Dispur to promote tourism on hills

April 25 : Guwahati’s hills, which have become an eyesore with encroachment and rampant cutting, might get back their place of pride soon with Dispur deciding to convert them into tourism spots.
The plan will achieve three objectives at a go — beautify the hills, prevent encroachment and check antisocial activities.
Sources said the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority was working on the plan with the help of the tourism department and the Assam Tourism Development Corporation.
An Assam government official said, according to the plan, the GMDA and the tourism department would first regenerate the forests in the hills and then dot them with eco-friendly resorts, flower gardens, water fountains and watch towers.
The first phase of the project will cover Nilachal and Sarania hills, where the Kamakhya temple and Gandhi Mandap are situated.
“Guwahati is the only city in the country that is surrounded by 14 hills. Unfortunately, the condition of the hills has become a cause of woe for the city dwellers. The rampant destruction of the hills because of human encroachment causes landslides and flash floods. The city’s green cover is fast declining because of encroachment on the hills. Something must be done on a war-footing to develop and protect the hills for the city’s future,” the official said.
AC Nielsen, a New York-based global marketing research firm, suggested that urgent steps be taken to develop and protect the hills for the beautification and ecological balance of Guwahati.
The US firm is currently conducting a survey to create a comprehensive database of hill dwellers.
The official said the government would involve the hill dwellers in the plan.
“The people who have been living in the hills for more than 15 years will be given permanent settlement by the Kamrup (metro) district administration on the condition that they will be actively involved in tourism promotion and anti-encroachment activities,” the official said.
According to the government records available, 1,23,979 people resided on the 14 hills in 2000. The survey recorded 26,985 number of households on the hills with 8,681 permanent structures, 7,510 semi-permanent structures and 10,794 temporary structures.
“Another aim of the project is to prevent antisocial activities. Since the hilly areas are not easily accessible, criminals usually take shelter in such places to carry out subversive activities in the city. Beautification of the hills will not leave space for such elements to take shelter,” the official said.