We still fail to realize that environment is the key for Tourism growth. The growth of Tourism needed plan approach and management, it is unimportant if the destination urban or rural, forest or rivers, hills or caves, a village or a market, in every case there is always and environment in question vis-a-vis its people and infrastructure, which always share by tourist and local alike.

The so called development in terms of cement and bricks is not development at its true sense, there is urgent need to change the mindset of people, to sensitize about development concepts and the aesthetics appeal and balance need to incorporate in the development approach. Tourism is sights, sound, and sense of smell, taste and experience. Green Economy is the new form of marketing approach which we have not taken the advantage nor practice to its full potentials; we forget that well manage destination with clean surrounding does not take away its true essence, few people are willing to pay for congested, garbage filled, poor infrastructure and low standard of services, but many are willing to spend their precious time and money again and again just to be in that pristine location, surround by majestic waterfalls , hills , valleys, rivers, caves and evergreen forest. The fact is we don’t promote our destination in balance with environment and its surrounding that it has to offer neither those who are sitting in those chairs are creative enough to come up with ideas to blend different destinations with its people, culture, art and craft, legends and folk lore in the context of development of infrastructure and human resources alike.

Are we neglecting and ignoring the aspect of sustainable growth? Yes we are, in the rush for mass Tourism and push for profit, we sideline the essence of our future. Are we proactive to review our activities as host destination? We terribly fail, in term of human resource development we have not done anything; there is neither skill development nor training facilities yet in our State which going to help Tourism at grass root levels, there is no point to talk about tourism development if the need of basic human resource needed to outsource from other States. When we talk in terms of information, we still fail big time, thanks to social media that some locations are popular as it is for today. As a matter of fact, I find it very difficult in other parts of our State to locate potential destinations, there is no sign for different roads and locations, no information related to what is permitted and what is not, even maps that are provided to tourist are not accurate, we don’t have limits and there is no information on areas with tolerate acceptable observation, what we need is balance in every aspects be it skill development and infrastructure, different destination with its environment. The question is, where do we stand now?

~Aiban Thabah

Image Source – USM Libraries

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