During the recent festival celebrations, we decided to take the ropeway route to make our journey across the two banks of the Brahmaputra. Due to COVID 19 pandemic, every location was under the spell of lockdown and closure. Tourism that way in Guwahati really got disrupted.
We are a bunch of working women with very hard earned holidays and off days. If not work we get entangled by family and community obligations which doesn’t give us enough time to look around the city. We decided to go out together with our friends. Four of us from diverse age and livelihood backgrounds wished to get onto the ropeway. Once we reached the Panbazar Kachari bank of the ropeway, we saw very long queues of people. People with family, friends, children, elders all came out to enjoy Guwahati’s very own Ropeway. Before coming we read about various inhibitions regarding the Ropeway. Most importantly some technical faults which disrupted the newly built ropeway. Our hearts sank but on enquiry and actual witnessing we figured out that everything was functioning properly. The cubicle of the ropeway could accommodate at most 32 people in one journey across the river. As of now due to weight variation the authorities were accommodating 25 people at one go. One way journey per person costed Rs.60 and both ways was Rs.120. If one comes before 12.30pm, they can buy both way tickets. But since we were in the queue for almost 2 hours we could buy only one way ticket. Social distancing was at risk people stood in very close proximity in the outside queues and inside the cubicles as there was no space. There was no hand wash or temperature check facility before entering the ticket counter or near the cubicle. Even the lifts which took us upto the ropeway departure point could accommodate 6 persons at most. People simply thronged into those lifts.
Once we were inside the cubicle and embarked on our journey, the view from the ropeway cubicle was spectacular across the Brahmaputra. The Umananda temple island really stood out from above. The view of Guwahati city from above was fascinating and definitely remains an oasis amidst the COVID fears and the crammed cubicle. Space to sit and hold needs to be improved inside the cubicles for elderly and differently abled persons. Sanitizers, drinking water facilities and emergency evacuation measures needs to be placed for people to feel fully safe. Ropeway can be enjoyed during the winters and spring season only in Guwahati. Summers and monsoons might be challenging for many people. It is indeed a welcome change for the Guwahatians to be occupied during free time beyond the malls, movie halls and food joints. But food stalls within and around the premises in both the banks would help people to enjoy the view more without littering much. Right now limited stalls are available at the north bank with huge amount of plastic and paper littering tucked inside the thick green covers surrounding the eateries. Gateway to the Northeast Guwahati can now boast of its own state in craft ropeway which could encourage educational institutions to demonstration practical exposure to students of physics. This is an example of mechanical engineering too. Such exposures would definitely inspire young people to build their understanding on technology innovation and also explore about the sustainability of such projects.
Ropeway infrastructure runs with a team of dedicated professional staff. Infact people who used to run boats earlier across the Brahmaputra have now become in-house staff to manage the crowd and check the smooth movement of passengers on both the banks. Staff uniforms make the team distinct and enables them to identify each other when the crowd increases. In the post COVID times, people from across the North eastern states are expected to come and enjoy the ropeway ride. In such situation, language support, adequate signage in all three languages and comfortable waiting lounges will be very important. The future holds a lot of promises but there needs to be strict vigilance of public menace, abuse and molestation of women, queer persons, elders, disabled persons and children in these spaces. Unsupervised children without guardians below 12 years need not use the Ropeway services. Hope more sustainable energy sources are found to sustain these new modes of transport and tourism which can address diverse forms for livelihoods across different genders.
In fact gliding, parasailing, hiking, trekking, camping, boating and water skiing could be also added to the ropeway experience with adequate guidance and safety measures for the adventure spirits of Guwahatians. Such adventure sports and tourism might generate both revenue, sustain livelihoods and engage in new avenues in a post COVID scenario.
(Pic courtesy: https://gmda.assam.gov.in)