Connectivity, or the lack thereof, remains a significant barrier to integrating the mostly landlocked North-East with the Indian mainland. The 110-km Jiribam-Imphal rail line, which seeks to connect the Manipuri state capital with the rest of the nation through Silchar, Haflong, Lumding and Guwahati in Assam, hopes to address this concern by 2020.
Besides increasing the influx of tourists, this railway line will also facilitate the trade of the state’s agro-based products to the Indian mainland.
A major beneficiary of this connectivity project will the untouched and scenic town of Noney, which according to the Financial Express, is “likely to have the first railway station near Imphal”.
However, there is a slight twist in how authorities plan to make this town, which is 63 km away from Imphal, a major tourist hub.
Instead of allowing a spate of hotel construction, authorities want to promote homestays—a growing feature of other major tourist hotspots around India like Ladakh. These ventures, authorities claim, will receive monetary assistance from the government.
“The town has 650 households and around 6,000 people. Instead of building hotels, the idea is to promote homestay, which will help the tourists experience the local culture. While the state government will undertake most of the work, the railways will provide the infrastructure,” A Saibaba, Chief Engineer, Construction, Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), who is in charge of the Jiribam-Imphal project, told the Financial Express.
Untouched by the perils of unregulated tourism, authorities here seemingly understand what tourists visiting virgin destinations in the North-East want—eco tourism, luxury camping and soft adventure.
Unlike other popular hill stations around India like Ooty and Shimla, the North-East is rich with destinations that retain a real novelty factor and remain on the wish list of many travellers.
Meanwhile, the Jiribam-Imphal railway line consisting of 137 bridges will also have the tallest girder bridge in the world – at 141 metres—a potential tourist destination in itself.
“The railway line will connect Imphal to Lumding and Silchar in south Assam as well as Haflong, which is Assam’s only hill station. Not only is the route ripe with avenues for tourists, but it also puts the capital city on the tourism route. It will also help Manipuri products like handicrafts, bamboo, bananas to reach the other states quickly,” an NFR official told the Financial Express.
Primarily attracting tourists from South Korea and Japan, the state hopes to see a greater influx from these countries, alongside other regions.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)