Beaches of Brahmaputra: The city and its seasonal pride

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The development of beaches as a popular leisure destination was first manifestation from the mid-19th century which plays a major role in the global tourist industry today. Though the word ‘beach’ normally gives an impression of a coastal sanded area, a riverside is nevertheless an area to be ignored. Infact, the ravine beaches of the mighty River Brahmaputra is more precious for the people of the locality as it is reachable only on seasonal basis. With a holistic management and developmental plan it can be utilized for commercial purposes and can be a source of revenue generation for the state in the few months of its accessibility in the wintry weather. An NEBR report…

The Brahmaputra beaches are a significant feature of the natural assets of the city Guwahati and can be considered as an integral part to the wellbeing of the residents providing an attractive location for recreational activities on seasonal basis. The city can pride itself on the pristine condition of its beaches, which is likely to achieve through a combination of good policy and maintenance programmes. Water quality monitoring, beach sweeping, litter collection and smoking prohibitions are all initiatives that need to be undertaken by the city with the aim of offering high quality experiences to its visitors.

Role in tourism attraction

The Brahmaputra beach covers approximately 10 kilometers in Guwahati itself though not at a stretch. This natural asset requires careful management to make it suitable for commercial utilization. The beaches can play important role in tourism attraction and can create locations that are conducive to a diverse array of recreational activities. To support these activities, beach infrastructure and services are required to ensure that the beaches are accessible for the users and those activity nodes have quality complementary assets that enhance the beach experiences of local residents and visitors.

Conservational needs

It is the city’s responsibility that recreational, tourism and conservational needs are balanced to ensure the long-term sustainable use and management of the Brahmaputra beaches. To achieve this, the provision of beach infrastructure and services must be considered holistically to ensure the following:

  →  Permitted areas for specific recreational activities are supported by appropriate infrastructure.

  →  Identified areas for preservation and rehabilitation are effectively managed.

  →  Appropriate areas are designated and promoted for recreation activities.

Community Infrastructure for overall growth

A Community Infrastructure is to provide the desired level of service in the most cost effective manner for present and future customers. A proper Asset Management Plan of the city will provide a strategic road map and framework for successful achievement of this. To facilitate high quality experiences for visitors to beach locations within the City through the provision of quality infrastructure and services, to enable a safe environment for beach users to undertake a variety of beach activities, as a popular tourism destination, the City’s beaches will attract many visitors who engage in active and passive recreational activities. To support these activities, casual commercial traders can provide goods and services for visitors to enhance their beach experiences, increase vibrancy and attract greater tourism patronage.

Casual traders like Tea and Coffee and soft drinks stalls, Ice cream vendors, Boot-camp operators, Kite surfing coaches, Dog washing services can do good business in such locations. But at the same time there should be some regulatory norms for those casual commercial traders.  In order to operate, commercial traders must apply to the City to obtain a trading permit which must be renewed on an annual or seasonal basis.

Events and fairs

There is a need for a holistic approach in the consideration of external event applications within the riverside parks and beaches, including the designation of appropriate areas for the undertaking of large-scale, medium-scale and small-scale activities. During winter season, the beaches are occupied to set up fairs. The festival includes various events like beach cricket, beach volleyball, wind surfing etc. Visitors and tourists can participate in these events and show their skills. Traditional games like elephant races, egg breaking and cock fighting are also held along with these modern and technically advanced games. Competitions like sit and draw and kite flying are also held where children can take part. Exhibition of traditional craft is also a part of such festivals.

While undertaking community and private events a set of transparent guidelines should be determined by the City. The guidelines should not be used as set criteria, but rather, a means of outlining important factors for consideration when assessing event approvals. They may also be used to provide advice to the community on appropriate locations for the undertaking of events within different locations.

Some significant events

One of such festivals is the Brahmaputra Beach Festival which is organized by the Assam Boat Racing and Rowing Association, Guwahati to boost tourists to visit Assam. The Beach Festival is organized on the sandy beaches of the Brahmaputra River in association with the Tourism Department, Government of Assam. It keeps in its store various multihued and cultural programmes. They also arrange for some exciting adventure sports. A few fairs are organized at the same venue. The various stalls set up at the Brahmaputra Beach Festival in Guwahati, an open-air experience, displays and sell products bearing the signs of traditional craftsmanship. The Brahmaputra Beach Festival is celebrated on the gorgeous and white reverie beaches and is an ideal coalesce of traditional contests like kite flying, elephant races, and other modern adventure sports like rafting, canoeing, wind surfing, kayaking, hot air ballooning, beach cricket and beach volleyball.

Another festival that has been taking place from last few years on the swathe of white sand by the Brahmaputra riverside is the Kite Festival. It aims to highlight the beauty and significance of ethnic traditions and culture. According to Suresh Ranjan Goduka of Jeevan Initiative, the organizer of the festival, the main objective of the Kite Festival is to usher in a new beginning through cultural reawakening that will benefit each and every one. With the region reeling under many uncertainties, we have to take a stand and say that enough is enough. We should also strive to make an attitude change and shift the onus on something positive. The festival sees both amateurs and professional participating and their colorful kites filled up the deep blue spring sky. People at the venue also take part in traditional games.

Besides these two major regular events some other small initiatives also seem to be happening time to time. Apart from commercial success, the aim of these carnivals and events is to promote and lionize the indigenous culture, crafts and popularizing traditional sports of Assam. Though not completely, these festivals have been successful as they provide a platform for the versatile youths to unite their technical genius with the vibrant ‘cultural’ proportion through the various sport activities at the Brahmaputra beaches. It may take time till these events contribute to the tourism of Assam the way festivals like Puri Beach Festivel is doing for the state of Orissa or the Kite Festival is doing for Gujarat, but though in a smaller way they may help in promoting the tourism in Assam and other North Eastern states through various ways such as sports and other cultural exhibitions.

Factors to be considered while organizing an event:

 →  Appropriate locations for different sized events

→  The proximity of locations to major traffic arterials

→  Existing seasonal activity uses within the beaches

→  Availability of car parking

→  Necessary approval or licensing requirements

→  Duration of the event

→  Whether the event will be private or attract general community members

→  Relevant event sponsors

The Bottom Lines

It is known that commercial developments and activities require a balance against the existing character of an area and potential environmental impacts. As such, effective and clear planning for new commercial opportunities within riverside parks and recreation areas is required in order to ensure that a sufficient balance between these competing interests is struck.

First the beaches need to be identified as a tourism development zone within the city’s Tourism Development Plan; the beaches require a certain level of established commercial infrastructure to support visitors to the area who seek to experience the local natural attractions. There are some established commercial zoned areas, like the parks on the riverside, however, areas reserved for parks and recreation do not currently leverage opportunities for commercial development, which could complement and support existing passive and active beach recreational activities.

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