Tourist locales in Meghalaya, like Mawlynnong, are in a quandary that shows no sign of going away – should they reopen to tourists and revive the local economy even if this puts them at greater risk of exposure to Covid-19?
Mawlynnong, dubbed the cleanest village in Asia, would, in pre-Covid times, have attracted over 1,000 tourists per day during the puja holidays, whether domestic or international but the pandemic has shattered the tourist economy that had painstakingly been developed over the years.
Fears of inviting the virus into their picturesque village has meant that Mawlynnong remains closed to tourists, however, the Rangbah Shnong, Moral Kharrymba, told Highland Post today.
The Covid-19 pandemic has directly affected the livelihoods of around 100 households in the village but the villagers are not ready to take the risk of reopening.
Locals had carved out livelihoods through running shops, hotels and guesthouses that catered to the comings and goings of tourists.
In place of tourism the villagers have largely returned to farming, cultivating betel nut, betel leaf, bay leaves and broom, Kharrymba informed.
Even agriculture, however, has suffered because of the virus, as trade with the rest of India and Bangladesh has been disrupted, leading to much wastage of produce.
Mawlynnong, though, is hopeful of being able to welcome tourists back safely.
With its beautiful guesthouses and viewpoints built out of bamboo, Kharrymba said that the villagers are planning to carry out necessary renovations for the safety of visitors when the village reopens.