Monday, July 22, 2024

Cleanliness the core of tourism


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Tourism is becoming Meghalaya’s prime livelihood generator. The burgeoning number of homestays and guest houses and the sold-out hotel rooms particularly in Sohra are testimony to this tourism boom but what of the cleanliness quotient? Beyond Shillong there is no waste management system hence all the homestays are burning the garbage which creates environmental pollution and is bad for the residents in the surrounding areas. The State Tourism Department needs to give serious thought to this grave issue which threatens to overwhelm the state and turn every corner into a garbage dump. The whole length of road on both sides of the Umiam Bridge currently undergoing a makeover has turned into a junkyard. Is it not time for the Tourism Department to also have a policing system for polluters?
Recently the Tourism Department unveiled some major tourism plans around the Umiam Lake. That’s a brilliant initiative as it will create a bagful of livelihood opportunities but before that there has to be a robust stakeholders’ meet so that the local leaders are involved in ensuring that another tourism destination does not become a dumping yard for more garbage. The people of villages around the Umiam are already waging a losing battle with garbage coming from the rivers of Shillong.
The unfortunate part about governance is that those heading the Departments move around in stultified atmospheres and don’t travel as ordinary citizens minus the VIP status to witness the ground situation and unlearn what they have been doing as a matter of routine in their offices and making policies without first testing their ideas on the ground. The selling point for Meghalaya are its natural landscapes but if each tourist spot is littered with plastics and broken beer bottles among other forms of discards then it becomes an eyesore for responsible travellers. In fact, the Tourism Department should tie up with public institutions like the Dorbar Shnong or the youth and women’s groups in the respective villages to ensure that supervision and implementation of do’s and don’ts around tourist spots are meticulously enforced.
In the Riwar areas such as Nohwet, there are NGOs and individuals that conduct regular cleaning drives around their tourist spots. They involve children in these weekly cleaning drives. Such NGOs and individuals should be recognised and their work modelled as part of making tourism a sustainable venture. Without these environmental warriors the tourist sites would have been in a complete mess. Among hoteliers only the Jiva Hospitality Group has demonstrated its commitment to uphold the values of environmental care by regularly cleaning the areas around downtown Shillong apart from maintaining the trees and flowers in the roundabout. If every hotelier were to take responsibility for one area of the city so much could have been achieved in terms of keeping the city of Shillong clean.
Government is not the repository of all wisdom. Consultation with the local populace pays more dividends than employing consultants. Also, its time to create posts of tourist inspectors. Inspection, supervision and penalties are needed to ensure tourism does not boomerang.

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