Tourism has a great potential. Eco tourism is big in these areas. With increasing awareness, a lot of people are shifting towards eco tourism. And it’s good for everyone. So we have several big projects under execution in tourism sector. We are also promoting tourism through festivals and carnivals,’ says Manuj Goyal, Chief Development Officer, Almora to Souvik Goswami, Elets News Network (ENN) in an interview.
What are the focus areas to ensure overall development of Almora district?
Almora is a hill district and thus it has very specific challenges as far as development is concerned. Agriculture is the mainstay of Hill economy but is facing challenges from all sides. Be it conflict with wildlife or infrastructure for irrigation or difficultly in exploiting economies of scale or lack of backward-forward linkages. Hence, making agriculture profitable to ensure livelihood is definitely one focus area. Other most important sectors directly impacting the development of this hill district are health and education. So yes, these three are the focus areas. Nevertheless, as Chief Development Officer, we are responsible of each and every developmental activity, be it related to infrastructure development or provision of various services or simply welfare of citizenry.
How Almora district administration is leveraging technology to reach out to the last mile with various government services?
Technology, yes it’s critical and very useful too. It’s not a panacea for all the problems but definitely helpful in easing lives. We are using technology for various purposes. The quality and delivery of education is very important. Recently we have started using e-learning to improve both quality and delivery in education sector. Technology has also made data collection easy. It helps in analysis of grass root situation and device solutions accordingly. All the subsidies and cash benefits are directly being transferred to beneficiaries. We are also envisaging single window system for most government services and also tele-medicine in the coming days.
Almora is a part of Kumaon’s hilly region. It needs special focus on developing sustainable environment ecosystem. What are the steps taken by the administration to ensure this?
Mountains, especially Himalayas are a very sensitive and fragile ecosystem. It’s important that they are protected and preserved. For this we are committed to sustainable development in this region. One of the biggest steps taken in this direction is Kosi rejuvenation project. The lifeline of Almora, Kosi river is a dying river in present times. Through Kosi rejuvenation, we are determined to reinvigorate this river to its pristine glory. It’s a mega project, a dream project of honorable Chief Minister of the State. We are also promoting eco tourism and home stays in Almora. Campaigns revolving around preserving local food, culture and tradition, reducing waste generation, water conservation are taken up on regular basis. Public involvement and awareness is key component.
What are your future plans to make Almora the next investment hub specially keeping in mind the tourism potential of the district?
From investment point of view, hills are not very welcoming, specifically for the ones involving big production units, large scale infrastructure, etc. We have a very typical geography. However, we do have a niche, almost exclusive, when we talk investments. Tourism has a great potential. Eco tourism is big in these areas. With increasing awareness, a lot of people are shifting towards eco tourism. And it’s good for everyone. So we have several big projects under execution in tourism sector. We are also promoting tourism through festivals and carnivals. We have initiated dialogue with local businesses and local people. We are basically working at all possible fronts to support and promote tourism.