The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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Love bird-watching? Plan a date with Jatinga

- Dima Hasao Autonomous Council prepares project to lure tourists; DoNER assists with Rs 4.5cr

Nagaon, Jan. 31: A moonless, foggy October night in a tribal hut at Jatinga in Dima Hasao with ethnic food could find a place in your holiday list soon, as the local council fine-tunes a project to make it tourist-friendly.

The myth about Jatinga’s bird suicide has long been busted. Earlier, the mystery of the winged visitors said to arrive only at night at a certain time of the year — between August and October — in certain weather conditions and drawn to light had spawned kamikaze theories. Attracted by the lights put up by villagers, the birds fly blindly into nets. When they drop to the ground they are captured or clubbed to death.

Construction is on of at least 15 huts representing the communities in Dima Hasao, an open theatre in the front yard, a children’s park, a medicinal garden, a recreation centre in one corner and an interpretation centre for those experts who visit Jatinga to study migratory birds.

Recently, the DoNER ministry agreed to assist the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council with Rs 4.5 crore for the project and gave the forest department the go-ahead.

The council’s chief executive member, Debojeet Thaosen, said a detailed project report has already been placed before the ministry and if everything works out, the project will start soon.

“There was a time when visitors queued up in Haflong in October to see the birds; unfortunately trouble and unrest in the last decade stood in the way of arrival of tourists to Jatinga. With the situation improving, people can visit Jatinga again. We hope infrastructure development and promotion might attract tourists,” Thaosen said.

Jatinga is 20km from Dima Hasao district headquarters Haflong.

Eight years ago, the local administration had taken up a major programme under Rashtriya Sam Vikash Yojana to promote Jatinga as a tourist spot. However, fund misutilisation stood in the way of executing it.

In 2010, the administration arranged an annual Jatinga festival to give the site international recognition, but failed to continue the programme for reasons unknown.

“We will give visitors the facility to stay in ethnic huts at the site. Groups of local tribes will be engaged for security, hospitality and other purposes. During the peak season, there will be cultural programmes in the open theatre hall, bird-watching towers and the interpretation centre for assisting enthusiasts to study migratory birds,” said divisional forest officer J.N. Hazarika.

Dimasa, Hmars, Zeme Nagas, Kukis, Hrangkhols, Beitis, Karbis are the major tribes living in Dima Hasao district. According to the council’s plan, 15 self-help groups, at least one from each tribe, will be engaged in the tourism project. Every such group will be allowed to work on the ethnic huts representing the tribe. Youths will provide security while girls will be participate in cultural programmes and hospitality, among others.

“If local youths are engaged in security-related matters, tourists could move without fear even during the night,” a source in the forest department said.