[ Bengia Ajum ]
I visited picturesque Mechukha for the first time in the 2011, when there was a Northeast riders’ meet. At that time, it was more like a small village than a town, with barely any facilities. Due to lack of accommodation, I had to take shelter in the house of my friend Dr Gebu Sona. Since then, I have been to Mechukha a couple of times, and on every visit I see changes. In the first week of February, I had the opportunity to visit Mechukha. This time I took a chopper ride while going to Mechukha.
I went back to Mechukha after a gap of almost three years, and was surprised by the changes witnessed on the ground. The changes are both positive and, of course, some negative. The town is bustling with tourists and locals. New resorts, hotels and several homestays have come up. The accommodation issue has been fully addressed. The township road is much better. Some of the innovative projects being launched in Mechukha can be replicated across the state. The creative road signage, which was first started in Mechukha, has already been adopted by the IMC in Itanagar. The two other innovative projects which are worth sharing are laying of underground electrical cables and establishment of a plastic wastage treatment plant. The local authorities have started an ambitious project to lay electrical cable underground to beautify the whole township. Also, the setting up of a plastic wastage treatment plant will go a long way in addressing the issue of plastic waste management. The trial run has started in the plant. Oil is extracted by treating the plastic wastes.
With a civil terminal coming up at the advanced landing ground (ALG), the people can look forward to the start of fixed-wing air service. At present there is a helicopter service twice a week from Naharlagun to Mechukha and vice versa. However, the service often gets disrupted due to bad weather and the use of helicopters for ferrying VIPs. The Aalo-Mechukha road is the lifeline for the people as well as tourists. The construction of a two-lane highway has started in some stretches, but the progress of work is very slow. People face immense difficulties, especially during the monsoon season. Poor mobile connectivity and erratic power supply have also made life miserable for the people of the entire Shi-Yomi district, including those of Mechukha town. Mechukha is now the nerve centre of Shi-Yomi district, even though Tato is officially the headquarters of the district. Tato headquarters is still taking shape, and the locals have expressed dissatisfaction over its slow progress.
I was supposed to return to Itanagar by helicopter service, but the weather deteriorated and the chopper could not take off. Left with no choice, we took the road route and it took almost 15 hours to reach Itanagar. Bollywood star Arjun Rampal and his family had also come to Mechukha to celebrate Sonam Losar at the invitation of Legislative Assembly Speaker PD Sona, who is his friend from Hindu College days. They also experienced a harrowing time while taking the road journey from Mechukha to Dibrugarh (Assam).
With Tawang and West Kameng almost getting exhausted as tourist destinations, places like Mechukha and Anini are the future of the state. It is time for the state government to look beyond Tawang and West Kameng and pump in money in the areas which have tourism potential, like Mechukha.