The NNMSG community participation project is for valuing the Knowledge and experience of the community. The pride that we feel in our heritage is more than just the physical assets; it is also our local culture, the art, the festivals and the fairs. And community needs to be involved so that the tangible and the intangible assets or our culture could be accounted for and further explored. One way of preserving our assets is making them more popular and sharing them with others while educating the population so that its sanctity could be maintained.
This Project aims to develop an experience for the visitors based on the combination of our archeological and traditional cultural heritage. Community needs to be involved in the initial stages as they would be the best judge for the needs of the fast changing rural landscape of the area; and it is the plan that they come up with and the strategy that they follow that would determine the ultimate success of the project. The sustainability of the solutions would lie with the effort and pride that the people feel in its ownership. This would includes collective decision making, better understanding about the resources the place is bequeathed with, identifying the needs of the society and revival of some old intangible resources; and most of all the process with which these resource can be a source of sustainable livelihoods. The ultimate goal of the project would be to empower the community institutions to be able to operate on their own and set an example for those who would like to follow in there steps. In the long run, it is about the community taking care of their tourism needs, making the visitors familiar with the assets and taking the pride and joy of ownership.
In essence public participation is extremely important to make this tourism project a success and PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) is one such approach which can be instrumental in facilitating community participation. PRA is essentially a set of tools and methodologies that can be appropriately applied at different stages of project and it is perfectly suited to meet the objectives of NNMSG community participation project.
There is a dire need to improve upon the existing infrastructure; with the increased number of tourists in the area, the facilities need to step up and come up to the expectations of the visitor. It is very urgent to make sure that the infrastructure is strong and with provisions to handle future growth. To be able to market ‘Nalanda’ as the new and upcoming tourist destination, the places need a new get up and new image while maintaining its earthy appeal.
The community can play a very important role in providing us the basic frame work by coming together and giving an insight into the growing needs of the area and possible solutions. This would also empower people and remove the threat that might be imposed up on them by policies, institutionalization or through the influx of outside parties with vested interests.
Nalanda with its archeological heritage has made it to the tentative list of the world heritage site and now we need to improve upon the infrastructure and come at par with the higher expectations of visitors. Under the world heritage site provisions, ‘Nalanda’ will have to comply with the norms and conditions of the UNESCO. And taking the first step towards improvement would give us the benefit of an early start and the process will most certainly help prevent exploitation of the heritage and increase the inflow of tourists. Better facilities will tend increase their stay in the area and would benefit the local economy which would then be in a position to reinvest in the system.
PRA process will bring the community together and start a dialogue towards a broader, long term goal for the area. Armed with these information and by involving public into the decision making process, a refined master plan for Nalanda can be developed.
As stated earlier, by empowering the people with the ability to make better decisions for their lives, they are protected against the exploitation that might come about from the parties with vested interest. And this improves the economic situation of the area and the ability of the local people to reinvest in the growing infrastructure needs. There can improvement in the tourists support services like shops, restaurants, hotels, hospitality and transportation, etc.
Based on the discoveries and interests of the visitors, new tourist circuit routes could be developed, rural tourism can add a new flavor to the experience, the awareness about the heritage could be spread and the glory of the ancient Nalanda can be resurrected.
A pioneer from centuries ago would develop with the outstanding potential and set a great example for others to follow. This is a great opportunity and a gateway to facilitate a new era of community managed tourism.