Shillong seminar stresses eco-friendly tourism in northeast

SHILLONG: Academicians and intellectuals from across the region came together at a seminar on the occasion of World Environment Day on Tuesday and stressed that tourism in northeast India, one of the top bio-hotspots in the world, should be promoted in an eco-friendly, pro-poor and sustainable manner in order to secure the future of the people and the environment.

"Human intervention is increasing pollution, deforestation, encroachment and depleting water resources, due to which tourist places in the region have been losing their charm over the years," said a paper presented at a national seminar on 'Tourism: Economic and Environment in Northeast India', organized by the North-East India Council for Social Science Research here on Tuesday.

Noting that the region, with its "magical beauty and bewildering diversity" is a "seventh heaven" for tourists, academicians called for living within "ecological limits" and creating "satisfying lives for all within the means of nature".

Yet another paper noted that in most parts of the region, rapid environmental crisis in urban centres has increased the prospects of tourism in rural areas. "Rural tourism can be used as a development tool for isolated areas and can also increase non-farming activities in the region, which is a treasure of natural resources and ethnic culture," it stressed.

"Ecotourism involving local people not only enhances the level of income of the stakeholders, but also encourages them to conserve natural resources," one of the participants observed.

Noting that tourism is the largest service industry in India today, with a contribution of 6.23% to the national GDP, providing 8.78% employment and is a major source of foreign exchange earnings, participants emphasized on promoting the 'smokeless industry' in the northeast through judicious use of the region's vast natural resources.

"Northeast India is so rich in its natural and cultural resources that it has potential to develop any kind of tourism," a paper said, even as it rued that lack of infrastructure and apathy on part of the Centre and state governments has hampered the growth of tourism in the region so far.

According to researchers, except for Assam and Sikkim, the remaining northeastern states have "performed miserably" in the tourism sector. "The region has tremendous rural resources that can contribute much towards sustainable development if utilized properly by the tourism industry," they noted.