(Dehra Dun, June 22) Experts on community based tourism (CBT) can take a cue from the example of Lata village in Chamoli district. The unique feature of the inhabitants of this small village of ‘Bhutia’ people in the Niti Valley is that most of its occupants live in at least two villages at various times of the year. They migrate to Lata during summer and return to Lamtal in the winters.
This time the uninhabited Lamtal village came alive even in summer with the visit of a group of students from Canada. Consisting of 12 members, the troupe included students mostly from McMaster University (Canada). They brought life back to the deserted place and as the villagers provided them boarding, lodging and guides/porters the locals too were financially benefited in return.
‘Manthan’, an NGO based in Dehra Dun, organised the package tour with the help of the villagers. Commenting on it, Sajikumar says, “We took the students up to the Lamtal village. The villagers conducted the rest of the tour. By allowing the tourists to use their idle houses, the villagers are making an effort to use available infrastructure for income generation.”
The enchanting natural beauty while trekking from Khanuk to Sainikhark and vice versa in the Niti Valley took the Canadian students under its spell. The visitors were also mesmerized by the warm hospitality of the local people.
Narrating experiences of the tour, an excited Erin Hallock says, “We were introduced to a new mountain culture there. The local people used to invite us for tea and dinner. As I am a student of development, the tour is going to help me in my career.’
Making her observations about the hardworking people of the Garhwal Himalayas, Jasmine Yu exclaims, “I found the ‘Bhutias’ the most hard working people I have ever seen in my life. Though the climbs were exhausting yet the unexplored beauty of the mountain was a rewarding experience.”
Young Sameer Ansari visited Uttarakhand for the first time and comparing the American lifestyle with mountain culture he asserted, “The scenery were mind blowing. I must honestly admit that I discovered the hill people living a more happy life than that in America, despite the prevailing poverty. Consumerism has taken its toll in the US.”
Though the setting was picture post card like yet Gillian Lindsun advocates an advance in communication facilities. “The nearest STD PCO is some 10 kms from Lata. When our trek started my family in Canada were worried just because they were not in touch with me for three-four days. I hope to see a telephone booth in Lata on my next visit.”
The visitors aver that community based tourism can be promoted with the close co-ordination of the government and the NGOs. Elaborating the argument, Dhan Singh Rana, a former ‘Pradhan’ of Lata village, says, “If community based tourism or eco-tourism is there to be promoted in the hills the state government should ensure that the local community plays an active part in this specialised tourism.”
The participants: Ms. Sheila Russek, Ms. Gillian Lindsun, Ms. Diane Truong, Ms. Lauralee Sim, Ms. Delaney Greig, Ms. Erin Hallock, Ms. Ashley Whilte, Ms. Eilen Knavles, Ms. Jasmine Yu, Ms. Kristin De Grosbois, Mr. Scoot, Mr. Shameer and Team Leader Mr. Sajji Kumar.
— By Raju Gusain, HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, 23 June 2004
New Delhi edition (Late city)