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Chill out with an eco-friendly picnic

Winter is here and it’s time for picnics on the banks of the scenic Brahmaputra, the beautiful hills and the white sandbars.

Besides the predictable thrill of an outing at a scenic spot in the winter chill, be prepared for pleasant surprises this season. You could be welcomed by a cheerful Bihu troupe as soon as you reach a popular picnic spot or treated to a sumptuous smoked pork, local fish or homemade pickles, waiting to tickle your taste buds, as you picnic on the bank of the river at Hatishila or Chandubi lake on the outskirts of the city.

This is what Eco Tourism Society of Northeast India, a city-based NGO, is planning as part of its eco-picnic project in December and January.

“This year, we are planning to offer people a different experience at picnic spots and, at the same time, to make them aware of the importance of not disturbing the natural environment,” the NGO’s president, Gautam Dutta, said.

“We will talk to villagers living near the picnic spots at Chandrapur, Chandubi, Mayong, Hatishila, Sonapur, Deepor Beel, Madan Kamdev (North Guwahati), Sualkuchi and Chandubi, among others, to welcome visitors with traditional Bihu dance and songs. We will try to organise mini-melas where villagers will sell traditional food items and pickles, among other things,” he said.

The society will also put up dustbins and banners, urging visitors not to litter the picnic spots with plastic bottles, plates and leftovers and not to disturb the natural ambience of the place. Last year, too, the NGO had placed dustbins on the banks of the Brahmaputra, urging people to use them and not throw garbage on the riverbank.

“Apart from offering people a traditional feel, the project will also help protect our environment because we have seen how people throw plastic items and bottles in the river and on its banks and play music at volumes above permissible limits. We want support from both the administration and corporate organisations, as it will provide some income to the people living close to the picnic spots,” Dutta said.

The NGO will soon move the Kamrup (metro), Kamrup and Morigaon administrations to spread the message of eco-picnics at popular picnic spots, where people, mostly from the city, flock every year for picnics.

The programme will be organised on the Saturdays and Sundays between the third week of December and the second week of January. “Apart from the district administrations, we will talk to the gaon burhas, seeking their help to make the programme a success,” he said.

The NGO will also offer special packages for trekking, bird-watching and cycling at some of the spots, including Chandubi, Sonapur and Chandrapur. “To avail the special packages, people will have to contact us through our website, ecotourismsociety.in, four days ahead of their visit and we will arrange everything for them,” Dutta said.

Some popular spots

Chandubi: About 64km from Guwahati, the lake is an ideal picnic spot. It has a holiday resort with added attractions of fishing and rowing

Hatishila: Situated on the bank of the Brahmaputra, it is famous for rocks that look like elephants. Hence, its name Chandrapur: Around 25km from Guwahati, it’s undulating hills and ancient remains attract picnickers

Pobitora: Around 60km from Guwahati, Pobitora wildlife sanctuary has a lot to offer

Rani and Deepor Beel: Around 20km from Guwahati, Rani reserve forest and Deepor Beel, a Ramsar site, attract hundreds of picnickers Umtru (Meghalaya): The scenic beauty, waterfalls and the dam attract many

What not to do

Do not litter the picnic spot with polythene or chips packets, water and liquor bottles

Do not play loud music, as the sound may disturb wild animals and birds

Avoid swimming in the Brahmaputra, as many have drowned during picnics in recent years