James releases Eco-Tourism Management Plan for Hima Malai Sohmat

Shillong, Sep 24: A comprehensive report prepared by Integrated Mountain Initiatives (IMI) in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH through its International Climate Initiative (IKI) of a lesser known tourist destination – Hima Malai-Sohmat close to Mawsynram in East Khasi Hills was today released by Minister Environment and Forests, James Sangma.
The GIZ has been undertaking integrative approaches to mainstream livelihood through biodiversity conservation centric eco-tourism. The study is an offshoot of the IMI’s flagship event the “Sustainable Mountain Development Summit VIII” held in Shillong which aimed at advocating and encouraging sustainable tourism for the mountains as a critical sector for livelihood enhancement.
This alignment led to a collaboration with GIZ to develop the Eco-tourism Management Plan for Hima Malai Sohmat of East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya by integrating IMI’s experience from its range of stakeholders across the Indian Himalayan Region.
The Report captures the essence of the thriving biodiversity eco-system of Hima Malai Sohmat region in Meghalaya which is home to the hoolock gibbons amongst other wild life species. Naturally this region requires an ecologically sound, low carbon, sustainable and economically viable community-based tourism management plan to generate sustainable livelihood opportunities that enable the tourists to be equal stakeholders in caring for the environment.
Releasing the report, James said he was thrilled to learn that such a study has been conducted which is informative and will provide a framework for sustainable eco-tourism projects in the state. Stating that the Northeast is the biggest carbon sink, James said the ecological and social value of the environment and also the social capital it generates should be appreciated. “The world is turning toward a green economy. This report demonstrates an integrated model which will provide tourism insights from the ground up. “
Citing from the IPCC report which was termed ‘Code Red’ to suggest human driven global heating James pointed out that the climate crisis is not a distant dystopia and has shattered the collective inertia of humans. “The world is experiencing droughts and floods and recent studies have shown that India is shouldering the climate change burden.” James said.
Pointing out to emerging trends in tourist options, James said that tourists are now booking with small travel firms and there are growing consumer trends for eco-tourism and novel experiences. “The trend is to explore nature hence eco-tourism promoters need to harness nature and enable tourists to soak themselves in nature and interact with it,” James said adding that Meghalaya and the NorthEast needs to better package the rivers and mountains for sustainable livelihoods through tourism.
Stating that mass tourism is an extractive economic activity that depletes planetary resources, James said tourism should be redesigned to fit into our unique ecological profile. “We cannot have nature- negative industrial growth,” the Environment Minister said.
Others who spoke at the webinar included Dr. Julie Weltzien, Project Manager, IKI Biodiv, GIZ, Dr Vincent Darlong, Vice Chancellor, Martin Luther Christian University, PD Rai former Lok Sabha MP and currently President IMI and Mr Lukas Hach Policy Advisor for Division N I 4, International Cooperation on Biodiversity – German Federal Ministry
for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The programme was chaired by Kenneth M. Pala, Senior Advisor, GIZ
The launch webinar of the report saw several people from across the globe participating as also various stakeholders from Meghalaya including tourism officials, community leaders, forests officials, civil society members and the Syiem of Hima Malai Sohmat.
The report – a case study of an ecologically sensitive tourism destination aims to feed into the Government of Meghalaya’s Eco-tourism Policy with a long-term goal of using it as a model for responsible rural eco-tourism in the villages of the State.

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