KIBITHU, LINE OF ACTUAL CONTROL: Located amid dark green forests, along the banks of the Lohit river and near a village where the sunrise can be first seen in India, is a heavily militarised area close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China which the army feels is a potential tourist hub.
The army is examining an internal proposal to turn this historically significant and India’s easternmost inhabited area into the next summer destination, said officials.
It is through this place, Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, eight kilometres south of the LAC, that one of Brahmaputra’s tributaries, Lohit, enters India and meanders into the Lohit valley, dividing its west and east banks. Though sparsely populated, the Kibithu sector, with its tall mountains running along the banks of the river, is home to the largely Meyor inhabited Dong village, where the sun rises between 3.30 am and 4 am during summer.
Back in 1962, the Kibithu sector witnessed a major battle between the armies of India and China. Now, although it is peaceful with friendly relations between the two armies, the area is heavily guarded with the deployment of different formations. The presence of tourists is negligible, with only some “hardcore, adventure types” reaching this place.
The army, however, feels that this should change. Officials ET spoke with during a trip to this region said that a proposal has been moved for examining the development of the Kibithu area into a tourism spot.
“The proposal looks at creating trekking routes through forests. Along these treks, ashrams and yoga centres can be created for people to rest and meditate,” said an official, who did not wish to be identified. “River rafting can be done on the Lohit river. Although it has fast currents, current breakers can be placed within a stretch to prevent untoward incidents.”
While there is adequate potential for fishing in the Lohit, a ‘hot spring’ with warm water supply exists along the river. The army also feels that epic battle sites, where memorials for Indian soldiers who lost their lives in war have been established, are also places that tourists can visit. These includes ‘Helmet Top’ and the Walong war memorial. While hotels could not be spotted in the area, a state guest house is located near the hot spring.
The army has also held discussions with the local administration to open Pawan Hans helicopter services for tourists till the Walong (about 25 km from Kibithu) Advanced Landing Ground (ALG). This ALG is being used by the army to bring in supplies and medical evacuation by military helicopters. It is considered a better alternative to the existing national highway connecting Tezu, which is about 250 km away from Kibithu, due to bad road stretches. A person travelling, for example, from Delhi would take about three days to reach Kibithu by road.
Although development of tourism facilities would not lead to relocation of military units, the move is expected to lead to development and employment for locals, who lead a spartan life.
“Water supply was an issue earlier, and medical facilities are not good here. We have to go to Tezu and sometimes as far as Tinsukia (over 300 km away). For schools, we have to send our kids to Walong,” said Mughu Miyo, 26, who was born and brought up in Dong.
He works in road construction sites, the main employment generator for the villagers here, besides working as an army porter. Locals are dependent on the army for supplies and basic medical treatment. This region is one of the few places being considered by the army to be opened for civilians.
Another heavily deployed military location, Siachen, is also under consideration, said officials. It comes in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging people during his Independence Day speech to visit at least 15 tourist destinations in India by 2022.