GUWAHATI: State Governments of the Northeastern states may consider the allocation of at least 5 percent of their budgets for tourism, with a focus on eco-tourism.
This was one of the recommendations of policymakers, experts and stakeholders, including former poachers-turned-conservators, who gathered at the 3rd Northeast Green Summit which concluded recently in Shillong on October 26.
The Summit – founded by Guwahati-based Vibgyor Media Solutions and supported by various agencies working in the green and allied sectors across the Northeast, including State Governments, various ministries, and UN organizations – is the only such platform in the region which deliberates on environmental and sustainable development issues annually.
The summit recommendations also included a specific ecotourism policy for the Northeastern states. “The experts also felt that Sustainable Tourism Criteria for India (adopted by Ministry of Tourism) should become the mainstay of tourism development in the states of Northeast India,” said Nilanjan Roy, Advisory Board member of the Summit. “We are submitting the recommendations and action plan to the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region for suitable action.”
One of the key highlights of the Summit was the participation by poachers-turned-conservators from Manas National Park, who participated in a Technical Session on ‘Sustainable Development through Nature-Based Tourism: Involving forest communities and other groups in NE to safeguard the environment.’
Jaisaran Basumatary, Buddheswar Boro and Khebai Basumatary, who joined conservation activities in Manas in 2004 as conservation volunteers, had – for more than 15 years – been directly involved in poaching activities and had been in police custody many times.
In sync with the summit recommendation for conservation based on traditional practices and beliefs which are found to be very relevant in the present day context and hence, should be followed, delegates were taken on a field trip to the sacred groves at Mawphlang – one of the remarkable sacred forests of the Khasi Hills which has been preserved by traditional religious sanction forests.
“Collection and documentation of traditional indigenous knowledge should be initiated vigorously. Such effort shall help in creating a reservoir of traditional cultural practices and can become a national intellectual property,” experts at the Summit had recommended.
The 2018 Summit, which focused on the urban environment and was co-hosted by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, also recommended setting up more air monitoring stations all over the region for both manual and continuous monitoring
CP Marak, Chairman of the Board and head of the organizing committee, said, “A significant suggestion which emerged following the deliberations was to explore the possibilities of having Decentralized Sewage Treatment Plants in Northeastern India to be identified and if feasible, implemented.”
The Summit, it may be mentioned, was supported by several oil majors operating in the Northeast, including Oil India Limited, ONGC and Indian Oil Corporation.
In the skilling component, which was participated by National Skill Development Corporation and Assam Skill Development Mission besides others, experts felt that one skilling programme will not fit all the states of the region. “It was recommended that skilling programmes should fit with the ecosystem of a particular area and should be designed accordingly,” pointed out Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) under the Ministry of Science and Technology. The IBSD was also a co-host of the Summit.
Usually, the Summit has so far been held in smaller places so that the message of conservation can reach the grass-root level stakeholders. “We did the first Summit at Tura, a sleepy little town of Garo Hills in Meghalaya, which happened to be affected with insurgency and the second edition of Summit was held in a wildlife sanctuary in Assam, Pobitora, known for the largest density of one-horned rhinos,” said the Coordinator of Northeast Green Summit, Bitapi Basumatari Luhoe.
The Summit, which kick-started on October 24, 2018 at the State Convention Centre, Meghalaya, witnessed a huge footfall from all the eight North Eastern states and other parts of India, besides senior ministers from Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh as well as senior bureaucrats from Government of India and the State Governments.
Participants included Tathagata Roy, Governor of Meghalaya, Jishnu Debbarma, Deputy Chief Minister, Tripura, Metbah Lyngdoh, Tourism Minister of Meghalaya, Meghalaya, Pijush Hazarika, Urban Development Minister of Assam, Wangki Lowang, Minister of Public Health Engineering of Arunachal Pradesh, Hamleston Dohling, Minister of Urban Affairs, Meghalaya, Kampa Borgoyary, Deputy Chief, Bodoland Territorial Council, Y Tsering, Meghalaya Chief Secretary, Naveen Verma, DONER Secretary and also Padma Shri Jadav Payeng, the Forest Man of India.