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Half Day Consultation cum dissemination workshop on Mekong-Brahmaputra

 

 

 

 

Agartala, Tripura, June 18, 2019:  “We are developing a comprehensive Master Plan for Tripura tourism and aim to slowly improve tourism infrastructure to take it up to global standards and we will need the help and support of civil society and experts to do that”, said Mrs. Vishwasree B., Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura. She was speaking at a Dissemination cum Consultation workshop titled “Opportunities in Water, Tourism and Linked Livelihoods in Tripura: Learning from the Mekong Region organized at the Agartala Press Club today, by the Asian Confluence, a Shillong based thinktank working on issues of water, connectivity, trade, tourism and culture. The consultation shared key learning and best practices on water linked tourism and livelihood from the Mekong region and deliberated on how these best practices and ideas can be adapted in the North East and specifically in the context of Tripura.

Mr. Prithviraj Nath, Senior Fellow, Asian Confluence, presented the learning and ideas from Mekong and added that Tripura has striking similarities in terms of archaeological, historical and natural resources that can be harnessed to promote high value tourism in line with how countries like Cambodia and Thailand are doing in the Mekong region. He further shared that Cambodia saw a striking rise in international tourist footfall from 0.1 million in 1993 to 5.6 million in 2017 with a revenue earning to the tune of INR 25733 crores in 2017. Tripura tourism statistics for 2017-18 show a total tourist footfall of 4,83,488, out of which 4,03,394 is domestic and 80,094 is foreign tourist footfall. Given its attractions and resources, Tripura can ride a similar growth trajectory like Cambodia and thereby create substantial new livelihood opportunities that are sustainable and hence generate prosperity for the state and its neighbourhood, he added.  The Asian Confluence study equally emphasised the importance of sustaining water, rivers and other natural resources for sustaining tourism and linked livelihoods and shared about the collective efforts of government, private sector, civil society and communities in the Mekong region to that end.

Mr. Mihir Deb, former Chairman, Tripura Pollution Control Board and eminent scientist, observed that there have been several research and recommendations to preserve rivers and water bodies but not much action and the state will welcome action-oriented initiatives that link river and water resources with tourism and livelihoods on the ground.

Mr. Baisampayan Chakraborty, Chief Engineer, Department of  Water and Sanitation, Government of Tripura, shared his personal and professional experience of engaging with Unakoti, its tourism and water related issues and opined that Unakoti presents a wonderful possibilities for archaeological, pilgrimage, adventure and tea tourism.

Mr. M. L. Debnath, President, Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, observed that Tripura could offer an unique idea of connecting to a neighbouring country of Bangladesh via the same airport and such cross-border opportunities should be harnessed to create tourism circuits that are beyond borders. His idea was supported by Mr. Debashish Lodh, Social Activist and Writer,.who highlighted the potential of Dombur as a tourist destination and opined that one should look to promote a tourism circuit that encompasses locations like Dombur, Unakoti, Jampui hills,  etc. in Tripura with Chittagong Hills in Bangladesh. He added that Dombur and Tirthamukh can be promoted as birding destinations as well.

The potential of Chakrakma (Chhabimura) was discussed in details and everybody agreed that Chakrakma was a tourism destination that deserves a lot more attention and promotion. The recent government push to promote and develop Chhabimura and Unakoti was mentioned in this context and welcomed by the participants unanimously. Mr. Stabak Roy, Research Scholar from Tripura University, shared that they have worked on an assessment of Chhabimura and found the same challenges that the group were discussing.  He opined that a detailed analysis of each site is required to understand specific needs and hence solutions.

One of the biggest challenges to tourism in Tripura , as identified by discussants during the workshop, are gaps in orientation and training of tourism service providers to cater to global tourists, as particularly highlighted by Mr. Biswendu Bhattacharya, Asisstant secretary, Agartala Press Club and eminent journalist. His thoughts were seconded by Dr. Sumanta Chakraborty, Registrar, Maharaja Bir Bikram University, Tripura.

The other challenge is tourism related infrastructure, this includes waste management, sanitation, drinking water, transportation and connectivity .  Responding to this Mrs. Vishwasree B., Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura, said that while the government is incrementally stepping up and building infrastructure, it needs support and help from civil society and experts to build capacities and orientation of service providers and also to understand specific needs for specific locations. She added that this is important because the Tourism Department is taking up selected destinations for development each year while following a Master Plan approach.

Dr. Pawan K. Kaushik, Scientist, Forest Research Centre for Livelihood Extension, shared that forest and natural resources can be promoted to attract tourists. This includes bamboo as a chief component of tourist destination infrastructure and also traditional healing and wellness using Ayurveda practices. He opined that his office can help with sustainable structures and wellness services.

Mrs. Swapna Debnath, Additional Director, Department of Commerce, welcomed the consultation and opined that tourism is one sector where substantial livelihood generation Is possible through public-private partnerships and that her department has been promoting such interventions in a major way. She expressed hope at the recent surge in tourism sector and the recent initiatives taken by the government and shared that he department will be welcoming all private and civil society initiatives that align with these efforts at the state level.

Ms. Nandita Datta, Media Person, shared that involvement of women in tourism services will be useful as already highlighted during the presentation of the Mekong Case Study. She particularly stressed upon local cuisine and handloom textiles as avenues to engage women.

Mr. Sujit Chakraborty, Bureau Chief, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), shared that there are three Rramsar sites in t he North East, Rudrasgar in Tripura, Keibulamjao in Manipur and Dipor Bill in Assam ad all of them are in rather bad condition. He urged that collective action from government, civil society and media will be needed to save these precious sites and also the livelihoods of people who depend on these natural resources. Mr. Pranab Sarkar, President, Agartala Press Club was also present on the occasion.

The workshop had active participation from government officials, experts, civil society, academicians, young scholars, activists and media from across Tripura.  The workshop ended on the positive note of coming up with tangible collaborations with government, civil society, academia and private sector as key players to help boost sustainable tourism and water management in Tripura.

 

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For more please contact:
Prithviraj Nath, Senior Fellow, Asian Confluence, (prithviraj.nath@asianconfluence.org; +91-9830481370)