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A few natural lakes at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres may not be a wonderful thing for the locals of Mawphanlur in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. But they are yet to know that the unique landscape can do wonders for the village. Local youths can exploit the resources to sustain themselves without having to move to cities in search of petty jobs. An increase in the tourist flow will boost production and manufacturing of indigenous goods and items. It’s a chain system. Everything caters to everything else. Some places like Sohra (or Cherrapunjee) has already developed the model for sustainability. Although the history of tourism in Sohra dates back to the British era, it’s not too late for other unexplored places as well.

The village located in Mawthadraishan, the second highest peak of Meghalaya, was unknown to most people in the state itself till the other day. It was the recent Mawphanlur Autumn Lake Fest that drew a few thousand crowds. The place has now made a mark in the tourism map of the state. Holding of events like motocross, kayaking and angling established the potential of the region. An interesting fact about the high-altitude natural lakes is that they never go dry even during the harsh winter.

Mawphanlur is not the only place taken up recently for tourism promotion in Meghalaya. There are many other spots where winter festivals are held. Success of these programmes is, however, yet to be distinctly seen on the ground. Most tourists used to visit the festivals only and never turn back to the place in the rest of the year. This is not sustainable. Besides the festivals being new, there are various other factors involved for these places not being able to attract tourist throughout the year. Lack of awareness, infrastructure bottleneck, language barrier, non-friendly attitude of locals, skepticism about outsiders and non-availability of food choices are some of them. There is no dearth of resources for tourism in the state. Nearly half of unique natural landscapes of the state are yet to figure on the popular tourism map. Holding festivals are a good attempt to highlight these places. But, at the same time, stress should be laid on the other aspects so that tourist flow becomes a round the year affair and brings sustainability to the sector.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 21, 2014)