The recently inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge which is one of the longest road cum Rail Bridges has been the dream of the decades. The bridge provides the much-needed connectivity. One region of Arunachal Pradesh which is going to be impacted by this development most is the Lower Siang District and especially, its temporary HQ Likabali. Any process of development has some costs and has externalities.
Lower Siang has some historically important places like Malinithan, Rukhmini Mandir and Akashi Ganga which are of great religious interest to the people.
It has been observed that the number of people visiting from Assam since December 25th has hugely escalated. Devotees and tourist visiting Malinithan have increased by many folds. Recently, when I visited the Temple, I saw that the ‘Malinithan-Mela ground’ was all covered in filth, plastics, and other waste. This will have a damaging impact on our environment and on our health- if no prompt action is taken.
Also, a huge number of Assam registered vehicles are seen to be plying inside Likabali, even traffic jams are becoming a regular phenomenon in Likabali, especially in the Malinithan road. The issue needs to be looked into with urgency and on a priority basis. Roads leading to the Temple are narrow; therefore chances of untoward incidence are high. Also, the overcrowding on Siji River Hanging Bridge by the picnickers is not unknown. The recent incident of Bridge collapsing due to overweight should be an eye-opener.
Another thing to add here is the alcohol consumption in open. People from Assam hitherto have been mesmerized by the cheap rates of alcohol in Arunachal Pradesh. It is observed that at many places the visitors are consuming alcohols in the open areas- which may sooner or later become a public nuisance, if not nipped in the bud.
Recently, the administration woke up and issued an order for necessary prohibition and action. It was a welcome move, but, too little and too late. This picnic season is ending and the arrival of people has started to recede. But, these problems, along with the opportunities unveiled are now the reality, from which we can’t shy away. Given this, District Administration by taking on board all the stakeholders must prepare a plan and chalk out strategies to reap the opportunities on a war footing; instead of getting bogged down under the pressure of the externalities later.
One of the urgent needs for the area I believe, is a police check gate near the Assam counterpart and Inner Line permit made mandatory. Saying this, I do not want to deter the Tourist inflow, proper measure for easing the issuance of the Tourist passes can be taken up- facilitating through an online platform. Also, a window for on the spot issuances of Tourist Passes and registration should be set up alongside the Police Check gate.
Yes, we need tourist inflow and development of the area and the connectivity provided by ‘Dream Bridge’ would help in turning the wheel. However, any development must be sustainable and an inclusive one; not jeopardizing the normal lives of people and without leaving much negative foot-print on the area and its environment.