Manali: It is an undeniable fact that Manali economy relies on tourism. It is well said that tourism is the bread for Manali. It is also well known that tourism is not an ultimate goal but a means to achieve the goal that is primarily the welfare of Manali and Kullu people, in general.
The local government, since the outset, has fully realized that the main tourist attractions for Manali are its unique culture tailored by its natural scenic beauties. Heated arguments came up in seminars and discussions; either among private groups or government agencies.
The topic was how Manali could sustain its tourist sector in the future. They argued that Manali’s tourist development must be thoroughly planned and tightly regulated.
A reputable consultant, from Delhi, was invited to Manali to formulate an appropriate master plan for tourism. After a long survey and much discussion, a concept of Manali’s Tourism Master Plan was submitted to the provincial administration. It is popularly called “Manali’s Tourism Development Master Plan”.
The consultant considered that one of the main tourist attractions, Manali’s unique culture, must be preserved and shielded from an influx of negative tourist influences. The solution proposed was to minimize the direct contact between tourists and local people.
It was proposed that several tourist resorts, be designated areas assigned for the provision of tourist facilities including hotels and restaurants. It was forecast that tourist arrivals would keep increasing every year.
Among the designated tourist sports were: Rohtang, Solang, Nagger, Banjar, local Mall and rural belt of the area was especially developed by the government as a new, well-planned tourist resort different from Kullu, which has been developing without a proper plan for decades.
Even though Rohtang development, beautification of The Mall, just 300 meters and regulation are several years behind schedule, it is acknowledged as being successful. On paper, the plan was great, in reality, it was a different matter.
This designation means that the development of industry is prohibited. The outcries of those involved in the tourist business of the area were unheeded by both the regency and provincial authorities. If the authority that is supposed to enforce the rule breaches it themselves, who is expected to honor the regulations?
It is no exaggeration to say that Manali’s tourism was booming until the unexpected roads conditions of Himachal particularly of Manali deteriorated day by day..
At present, the realities show that many tourist-related businesses are hardly surviving, and several have gone bankrupt. For example, many hotels, restaurants, money changers and art shops in the Manali and tourist resorts are at the verge of closing down due to the lack of tourists.
Who should be blamed? Let’s call a spade a spade.
A tourism expert said, “tourism destroys tourism”. It sounds bizarre, but it may now be happening in Manali. It was recently observed in Kullu – Manali that the towns had been heavily polluted. The pollution was partly due to the waste thrown up by the hotel industry and local businesses in areas without proper treatment. The concrete jetties built along forest line of Manali are simply an eyesore.
Most of these uncontrolled development projects have been perpetrated by those who are involved in the tourist trade. The concept of sustainable development has never occurred to them. This short-term way of thinking has been destroying the future of Kullu Manali tourism.
Photo: Tarun Goel