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Development of Sanbeel as tourist resort goes awry

 From our Special Correspondent

Silchar, Aug 12: There has been much talk about development of historical, religious and scenic spots of Barak Valley. Records speak of a grand 3 day ‘Barak Festival’ celebrated in 2005 with its theme and focus on development of tourism for which Rs 4 crore was spent. A blue-print was prepared which showed the inclusion of the greatest beel in south Assam, better known as Sanbeel. It was then decided to develop the largest wetlands as an eco-tourist spot. Besides, for promotion of tourism in Barak Valley along with development of tourist spot circuit in the valley and two hill districts of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong, Rs.6.5 crore was approved and sanctioned during the 11th plan of 2007-08 in northeast. Subsequent, official notification indicated that the tourist circuit was under execution. Nothing till date has happened.
Particular attention was given by the state tourism department for exploiting the eco-tourist spot of Sanbeel in the Karimganj district. The wetland is surrounded by 35 villages with a population of 80,000. According to Kallol Choudhury who made a survey of Sanbeel covering an area of 80 sq km referred to the satellite imagery that shows the scenic wetland as an idyllic place with sylvan beauty and lush green hills. After sunset and in moonlit nights, it takes an elegant look with nature’s bounty in it. The residents of the villages around, according to Choudhury, are dependent on the wetland for fishing and agriculture purposes as a supplement to their sustenance.
 Unfortunately, a visit to Sanbeel tells of the deplorable condition of road links leading to it. It is a basic fact if a place has to be developed as a tourist resort, there must be all weather communication which alone can draw tourists from near and far off places. In fact, the greatest problem is the implementation part after all the planning. There has also been talk about making Sanbeel a bird sanctuary where varieties of migratory birds flock during the winter season. The tragic part is that in the absence of any prohibitory measures, the migratory birds are mercilessly killed by some local residents for food.
 Apart from that, indiscriminate fishing has tolled adversely on the fish supply though pisciculturists say the water and soil of Sanbeel are suitable for fish breeding and its production can be increased through proper care and protection, pointed out Kallol Choudhury. Eco-tourism calls for better awareness and understanding of delicate ecological balance. Once Sanbeel is developed as a tourist spot, naturalists, bird watchers and scientific researchers will find it a suitable place to visit. Economically, the local population will be benefitted. Tourists can also undertake rafting, angling and boat ride.
 There are many small wetlands around the world which are privileged to get Ramsar Site status. It is to be mentioned that a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which come into force in 1975. Apart from Sanbeel, there are some other places around it which have historical importance that include Thanatilla, Putighat, Jangirgol and Sahaber Tuk. Sanbeel with its rich tradition of boat songs can certainly be developed into a tourist spot. Unfortunate enough, in the absence of any concrete proposal from the state tourism department, the wetlands are being systematically and gradually encroached upon.
 There is enough evidence to suggest that the half-hearted approach of the state government under Congress regime has been more indulged in rhetoric than in implementation. A glaring example is the foundation stone laid down for tourism lodge at the Sanbeel by Rockybul Hussain, then minister of forest and tourism, in the presence of Gautom Roy, former minister, and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya, ex MP, as well as Dr. Bhupen Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Karimganj of the time. It was on February 15, 2009. Rs.65 lakh project, a visit to the spot, will tell the sad tale of its being buried in the abysmal of time.
 There is no trace of any tourist lodge and also no information about the money allotted. This foundation stone has gone viral on social media, a food for jokes and entertainment. Deborshi Das and Abinash Das, residents of the area, along with others have demanded a tourist lodge and betterment of road connectivity, besides proper inquiry into the misuse or misappropriation of Rs.65 lakh meant for the construction of the lodge. They however have confidence and hope that with the coming of Sonowal Government at Dispur, a proper investigation will be done by Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, Minister of Tourism, to find out the persons responsible behind the vanishing trick of funds.