Shillong, Nov 24: Fifteen destinations in the northeast have been selected for development under the central government's Swadesh Darshan 2.0 scheme, aiming to boost tourism in the region rich in cultural and natural heritage, according to officials.
These include one from Manipur and two each from the seven other states in the northeast.
The move aims to not only boost tourism in the eight states but also help in further development in the region.
Northeastern states, some of which share borders with other countries, are known for their pristine beauty, blessed with majestic hills, scenic waterfalls and adventurous treks, and many of these sites have not been explored by tourists in general.
Tourism Ministry officials shared details on SD 2.0 scheme and updates on the PRASHAD scheme during the 11th edition of the International Tourism Mart (ITM) being held in Shillong from November 21-23.
The ministry on its opening day had announced that it has sanctioned Rs 29.32 crore for development of four key iconic religious tourism sites in Meghalaya under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD) scheme -- Nartiang Shakti Peeth, Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church, Aitnar Pool and Charantala Kali Temple.
Nartiang Shakti Peeth is a centuries-old Durga temple in West Jaintia Hills and believed to be a Shakti Peeth; while Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church is located in Sohra in East Khasi Hills; Aitnar Pool hosts a popular festival in West Jaintia Hills; and Charantala Kali Temple is in West Garo Hillsi district dedicated to Goddess Kali, according to officials.
Union Minister of State for Tourism Shripad Naik after inaugurating the mega conclave here has said that the Centre is working to bring more development in the northeast region while also emphasising on sustainability.
Besides the PRASHAD scheme, the government is taking steps to enhance value of tourism destinations in the region through its SD 2.0 scheme, officials said.
Fifteen destinations in the northeast have been selected for development under the Swadesh Darshan 2.0 scheme by the ministry in consultation with state governments and Union territories, a senior official said.
Nacho and Mechuka have been selected from Arunachal Pradesh; Shillong and Sohra from Meghalaya, Aizawl and Champhai from Mizoram; Jorhat and Kokrajhar from Assam; Moirang (Bishnupur) in Manipur; Niuland and Chumukedima in Nagaland; Gangtok and Gyalshing in Sikkim; and Agartala and Unakoti in Tripura.
A number of planned "tourism experiences" have received an "in-principle approval" under SD 2.0 scheme, according to officials.
Officials said that the project includes Police Bazaar-Wards Lake Cultural Zone in Shillong; Meghalayan-age cave experience in Sohra; MG Road experience in Gangtok in Sikkim; Mechuka Cultural Haat in Arunachal Pradesh; and rock-cut heritage experience is in Unakoti in Tripura.
The Ministry of Tourism has revamped its Swadesh Darshan scheme with an objective to create jobs, including self-employment for local communities, and preserve and enhance the local cultural and natural resources, the government has said earlier.
Under the scheme, the ministry provides financial assistance to state governments or Union Territory administrations or central agencies for development of tourism infrastructure in the country.
The 11th edition of the ITM was launched on Tuesday in the presence of Union Minister Naik, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Meghalaya Tourism Minister Paul Lyngdoh, and Union Tourism Secretary V Vidyavathi.
"The kind of economic growth we are seeing in the northeast is unprecedented. In the last many years, the kind of support that has come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government of India and the different ministries has been unprecedented," Sangma had said in his address at the event.
He said that there is a strong and special focus to ensure that the northeastern states keeps up with the rest of the country in terms of economic development.
The ITM is an annual event held by the Ministry of Tourism in one of the northeastern states on a rotation basis with an objective to provide a bigger platform to the stakeholders in the northeast to interact with their counterparts from both within the country and overseas markets as well as to create awareness about the tourism potential of northeast region, the ministry said.
Earlier editions of the ITM have been held in Guwahati, Tawang, Shillong, Gangtok, Agartala, Imphal, Kohima and Aizwal. Shillong is hosting the event for the second time since its inception.
The ITM aims to highlight the northeast region's unique tourism products, rich biodiversity, its intangible heritage, including local traditions, dance forms, arts, handicrafts and handlooms to both domestic and international audiences.