Dans boys” shot” for accountable tourism

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Mar 03, 2024 12:58 PM IST
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NE youths ‘shoot’ for responsible tourism

His new-found love for the audio-visual medium has taken him from his native Nagaland to the high reaches of Sikkim, seeking to help a community of yak herders sustain with the concept of responsible tourism.

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He is among 30 youths mentored as part of ‘Responsible Tourism Fellowships’ by environment conservation organisation Green Hub and motorcycle manufacturer Royal Enfield to promote sustainable and conscious travel in the Himalayan region.

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Lemdumong was part of a three-member group that worked at Chongri in the westernmost part of Sikkim as part of their fellowship, where they engaged with the local community of yak herders to develop a tourist trail focusing on sustainability and adventure.

For this youth from Noklak district of Nagaland, the fellowship was an unexpected turn in life facilitated by his uncle a couple of years back.

“Hunting is a way of life for most in our villages and I was involved in it from 14 years of age. It is mostly need-based for us. In 2021, my uncle Thangson became a fellow under a different programme run by Green Hub and I assisted him in filming the wildlife around our place,” Lemdumong told PTI here.

“It was when I saw the pictures and videos of the birds and other animals that I looked at these with new clarity and realised the beauty in them. It was an amazing realisation and a major turning point for me,” he said.

Lemdumong applied for the six-month fellowship on responsible tourism and he was among 14 fellows trained in the second batch, which commenced in September 2023, at five project sites across Arunachal Pradesh (Zemithang), Sikkim (Geyzing), Meghalaya (Hima Laitkroh) and Assam (Sonapur and Nagaon).

The fellows presented their unique and hyper-local action plans to build their responsible tourism business models at a conclave here recently.

Lemdumong teamed up with Lyangsai Tikhak of Arunachal Pradesh, a college drop-out who helps out at his family farm, and Talabya Raj of Assam, a travel vlogger.

The trio is hopeful that they will be able to pitch their business model for an 8-15 days trial with the yak herders of Chongri to interested investors, while at the same time, they are also raring to return to their homes and ensure that their communities benefit from the knowledge and exposure they have acquired.

The fellows also produce a documentary as part of the programme, shooting at their sites and filming the local populace, putting their idea of conservation on film.

Rita Banerji, founder of Project Green Hub, said the six-month fellowship is aimed at creating a network of youth who can help mainstream the idea of responsible tourism.

“It is a grounds-up approach where the action plan for each site is being developed, hand-in-hand with communities. The conclave helps to bridge communities to the larger travel industry,” she said.

A leading environment filmmaker herself, Banerji said the medium of film-making for story-telling is used by the fellows to tell untold stories of the land, people and generational knowledge.

Bidisha Dey, executive director, Eicher Group Foundation, the CSR arm of Royal Enfield, said the Responsible Tourism Fellowship was conceived with the aim of bringing responsible tourism as an established practice across the Himalayas.

“The programme is led by community youth who are empowered to create local livelihood options by meaningfully engaging with their natural and cultural heritage. We believe this engagement plays a pivotal role in creating and promoting winning models for sustainable tourism,” she added.

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