A Dissemination cum Consultation workshop titled “Opportunities in Water, Tourism and Linked Livelihoods in Tripura: Learning from the Mekong Region” was held at Agartala Press Club, by the Asian Confluence, a Shillong based think-tank working on issues of water, connectivity, trade, tourism and culture.
Government officials, experts, civil society, academicians, young scholars, activists and media from across Tripura participated in the workshop.
Addressing the event, Vishwasree B., Director, Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura stated that aiming to develop a comprehensive Master Plan for Tripura tourism and 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.
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.
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.
Former Chairman, Tripura Pollution Control Board and eminent scientist, Mr. Mihir Deb, 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.
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 possibility for archaeological, pilgrimage, adventure and tea tourism.
M. L. Debnath, President, Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, observed that Tripura could offer a 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. 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
Dr. Pawan K. Kaushik, Scientist, Forest Research Centre for Livelihood Extension shared that forest and natural resources can be promoted to attract tourists followed by Mrs. Swapna Debnath, Additional Director, Department of Commerce, welcoming the consultation and opined that tourism is one sector where substantial livelihood generation Is possible through public-private partnerships.
On the other hand, Ms. Nandita Datta, Media Person, shared that involvement of women in tourism services highlighted the involvement of women in tourism services will be useful as already highlighted during the presentation of the Mekong Case Study
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.