ZIRO: A huge gate with inscription Ayapa Ato (welcome) greets visitors to the picturesque Hong Village, nestled in the rainforests of Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh.
The hill-girdled hamlet, spanning 58 sq km, with a total population of 9,800, as per 2011 census, is known for its unique fish farming and sustainable agricultural techniques.
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Of late, however, Hong village is reeling under various nagging problems, which are in many ways hampering its tourism prospects and are in need of urgent government attention.
“One of the major problems in this village is the dilapidated condition of the roads. Many tourists are not willing to visit the place that boasts of the first Kasturba Gandhi Ashram in the whole of North East,” Robin Hibu, a resident of the village and a Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police, said.
Without roads nothing can move ahead here, Hibu, who is also the first IPS officer from the state, said.
Zila parishad member of Hong village Tilling Sambyo said that the unique fish-cum-paddy culture practiced by the Apatani community has drawn many tourists to this hamlet from faraway places.
“Not many visitors come to Hong village these days. We are trying our best to woo back the tourists but pathetic road condition is a major hindrance,” lamented Sambyo.
Erratic power supply is another problem the villagers face here, Sambyo said.
“The village, inhabited by the hard-working Apatani community, considers tourists as their god. Four homestay facilities were established in the village to accommodate visitors. There used to be a time when these homestays would be full round the year,” he said.
Sambyo further explained that the tourists, who come to the village, also visit the Talley Valley wildlife sanctuary, home to bear, tiger, leopard and hornbill.
“On an average, around 5000 foreign tourists visit the village every year,” Sambyo added.
The village is inhabited by 11 clans of the Apatani community and they co-exist peacefully, head gaon burha (village headman) Tilling Duri said.
“Lack of proper road and other basic facilities, including water supply, are some of the reasons why people no longer wish to stay here,” he rued.
With the Ziro cultural landscape finding a mention in the tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in 2014, the state government should take care to preserve the traditional and cultural heritage of the village, Duri said.
Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein, who also holds the Finance, Planning and PWD portfolios, during a programme on November 16, had assured to provide additional funds for repair and maintenance of the roads.
Echoing similar sentiments, Lower Subansiri district deputy commissioner Kemo Lollen also said the construction of roads in the entire district would be taken on priority basis as the state government has already sanctioned funds.
Sambyo, however, said that there are no signs of construction work in the area yet and if the repair work was not undertaken immediately, the place would lose its charm among the tourists.