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A bullet train in India, a metro in Guwahati, a Times Square in Shillong and cherry blossom trees dotting all Shillong thoroughfares – they all might happen one day. Despite skepticism, there is nothing wrong in having such dreams. There were skeptics about the Wright Brothers’ invention too. Now, we can’t dream of a life without flying, although we are no avian! The dream of Wright Brothers has become a necessity. There may be a day when Indians will not be able to think of travelling without the bullet train. One day, people in Guwahati might not wonder why Mumbaikars rush into the metros in thousands, if not lakhs, every day. The proposed ‘Times Square’, for which Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma drew severe criticism for ‘daydreaming’, might take away the commercial hub tag from Khyndailad. The slum-like Polo area might turn into a WiFi zone. So, there should be no skepticism about the latest dream – making Shillong eligible to host the world’s second Cherry Blossom festival, only after Japan, in the coming years.

Funded by the Imphal-based Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), the cherry blossom project was kicked off by chief minister Mukul Sangma recently. In the first phase of the mission, 5,000 pink and white cherry trees will be planted in and around the city. The first sets of trees were planted at the picturesque Wards Lake and at the State Convention Centre beginning the ‘pink’ initiative. Being fast growing varieties, these trees and they are expected to blossom between three to five years. IBSD has emulated the project idea from ‘cherry avenues’ created by countries like USA, Holland, Australia to attract tourists. With its unique landscape, moist weather and deep-rooted music and food culture, Meghalaya can push its ranks in the world tourism map. In the second phase, IBSD will plant another 5,000 cherry trees along the 18-km long road from Umiam to Shillong, the main route for rest of the world to drive up to the Scotland of East.

However, there is still some room for skepticism. Many a ‘green’ projects have failed in Meghalaya. A mega plantation drive for Cherrapunjee, which is infamous as the ‘wet desert’, has fallen through leaving the government red faced. There has been no progress in the ground in realising the Times Square dream as well. Although the pink city drive appears to be more realistic, red tape and lure of money can derail anything. Hope the cherry blossoms, finally.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on May 16, 2015)

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