With an estimated US$ 3 trillion in annual revenues, tourism has emerged as one of the world’s largest industries, contributing significantly to economies. However, tourism can also be both an opportunity for conservation and a threat to biodiversity. Therefore any plan to promote tourism need to be carefully planned and implemented so that it is both economically and environmentally sustainable in the long run. A State like Nagaland richly endowed by nature has immense potential offered by ecotourism.
Against this backdrop the inauguration of the Khonoma Green Village, a first of its kind in India is both encouraging and appreciated. Khonoma, apart from its historical context and natural beauty, the conservation efforts to enforce total ban of burning jungles, ban of commercial logging in its vast forest reserves, ban of hunting of wild animals and birds in its village grounds are indeed laudable and such community based initiative must be likewise emulated by other Naga villages and communities. As the first green village in India, Khonoma will hopefully live up to the path breaking trend it has shown as a model village promoting ecotourism and in the process generating sustainable livelihoods for its people.
Much credit should also go to the Khonoma Tourism Development Board (KTDB) for its tireless effort in steering the entire project right from the project stage to its final culmination. It is also hoped that the initiative taken will now be projected through proper marketing channel which will enable local communities to introduce visitors to their art and craft, cultural and natural heritage.
The enriching culture of the Nagas are still vibrant in the villages and the State government should encourage and support more rural tourism projects beyond Khonoma so that while preserving the rich culture and craft of the people a sustainable dimension of rural life can also set in, as a means to viable livelihood opportunities for low-income rural communities.
Besides coming out with concepts and models, for tourism to really succeed in Nagaland, both the government at the Centre and in the State should take some policy initiatives. For one, the relevance of RAP/PAP restrictions in the current context needs to be reviewed by the Centre and at least certain areas of tourist interest should either be exempt or relaxed. The state government on its part should review the ILP regime so that genuine tourists are not hassled while visiting Nagaland. Improving road connectivity to the districts and villages of tourist interest has to be given high priority as well.
The government should continue to encourage tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially, as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the local community for a more enriching tourism experience.