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Press Release : Workshop on Opportunities in Water, Tourism, Energy and Linked Livelihoods in Arunachal Pradesh

PRESS RELEASE

 

Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh | July 18, 2019:  “We are focusing on enhancing the tourism experience in Aunachal by training communities and encouraging homestays to help tourist experience the traditional flavour of Arunachal”, said Mrs. Bengiya Manna Sonam, Assistant Director, Directorate of Tourism, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. She was speaking at a Dissemination cum Consultation workshop titled “Opportunities in Water, Tourism, Energy and Linked Livelihoods in Arunachal Pradesh: Learning from the Mekong Region organised at the State Food Craft Institute, Itanagar, by the Asian Confluence, a Shillong based thinktank working on issues of water, connectivity, trade, tourism and culture. The event was organized in collaboration with the Department of Tourism, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. The consultation shared key learning and best practices on water linked tourism and livelihood from the countrie of Cambodia and Thailand in the Mekong region and explored ways to adapt them in the North East and specifically in the context of Arunachal Pradesh.  

Mr. Prithviraj Nath, Senior Fellow, Asian Confluence, presented the learning and ideas from Mekong and added that Arunachal Pradesh has immense potential for tourism given its rich natural and cultural resources. He emphasized that the state is rightly poised to harness this potential to not only promote high value tourism in line with how countries like Cambodia and Thailand are doing in the Mekong region, but also to help strengthen the conservation and sustainability of natural resources. He shared how Cambodia went from very negligible international tourist footfall in early 90s to more than 5 million in 2017 with a revenue earning to the tune of INR 25733 crores in 2017. Arunachal having such immense potential still had a total of only 7417 international footfalls in 2017 (India Tourism Statistics, 2018).

The workshop also deliberated on the issues of the importance of sustaining rivers and water bodies to sustain tourism and linked-livelihoods. The experience from Mekong was useful in this direction and participants felt that the benefit sharing mechanisms prevalent in community-driven tourism in the Mekong region could be a good learning example. The workshop also discussed how water-linked tourism in Arunachal relates to the hydropower promises for the state. Participants deliberated whether the idea of prosperity and economic growth through big hydropower, which is perceived to have environmental concerns, can be married to the idea of a promoting sustainable tourism in the state.  Mr. Marki Loya, Director, Arunachal Energy Development Agency, pointed out that while genuine concerns need to be factored in, the topography of Arunachal Pradesh haa certain advantages and hydropower dams are unlikely to cause major displacement given the steep slopes and mountain gorges that they usually are planned around. Overall perception around this is that big hydropower, though will lead to economic gains, need thorough consultations and confidence building among communities to help create ownership and also bring clarity to the gains and allay concerns. Other than that smaller-scale projects may be looked at.

Mr. Bengiya Mrinal, Secretary, Arunachal Pradesh Tourism Operators’ Association, flagged the importance of community awareness, training of youth and also handholding from the government to help th tourism sector to prosper. He emphasized the need to align policy and implementation so that new-age ideas, structures and formats are popularized in the tourism sector, instead of business-as-usual strategies. Nino Dai, Tour Operator, who organize angling and other water-sports linked tourism in the state, emphasized the need to showcase the local and traditional practices, culture, cuisines and history. Damini Sonam, student, emphasized that it is important to get the branding right highlighting the USPs of Arunachal. She said that being a biodiversity hotspot and home to innumerable rare species of flora and fauna, the state needs to effectively promote that to attract global tourist. Her views were seconded by tourism operators as well. Hage Raju, another young participant, pointed out the scope in terms of promoting traditional weaves and textiles of the state andn suggested that peak tourist seasons could have days when people are requested to be in their traditional dresses,  which can lead to unique vistas for visiting tourists.

 The key challenges that were identified for the tourism sector in Arunachal  Pradesh include the lack of capacity of communities and service providers to cater to tourist, it was agreed that people on the ground need a thorough orientation to be able to effectively harness the tourism potential. The other major hurdles is connectivity, including road, rail and air.  It was unanimously agreed by participants that the first challenge could be met by a collaborative effort from private and public entities with private players taking a lead in sharing, adapting and imbibing best practice cases from around the globe like those from  the Mekong region. It was suggested that if agencies like Asian Confluence can help bring global expertise, knowledge and thinking to develop Master Plan for Tourism in consultation with local stakeholders. The second hurdle majorly needs to be worked upon by the government and the house o f hopeful that recent road development works being planned will help improve things.

 The workshop had active participation from government officials, private players, experts, civil society, youth, and media from across Arunachal.  The workshop ended on the positive note of coming up with tangible collaborations with government, civil society and private sector as key players to help boost sustainable tourism and popularising Arunachal Pradesh as the hotspot for water, adventure and biodiversity linked tourism.

 

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