STORY: UKIAM RIVER FESTIVAL: Development calling
Sometimes it is hard to believe when you suddenly discover a beautiful location lying close to your place undiscovered and which might have never even come to your wildest imaginations. Yes, I want to talk about one such location call Ukiam, close to Guwahati city but a place very less known to the people around. For sure, visitors from the city would be rather more surprise than anyone one else once they land in UKIAM. Situated in Assam – Meghalaya border in Chaygaon, Ukiam has always been a place to visit, but underdevelopment and other social issues had pulled it back for so long.
Thanks, to the first, River Festival (RIMCHAKSOA) organized by Garo National Council and ERIFED, on 10th December 2016 that gave us the chance to land here in Ukiam, though without much preparation, my suggestion for nature lovers would be, please come prepared with tents for night stay during this season. The beauty of the landscape in Ukiam is just mind blowing that resembles to Barapani Lake near Shillong. Ukiam River is the meeting point of three rivers, viz, Shree, Droom and Dilmar that take the name of Kulshi River while flowing down stream. Famous for fresh water river Dolphins, people are aware about Kulshi, but in comparison Ukiam is left far behind. Wangala dance of the Garo community, fishing, boating, live music played by Armed forces group, Stalls of local products, Handicrafts, and a CDS canteen of the Army, Tree house etc were all set well to greet the first time visitors in the three day long festival .
The fact that the road condition from Chaygaon to Ukiam was a horrible stress just some time back, very few people or visitors might have tried to make their way to the beautiful location for recreation purpose. Interiors of Chaygaon, Once a hot bed of militancy, have now gradually changed over the years with militancy taking a back seat in the state of Assam. The 27 km stress of road from Ukiam to the highway in Chaygaon, has been recently constructed, and the locals did not hesitate to give the credit to the present Congress MLA Rekibuddin Ahmed, and as a result of which the locals were enthusiastic to organized the River Festival, expecting the flow of tourist because of smooth road communication to the festival venue. “Earlier we have to pay Rs.500 in a motorcycle if we have to reach Chaygaon from Ukiam, but now it is just Rs.40”. Said, Mitra Rabha, a local boatman, who is participating in the festival to ferry visitors in the Ukiam River. He hopes that this initiative will help the place to develop which would benefit the locals. The middle aged soft spoken boatman, who had married a woman from the Garo community, got some rough idea as to how this festival would help locals earn some money.
After this first edition of the Festival without any government support, the organizers are hoping to do much better next time. “We got assurance from Meghalaya government, that they would join hand with us to help the festival grow from next time” said Chandan Kalita, Social worker and also one of the Patrons of the festival. “We are looking to promote eco-tourism so that the villagers can earn some money and tourist from around can came and enjoy here, it’s not far from Guwahati,yet people hardly know about this place” Added Kalita. Kulendra kalita, son of chandan kalita, was not lagging behind to in the organizational matters, while the women folk of the Garo community looked too cool in their attitude and traditional attire.
The RIMCHAKSOA festival was inaugurated by Local MLA Rekibuddin Ahmed, and Pro-Talk ULFA leader Anup Chetia, and Army brigadier S Sanjay, shared the dais on the inauguration day.Anup Chetia, in his speech, urged the government to be active to promote and develop many untapped tourist destinations in the state. “We want to see a more pro-active central government for the development of the North East and if the centre treats the people of the state as a second class citizen there will always be trouble” said Chetia. Though the first edition of the festival was low key affair, one cannot deny the rich prospect and potential of this place as a tourist destination and tour operators can include in the tourist circuit for short time traveler halting in Guwahati or near the LGBIA airport.
The hospitality of locals from Garo and Rava community will be worth experiencing for visitors once things are well settled after locals gets some training in the near future to manage the festival and to welcome visitors with more funfair and zeal. On the other hand beautiful Khasi village overlooking the scattered hamlets in Assam side, from the other side of the river will give yet another treat to the visitors. The hanging bridge that was inaugurated in the 2012 connects Ukiam in Assam and Nongstoin block in Meghalaya, acts as the only means of communication over the river for transporting two wheelers and movement of villagers, but for visitors crossing the bridge is no less than a fancy walk.
The crystal clear water flowing from the green hills of Meghalaya kissing the send beach on the banks of the Ukiam River in the foothills, and the shallow water in this juncture is good enough for any visitors to cross the river on foot, for little adventurous parents they can even ferry their kids on their shoulders while crossing the river, otherwise a country boat to float around. Now the only fear is that someday the popularity and beauty of the place doesn’t become a curse for itself. The local organizations have to be serious in taking care of its cleanliness and maintaining the beauty of Ukiam. It is experienced that every development has a price to pay….and wondering if someday UKIAM will also have to pay a price. However, keeping all negative thoughts aside as of now….need to say…. Please Visit
PETER ALEX TODD