Understand tourism first and then make it an election issue

With every political party trying to woo the people by boarding the let’s-do-tourism bandwagon, I wish they understood what it all actually means. No one has asked if we the locals are even ready for the ride. Let me emphasize on the fact that we Khasis as a majority are some of the worst travelers ourselves. Ask anyone staying near or working at a popular sightseeing location: everyone knows that the Khasis are the beer bottle bearing hooligans who would want to thrash any space that should have stayed serene otherwise. Take your family out into Dainthlen falls any sunny Sunday if you want to know what I mean. We’re not even talking about tourists here. A week ago, a bus full of drunks was dragged to the Sohra Police Station for one guy tried urinating out of the door while the bus was running along Saitsohpen Lad Thanat, the liquid by-product flew into passing vehicles. How are we going to lead the way? Let’s not kid ourselves, we are an embarrassment, yet we all brag about our civilized nature, a polite race blessed by God himself.

As for Government officials and policy makers, they try a lot hard to be relevant, seeing any view-point as an excuse to line up railings and concrete footpaths and nothing much (look at Eco Park, Nohsngithiang Falls, what is so “eco” about it?) There’s one incident I’d like to demonstrate how enlightenedsome of these guys are: some of my friends encountered an official who clearly wants to party with his friends at a place of visit where alcohol is not allowed (for obvious reasons), he flashed his designation instead; much to self-embarrassment because these friends of mine confronted never even let them pull out beer cans from their bags. Jumping into a bandwagon is fine but the big guys should get their foundations on the subject matter clear first.

Now that we have a clear picture of the stereotyped sightseeing Khasi individual, on the other hand, a more self-aware breed of Khasi youths are emerging, not to forget a few more senior gentlemen who have also put eye-opening efforts. Though still a minority, this nature loving, internet savvy bunch usually loves to trek and camp into the wilderness and are very much aware of what their presence might bring into the ecosystem. This might surprise you a bit but most of these guys mentioned here are millennials and they are way better at this than most of us. This adventurous breed is trying hard to change the situation, cleaning drives and the like have been tried in the past few months, to little or no effect at all; even when the mass brush it all as a gimmick. There’s so much to learn from this group.

What I have learnt from them is: we don’t need mass tourism. A more sensible concept of Sustainable Tourism can be introduced. Mass tourism, though hugely profitable, clearly attracts crony capitalists who would care less if the region is decorated with litter for most of them see a gold mine out a sightseeing spot or a trek route. Though hugely profitable, the local workforce does not see any major economic raise in their homes, most of the cash flies over the fence into pockets of the Man, you know, the Man. Not only that, I haven’t even started on mass tourism. Waste disposal is already a problem, water consumption will be a bigger problem, sooner or later. With our towns and villages dealing with visitors hundred times the size of the actual population each year, litter is nightmare. Festivals, mostly themed half-heartedly with indigenousness while actually pushing hedonism down everybody’s throat, are unnecessarily costly. Locals don’t actually benefit from these parties in sheep’s clothing and, on top of that, they usually have to carry out community cleaning on the following days, accompanied by school children occasionally. So much for so called tourism and its festivities!

I think I have made my point clear. A change in how we see things in this manner is of utmost importance. As locals, we need to be well oriented needles to lead the thread. It would be great if this industry is locally driven, locally driven. On a positive note, a few groups of the said ‘new’ wave are coming with solutions to deal with plastic waste such as plastic bricks, plastic pyrolysis oil; plans for liquid waste management, etc., it will be very helpful if authorities take them a little more seriously, that’d be of more use than sending builders and lay cement on everything.

Featured image by Sameer Gurung

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Ban works in a bank and is member of Shankhung, a cooperative society. He also is a Singer/songwriter for Iaiong, a band from Sohra.

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