Reviving Meghalaya’s economy

Meghalaya Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma has been very articulate on the imperative of reviving the tourism industry which is seen as the alternative to mining and the environmental toll it takes. It would be fair to say that mining is the antithesis to tourism. Meghalaya can have one or the other, not both. Mining has long term ecological consequences for which the future generation of Meghalaya will have to pay a heavy price. We are already seeing some of those devastating effects by way of the river waters turning a turbid blue and resulting in the destruction of riverine life. What’s the use of a dead river? And what else will be destroyed because of mining? These questions need to be answered by the people of Meghalayan. This issue cannot be left to politicians alone. But the question then is who must engage with these issues of our collective survival? Meghalaya has a long history of leaving everything to pressure groups – from opposing uranium mining to opposing the railways. Till date we don’t have pressure groups opposing limestone and coal mining – two very destructive practices which bring short term gains but has already extracted a heavy price on the environment.

If Meghalaya chooses Tourism as its economic mascot then it can no longer vacillate with the Mining Policy. The State will have to see that the Mining Policy does not undercut everything that the Tourism Policy seeks to achieve. These inherent contradictions have to be resolved. In Meghalaya, it is the environment that is the selling point whether we look at adventure tourism, eco-tourism or cultural tourism. Each of these has the environment as the selling point. Would any tourist choose to visit East Jaintia Hills to see the ugly, black landscape that reeks of environmental destruction?

The Government seems optimistic about promoting inter-state tourism. That is not a bad idea considering that many Meghalayans have not visited the length and breadth of their state. However, there has to be a long-term vision for Tourism which must necessarily be sustainable. But Tourism is not a stand-alone economic activity. It has many supporting structures such as human capital which needs to be developed; road infrastructure, air, rail and land connectivity amongst others. Meghalaya is still largely dependent on Guwahati airport for air travel. For years the airport at Umroi and Baljek has made none or very little progress. Big aircrafts cannot land at Umroi although they can land in more challenging airports such as Aizawl. There are issues that a Government which is serious about Meghalaya’s economic growth spurt, post Covid-19, must address.

Get real time updates directly on your device, subscribe now.

Comments are closed.