Tourism can impact any destination in both a positive and a negative way. It depends on how the host community perceives tourism, and the decisions they take in order to hold on to traditional and cultural values, while opening up for travelers. The approach towards tourism development is always destination-specific and varies from geography to geography. One such visionary approach can be seen at the Model Village of Daribokgre, right on the footsteps of the Nokrek National Park in the East Garo Hills of Meghalaya.
But what is a Model Village?
The villagers and the administration at Daribokgre are well aware of the potential of their hidden hamlet as a tourist destination. So, they have taken it upon themselves to leverage tourism for infrastructure development in a sustainable manner, while preserving their own cultural values. You enter the village and there’s a perfect balance of traditions and technology. But what does it really take for a remote village in the Garo Hills to become a model village? To begin with, the administration is strengthening basic facilities throughout the village, with the ultimate aim of promoting planet-friendly, equitable tourism, without disrupting the local way of life.
a) Accessibility & Connectivity
One of the biggest challenges for any destination is its accessibility. If a place is not accessible, no matter what attractions it has or what facilities you provide, travelers will not be able to explore it. Located deep in the forest, an easily accessible road is one of the most important factors both for tourism and for local development at Daribokgre. Therefore, the administration took up the task of developing the road proactively, transforming a potholed dirt road into a smooth, navigable one for ease of travel.
b) Clean Energy Access
The next vertical under the Model Village Concept is availability of electricity throughout the village. This is where the village of Daribokgre stands out. They’ve moved to using solar energy, which is more reliable and cleaner than their existing set-up. This move to solar energy through Microgrids — installed by Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), the parent body of MH — is one step towards sustainability for this Model Village, which has now motivated other villages in the region to make the shift too.
c) Clean Water
Access to clean water was the next challenge, which has been dealt with by the administration through a Central government scheme. Each house now has access to clean water throughout the day. This also boosts the confidence of the villagers to be able to host more travelers and provide better facilities.
d) Traditional Nok-a-Chik Homestays Different regions in India offer different styles of accommodations to travelers. In this North Eastern part of our country, the accommodations are typically homestays, which are built as annexes next to the main houses, and this is true in the East Garo Hills as well. Additionally, the villagers at Daribokgre have kept their traditional homes intact. In this era, where the modern travelers are looking for an escape from the concrete jungle, they are welcomed into traditional Nok-a-Chik Homestays overlooking the Nokrek National Park. The houses are also solar electrified and have all the important facilities in-built, including a washroom.
These are structures made of bamboo and wood and supported by logs of wood, which form the base. Once a traveler stays at one of these homestays, she/he can truly experience how to live in harmony with nature on the edge of a thick forest.
e) Locally Farmed & Foraged Foods
Additionally, the food here is locally sourced. This also means lesser carbon emissions, since the trips to the major towns are limited in number. The locals are enthusiastic and keep offering different choices. You get lots of options, since everyone practices farming and even forages a variety of edibles from the forests. Among the favorites in the region are squash and pumpkin, which you’ll spot in abundance on the vines, while taking a stroll through the village.
Wake up by 5am in the village to experience a beautiful sunrise — the sun rises early in the East — and just watch in awe as nature reveals itself in its purest form. One can never be disappointed by the skies of Daribokgre.
This is just one example of how tourism is bringing development and sparking a behavioral change in the lives of the villagers, where instead of thinking about tourism in a conventional way, they are focusing on the bigger picture and opting for sustainability.
There is still a lot more that needs to be done, of course, and for it to be successful in the long run it has to be a continuous process. But this is definitely a good start.