All photographs by the Author except Mawlynnong Living Root Bridge photos by Sameer Gurung
One of the Seven Sisters of North-East India. Meghalaya is popularly known by its Sanskrit meaning ‘The Abode of Clouds’, while its capital, famously known and tagged as ‘Scotland of the East’. Quoting small lines from Wikipedia, “the state of Meghalaya is mountainous with stretches of valley and highland plateaus. The state is the wettest region of India and about 70 percent of the state is forested. The Meghalaya subtropical forest eco-region encompasses the state; the mountain forests to the North and South. The forests are notable for their biodiversity of mammals, birds and plants”. By reading and picturing the name tags of both the State (the Abode of Clouds) and its Capital (Scotland of the East) from travel and tourism perspectives, a traveler/tourist would compel himself to visit this very unique destination and also with the help of the beautiful scenic and landscape photographs from the internet, one would desire to set foot and witness with one’s own eyes.
The development of travel and tourism sector in the state is still in its adolescence. The government plays the role of the modern parents who are busy in making money while meeting the financial demands of their children without thinking about their future. On the other hand I appreciate the government for also being responsible parents in developing and grooming the adolescents (tourism activities and destinations) and making them stand on their own feet. But it also failed to groom, prepare and teach the children for their future survival. We can see through the window of tourism, that the state is developing itself in various tourism activities, be it natural or man made. Meghalaya naturally provides the requirements for man made activities like Kayaking, zip lining, motor powered parasailing, etc. And it offers the bountiful experience on mother nature. The Cleanest Village in Asia, the Wettest Place on Earth, the Magnificent Living root bridges, the Sacred Groves, the beautiful rivers, the gorgeous cascades and waterfalls, the canyons, valleys and hills, the dense forests, rich biodiversity, varieties of flora and fauna and many more. Day by day the state is growing faster and faster and it is becoming very popular. But, when you really open up your eyes wide, what do you see to your right and left, in front, beneath and behind the scenes?
On arriving in Meghalaya, ‘Welcome to Meghalaya, this is Umiam Lake viewpoint and as you can see the beautiful lake over there, these are also the garbage lying in and around the viewpoint, littered by locals as well as tourists’. Moving on, ‘We are entering the Shillong city, you can pull up the windows or you can open to get the fresh breeze and smell the city’s dump from Marten. You will also have a great experience of similar scenes en route to the other destinations and if you want to take a leak you can do it on the road sides’.
Not solely blaming on the handicapped functioning government but individuals themselves are the ones who blindfold oneself with ignorance and greed. The proprietors or communities of the various destinations are being taught to know more about the value of money rather than the value of culture and sustainability of the destination. The people in the popular areas have lost their culture resulting to a failure in understanding that culture is an identity and it also plays an important role in travel and tourism; while they focus only on the monetary benefits gained through the activities. The areas are overcrowded and packed, uncontrolled flow of visitors will lead to pollution and destruction of the natural habitats of a particular destination.
Mawlynnong ‘Asia’s Cleanest Village’ and its living root bridge fully packed with visitors. How long can it hold such capacity? There is traffic jam in Riwai village. And, recently, known for no safety measures for tourists and visitors where, ‘The heroic act of one man identified as Eveningstar Khongthohrem(45) hailing from Nongsohphan village near Mawlynnong, garnered much applause and appreciation after he rescued one tourist from drowning’. Where is proper safety for tourists?
Trekking is one activity where almost everyone loves doing, going into the wilderness of mother nature. For this activity the famous destination is Nongriat village beautifully surrounded by amazing tall waterfalls flowing from the hills. But who would want to go on a trek climbing up and down approximately 3000 or more concreted/cemented steps? The unorganized and massive trekking events led by many organizations and also students from various colleges and universities has loosened the roots of the upper deck of the famous Double Decker Living Root bridge which took almost 40 to 60 years or more to grow strong and firm due to over capacity and they also contributed to massive littering in this serene village. What is the use of studying the compulsory Environmental Studies subject? For the road to be constructed towards this village, I will leave it all to you to throw your views on whether it should be constructed or not. Or may be other alternative measures can be discussed and taken into consideration to avoid cutting the hills which will damage the environment and its valuable ecosystems.
Caving is an adventure activity and is supposed to be thrilling and also to experience the silence and the darkness inside. And instead of giving proper training to the local hosts the knowledge of caving activities and the safety measures, for people to go in fully geared up with proper caving suits which will give them a feeling and sense of adventure. The useless lighting systems inside contributes nothing to the sustainability of the caves in fact one hammer for nailing the electrical cords inside the stalagmites and stalactites or sandstones contributed to destruction for over an approximately 19,0000 years of formation and history and the different species of bats disappear in response to the light inside. The corners become peeing spots for tourists. What’s the point of going inside a well lit cave and where’s maintenance?
Laitlum, recently a famous destination popular for the shooting of a Bollywood movie ‘Rock On 2’ is scattered with packets from chips and snacks and bottles lying around everywhere here and there.
Laitlyngkot viewpoint welcomes you with an awful smell from the sanitary and menstrual pads thrown beneath and in the corners of the rocks.
The ‘Law Kyntang (Sacred Grove) at Mawphlang which is supposed to be sacred has broken alcohol bottles lying inside its premises.
The ill structured, imbalanced, colorful and improper infrastructure of view points and pathways which does not blend or camouflage with the environment and its surroundings contribute a lot to the damage and destruction of the original structures.
Talking about individuals, local visitors going to rural destinations travel in their beautiful and posh cars, loud music and cases of booze stuffed on the back of their vehicles, beautifully dressed up like supermodels and celebrities with huge and colorful sunglasses/shades, finishes a packet of chips and a sip from the bottle by throwing outside the car’s window and after sometime stops the car somewhere and pee on the road side. Intoxicated youths are breaking bottles all over the destination. Domestic tourists pops out their heads and spray their puke and spitting pan/kwai all over the place and even the vehicles following behind. No complaints for International tourists, they acquire standards once warned (except on their safety). Trekkers and visitors while trekking to areas or going inside the caves tend to write meaningless words on rocks like ‘Mr. This and Mr. That was here’ (as if they founded the places/caves before their forefathers did). These are the things you will witness while traveling in and around Meghalaya.
We all know most of the local people in the rural destinations have their own simple lifestyles are trying their best in keeping their village clean. With the visitors being over educated, they tend to forget the efforts of the villagers in maintaining the village instead break the provided rules, litter and pollute, and when the villagers/village committee takes action on such behavior they will surely blame them for still being cannibals and also illiterate, rude and uneducated! Whose fault is it?
I am not blaming the government or any individual. In the meantime, the need of the hour is for us to not wait for the government, an organization or any individual to start. We are all responsible for our own actions. Let us try to change and be responsible citizens. Meghalaya still have many villages that are very clean with a healthy environment. We should not litter, be it anywhere. Keep in mind while finishing a candy, chewing gum or packet of chips or any snacks, it must be noted that wrapping papers/plastics should be kept in your bag and thrown in a proper dustbin, also even after finishing a bottle of beer please keep the bottle in a proper and visible place for easy collection or throw it in a proper dustbin.