Far from the madding crowd is this place called Nongriat in Shillong. This is probably one of the few places that offers an almost-perfect balance of serene atmosphere, natural ecosystem, a traditional, simple lifestyle and very rudimentary infrastructure. Nongriat is the place to go for anyone who likes hiking and trekking.
After two or three hours of climbing down some 3500 steps, you are greeted by a sight worth remembering – the double-decker living root bridge.
This place has garnered significant attention since 2000. It was first featured in international television programmes like the “Human Planet” series by BBC Wales in 2008. It was also featured in a documentary by Osamu Monden for Japan’s TV Asahi in 2004.
Since then, this delicate and well-preserved place (which was initially hidden from prying eyes) has attracted tourists from all over the world, leaving them bewitched by its unique natural beauty.
However, although the advent of tourism may have have brought much-needed capital to this area, we would do well to consider the harmful sides to this increase in tourism.
I visited Nongriat in January 2017. Here, I noticed iron bridges and three hanging bridges that desperately needed reconstruction. While the bridges are used by tourists, they are also used by the hardworking villagers who travel from Nongriat to Tyrna, daily.
Further, more tourists increases the risk of pollution. The villagers cannot be expected to keep a constant vigil over the activities of the tourists, even though they may be concerned about protecting the place. Hence, there is a need to control tourist activities in the area, through regulatory orders, notices and sign-boards.
With greater influx of tourists, the need for preservation also increases. One of the possible ways to ensure this is to have it classified as a World Heritage site. Moreover, even though people may find this immature, it’s perhaps time that the adage ‘beauty is not to be touched or handled’ is applied to this place too. After all, someone who appreciates beauty does so from the bottom of his/heart, and not necessarily by ‘touching’ the object of beauty.
I am sure that we wouldn’t want future generations to view this place only through TV shows and documentaries. Therefore, let’s try our utmost to preserve this place and its natural formations!