Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Findings of our discussions

The awareness of the youth is considerable high as was evident from the map that they developed. The negative and positive impact map was very revealing. Unlike the elders, youth didn’t consider land acquisition to be a bad impact and later in the discussion they told it’s very nice that development is taking place. Rather they showed interest in the timeline of ongoing projects and wondered what more is being planned for the area.

The positive impact map again showed the indirect benefits they are drawing from Nalanda, electricity, road and other infrastructure. Bad impact map described in detail, the traffic congestion at key places, the poor disposal of waste and littering and lack of basic amenities at all the tourist destinations especially around the Ancient Nalanda Remains. Beggary at tourist places seemed to emerge as a social concern among both women and youth group discussion.
These Exercises were followed by discussion; at all the places the participants shared their experiences with the tourists and tourism. Few of them shared how in past a few times they have offered a place to stay to the stranded tourists. A few of them even volunteered as guides to tourists and took them around. The discussion revolved around opportunities from tourism and it was gathered that youth had sufficient awareness on the opportunities that can be further explored. Many of the local youth are employed in the sector, many have done foreign language course and are working with different travel agencies. When asked about why no effort is being made at Nalanda by experienced youth, we were told about a few people who have taken such initiatives at local level but the scale of operation is very small and the area of impact very minimal.

The major bottlenecks as they emerged from the discussion are,

1- Lots of initial capital investment is required

2- Big players have established themselves at Bodh Gaya, Varanasi and other destinations and they are not opening any branches or office locally here but prefer to operate from these key locations.

3- Guide licensing and training is almost unheard of; there has not been any such effort in last 20 years or so.

4- Place is already much unorganized and too crowded for any new initiatives to take place. Besides there is no system in place where guidance could be offered on a community basis for a start up.

The discussion on bottleneck was followed by a positive discussion about what we can do collectively and what is the problem and what are the possible solutions.

Summary of the positive discussions

1- Place is too congested because of lack of capacity. The place needs a Master Plan which can manage the tourist rush and take care of community interests.

2- In the current scenario the tourist spends very little quality time at Nalanda, this setup offers very little or no opportunity for interaction with the community

3- The place needs effort for positive communication among the stakeholders ASI, Tourism department, district administration and the local community

4- Nava Nalanda Mahavihar should a play a bigger role in providing tourism related educational courses.

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