Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Community involvement and sustainable livelihoods

The basic principle of tourism is sharing, the community in general has something to offer and the visitor is interested in seeing it, knowing more about it. How can this interaction be healthy and fruitful if the representatives of the community are kept away from it and parties with vested interests based outside of the community are allowed to reap benefits from it? Such a situation leads to exploitation; exploitation of the heritage, the local people and the visitors as well because these businesses would like to maximize their profit in short term and would not like sustainable solutions or measures to conserve the heritage until they are forced by the rules.

To the authorities tourism might translate into the number of visitors coming to the place, its popularity and the money brought in the area by them but in the true sense of the world unless the local community is benefiting from it, prosperous enough to hold the valuable heritage together no amount of boasted tourist numbers mean anything.

The locals have held the heritage together for centuries; have donated their lands for the sake of archeological history and have shared their treasure with outsiders and now if they are not allowed to be an active participant, it would be unfair, a big injustice.

The present setup is congested and scope of improvement and accommodating future growth is absent. There is no plan to implement any big schemes to involve people and give them an opportunity for growth of entrepreneurial initiatives like tour operation or interpreting services or develop any other tourism related services. There is very little time and space available for interaction with the community and in general they are at a disconnect about how they can be more proactive in generating new avenues. The visitor on the other hand is unaware of the information the local people are holding together, the result is that the tourism at Nalanda is not growing proportional to its assets.

It is a heritage that the locals have preserved for generations together; their lifestyle is built around them. The festivals, the fairs, the stories, the art and the costumes, all these are part of the heritage; these seemingly simple rituals and traditions bring life to these half destroyed structures and who better to tell the story than the community itself. Because community depends on this heritage and the heritage needs community to preserve and conserve it.

The present scenario is suffocating the community growth, not only there is a lack of encouragement but the lack to infrastructure and planning and bad decisions are actually pushing people out of this enterprise even before they enter it. It’s the responsibility of the custodians of the resources to plan, think and interact with the community to understand their perspective and take necessary measures to alleviate any concerns. This is only possible if the community gets a chance to voice their opinions and somebody in the government takes initiative to formulate and execute the viable strategies for the betterment of the community by constantly keeping them in the loop and giving them an opportunity to be part of the decision making. This approach of community participation is the only sustainable solution in the long run. Treating the community as the recipient of an end product and follower of rules is a very parochial way of policy making and has backfired several times in the past resulting in waste of valuable resources and time.


Shashi Bhushan said...

what a delicious local product u put here. It's very good in winter evening with Dhnaiya Chutney & Desi Ghee. If I'm not mistaking...It's LITTI

deepak anand said...