Dima Hasao, nicknamed Switzerland of the Northeast, is now looking to capitalise its scenic beauty to attract tourists and develop it as the ‘cleanest district’ of India.
This hill district of Assam, which was once known for its dreaded militancy, is trying to place itself as one of the most peaceful and exotic tourist locations of the region, officials of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC) told PTI on Wednesday.
As part of its endeavour, the council, which governs Dima Hasao, published a draft tourism policy, which plans to develop five different circuits for travellers, on the occasion of World Toursim Day.
“One of our weaknesses was not having proper tourism infrastructure. Non-peaceful conditions were also to be blamed for this. This policy reflects what people of Dima Hasao, especially from the rural areas, want in the tourism sector apart from basic needs,” NCHAC chief executive member (in-charge) Hen Samuel Changsan said.
The district, which has a high number of unemployed youths, have started to realise they can capitalise on natural infrastructure, he added.
“For that, we have streamlined the tourism policy. This is a draft policy and we have to pass it in the council session. We will have our own mini circuits. We will also integrate with the greater Assam tourism circuit,” Changsan said. Dima Hasao’s headquarters Haflong, about 330 km from Guwahati, is the only hill station of the state.
Asked if decades of militancy and its aftereffects are stopping explorers from venturing into Dima Hasao, Changsan said peace is the foundation for any development and the district is peaceful now.
“We were lagging behind in basic infrastructure like roads, water and telecommunication. However, these areas have improved considerably in recent years,” he added.
Changsan said the education sector has improved with the literacy rate rising every year.
“Students from Dima Hasao perform exceedingly well in the Class 10 board exam of Assam every year. Having a well-educated workforce is essential for developing the tourism sector,” he added.
Talking further about Dima Hasao, tourism advisor Zed Nunisa said the council’s vision is to develop the sector as total plastic-free by making the district clean and green.
“If our district is clean, then people will come here. We are not just trying to make one village or a particular place as the cleanest, but we are trying to make Dima Hasao as the cleanest district in India.
“I believe that not only the government, but all organisations and every stakeholder will support us, and we will make Dima Hasao as the cleanest district in India. I am hopeful that it will be successful very soon,” he added.
Nunisa said NCHAC plans to make five tourism circuits right now — adventure, eco and rural, agriculture, cultural and festival.
“India is known for destination weddings. So, we have developed Umrangso as a destination wedding tourism spot, where there is a golf course too. It is a beautiful place,” he added.
NCHAC member (tourism in-charge) Monjit Naiding said the draft policy aims to streamline the home stays, lodges and hotels.
“We want to maintain a standard of these facilities in Dima Hasao and the policy highlights those areas. This will give a comfortable stay to tourists coming to our district,” he added.
Dima Hasao is well-connected with the rest of Assam and the country by road and railway network.
A railway division was established at Haflong in 1895 and in February 1904, the construction of the 184.16 km track was completed between Lumding and Badarpur with 37 tunnels, of which 35 were in present day Dima Hasao, earlier called North Cachar Hills district.
Until October 2014, tourists preferred journey in the century-old metre gauge rail, which traversed through the picturesque Dima Hasao in a zig-zag track through a number of tunnels and dozens of vintage bridges along the course of beautiful hilly rivers.
The new Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line through Dima Hasao has 17 tunnels, 79 major bridges and 28 stations, while the ‘Mahasarak’ with a long road tunnel near Maibang definitely has boosted all-round interest of the people of the hill district.
After the Vistadome Tourist Special Train Services started between Guwahati and Haflong in August 2021, the district got the much needed impetus, especially in the tourism sector.
The British made Haflong their home because of its fabulous weather and scenic beauty. The town was decorated in colonial style with systematic tree plantations, well-planned footpaths, motorable roads, residential houses and bungalows, golf course, motels, educational institutions, playgrounds and parks.
The world famous Jatinga is located just nine kilometres away from Haflong. It is widely visited by ornithologists, environmentalist, biologist, scientists and tourists from India and across the globe for the unusual birds phenomenon, occuring in September-November.
Other places of Dima Hasao like Hajong lake, Laisong, Maibang and Umrangso also have lots of avenue for mountaineering, tracking, rafting, water sports and eco-tourism, while the entire district can be explored as botanical and zoological hub for various study and educational purposes.