Safe and sustainable tourism

Depiya Thoudam
Manipur’s Sangai Festival, is an annual festival organized by the Manipur Tourism Department since 2010 with an aspiration to validate Manipur as a prime tourism destination in the world and spread awareness about its rare endangered endemic Sangai deer.
Due to  COVID -19 pandemic, there were no Sangai Festival in the year 2020 and 2021. But this year, it is back with a bang, with many new exciting activities and opportunities. It is going to attract a huge number of visitors for sure.
COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet but those strict restrictions and SOPs have been eased now and coming out of these restrictions, people appear to be binging on outdoor activities and tourism. Huge number of people are thronging tourism spots and public event sites.
The record number of people who came to witness the football tournament of the 131st edition of Durand Cup 2022 at Khuman Lampak main stadium in Imphal (Manipur) is one good example.
The stadium was overpacked with people. Videos of people climbing up the wall to get inside the stadium after being denied at the entry gate despite having valid tickets and verbal fights between angry crowd and the  police stationed there regarding the mismanagement of the event were circulated in the social media. Such poorly managed crowd in huge public events could lead to crowd collapse and crushes. The recent Seoul Halloween crowd crush, where at least 156 people were killed mirrors how disastrous crowd mismanagement could be.
Moreover, the recent incident of Gujarat’s Morbi suspension bridge collapse that happened on 30th October will be remembered as one of the worst tragedies in India for years
. It has been reported that atleast 141 people were killed and most of them were children, women and elderly people. Many eyewitnesses of the tragedy says that there were about 500 people on the bridge when the tragedy was about to happen. So the bridge collapsed because of the huge number of visitors who were allowed onto the bridge at a time. Morbi suspension bridge is a pretty old bridge (140 years) which was built during British rule. It has been a major local tourist attraction known locally as “Julto Pul” meaning swinging bridge. But the tragedy has made the tourist spot to become a bridge of death. Investigation is going in this regard and the Government has announced compensations for the families of victims. Such avoidable incidents due to mismanagement should never be repeated in future.
Tourism is a fast growing business contributing immensely to the economy. To reap all its potential benefits and continue boosting our economy for long run, tourism needs to be safe and sustainable. Taking into account the recent incidents mentioned above and for the upcoming Sangai festival starting from 21st November, it is a request to all the authorities  concerned and the Government of Manipur to conduct regular safety audits of tourism sites in Manipur ensuring that all safety measures to deal with any possible emergencies are in place. The Sangai festival this time is for sure going to attract more visitors than before and the organizers should take this into consideration while preparing for it, making the regulation of flow of visitors according to the capacity of the infrastructure of the destination, their main priority among others. Moreover, it is a request to all the visitors to enjoy the festival responsibly and in environment friendly manner.
Wishing the Sangai festival to happen successfully with all safety measures in place and the main message of the festival to promote the preservation and conservation of the State animal, Sangai deer, reach every nook and corner of the world.