Assam tourism boasts of wildlife - but not facilities

December 29th, 2008 - 10:23 am ICT by IANS  

Manas (Assam), Dec 29 (IANS) Allan Hully, a British tourist, was excited when he arrived at Manas National Park. He was hoping to spend a adventurous week in the wilderness but ended up winding off his trip a few hours after he arrived here.”The facilities, especially accommodation, at Manas are simply awful,” Hully said. The tiger reserve is located 180 km west of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.

Like Hully, domestic tourists also rue the poor lodging facilities at Manas, especially in the government-run accommodation at the scenic Mathanguri, 22 km inside the park. Lack of basic infrastructure and poor maintenance at the tiger reserve has left tourists frustrated at a time when the state is trying its best to promote wildlife tourism.

“There is just one government accommodation at Mathanguri where tourists would starve if they do not bring in their own provisions. Even for a cup of tea you need to bring tea leaves, milk and sugar,” said V. Mukherjee, a tourist from Mumbai.

“How can the government try to market tourism destinations if they cannot provide basic facilities like two meals, a proper bed with linens and a clean toilet? Most of the times the generator at the lodge does not have diesel to run and one has to manage with lanterns,” lamented a Assam police official who visited the park.

Tarun Bora, a retired Assam government official, “People are ready to pay for a comfortable stay but the authorities are not bothered about providing basic infrastructure.”

Moreover, the wildlife invariably gets disturbed with trucks and private vehicles from adjoining Bhutan allowed through the park to transport goods.

“About 30 to 40 Bhutanese vehicles, including big trucks, pass through the park daily. There are some districts in landlocked Bhutan that requires travelling through Assam and hence Bhutanese vehicles are allowed to move through the park area,” a forest official said.

“Due to frequent movement of vehicles, animals generally tend to remain deep inside the park and hence visitors hardly get to see the wildlife,” he added.

Manas is home to 22 of the 41 endangered wildlife species listed in India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, including the rare pygmy hogs, the golden langur, tigers, one-horned rhinoceros, and wild Asiatic elephants.

According to the last census, there are some 65 tigers in Manas. For about 13 years until 2003, the park was in the grip of heavily armed militants and poachers who hunted wildlife.

According to official figures, up to 200 animals were mercilessly slaughtered inside Manas in the past 15 years, either by tribal Bodo militants for food or by organised poaching gangs who hunted wildlife.

The situation was so grim that Unesco in 1992 listed Manas as a World Heritage Site in Danger. (Syed Zarir Hussain can be contacted

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