Tourism can be expanded without endangering biodiversity: Meghalaya CM

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. File
| Photo Credit: ANI

Meghalaya is developing a tourism model that does not pit the economy against ecology, according to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

As the State plans to scale up its tourism industry, it hopes to create a market for hospitality even while protecting its biodiversity, the CM said at a press conference on November 18.

In order to do this, the Meghalaya government has recognised several ecologically sensitive zones where all economic activities will cease to exist. “This switch is not easy. Some of these livelihoods date back to about 100 years. We have taken some firm measures. As you know, land ownership in Meghalaya is with the community and not with the government. We need local support, political will,” Mr. Sangma said. With the Secretariat being moved away from the city to the New Shillong Township, congestion in the city will be eased, helping to push down pollution levels, he added.

One lakh jobs

A multi-pronged approach — including the development of better hospitality infrastructure, road connectivity, and unique experiences, with a focus on culture — is on the cards for Meghalaya, the Chief Minister said. The tourism industry’s boom is expected to create one lakh jobs in the near future, he added.

The State will incentivise local business owners to set up homestays and villas in destinations like Cherrapunji. “We are investing between ₹2,000 and ₹2,500 crore in infrastructure and activity-based tourism,” Mr. Sangma said, adding that they are subsidising the establishment of cinema halls and tourist vehicles. 

Focus on culture

A special focus has also been given to the cultural aspect. The Chief Minister said that the government is creating venues and infrastructure for tourists to view the annual Nongkrem dance festival, the five-day religious fete of the Khasi tribe. The State-funded Cherry Blossom Festival between November 17 and 19 is another such initiative to promote local music and talent, though the first day of the event was cancelled due to intermittent rainfall this year.

The government is creating incubation centres to make and sell wine from local fruits in the region such as pineapples, in a bid to develop value-added products for farmers in the State, Mr. Sangma said.

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