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Drastic decline of tourists in Shiroy hills
Correspondent Shirui (Ukhrul), May 30:
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Published on 30 May. 2010 11:24 PM IST
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In the backdrop of prevailing imbroglio surrounding NSCN (IM) general secretary Th. Muivah’s visit to his birthplace Somdal, the flow of tourist to Shirui Peak, a home to a rare endemic Shiroy Lily, has been hit hard this year.
In spite of the blooming season, the number of tourists this season has considerably receded and has recorded lowest in the last few decades. The number of visitors to Shirui so far has not even crossed 1000, according to Shirui Youth Club, which supervises tourism and hospitality in the tourist village.
“This season, the peak has no visitors other than few locals from Ukhrul districts. Usually, tourists from all over the state and region flock to see the rare lilies,” said a SYC tourist guide AS Ningkhan.
Unfortunately, the simmering tension in the state, fallout from the vexed issue of Muivah’s visit has played a spoilsport to local tourism in Shirui village, 13 km north of Ukhrul town.
Shiroy Lily, scientifically known as Lilium Mackliniae and the state flower of Manipur, normally blooms in the month of May.
The rare flower, endemic only to Shirui Peak, was discovered by plant hunter Frank Kingdon Ward in 1946, and name after his wife Jean’s maiden name. The lily helped Ward bagged prestigious merit prize at London Flower Show in 1948. In recognition of the ward’s feat, Shirui village is commemorating the diamond jubilee year of Shiroy Lily this year.
The celebration was scheduled on May 21, but has been postponed indefinitely. Earlier, the Union home secretary GK Pillai was supposed to grace the Diamond Jubilee celebration. In 2005, the number of tourists hit a record high at 12,300. However, this year so far has the lowest record at about 950 only. In 2008 and 2009, the peak registered 8050 and 6120 visitors respectively.
The habitat of Lilium Macklineae has suffered from human and ecological factor. The number of flowers has drastically declined due to forest fire and rapid expansion of undergrowth bamboos. “The peaks always bear the brunt of forest fire every year. Some reckless hunters and travelers set fire to the forest causing serious damage to the endemic lilies,” said a SYC member Ngachonso.
The other factor destroying the lily’s growth is due to undergrowth bamboo, locally known as ‘machun’ in local parlance. In the past, an Ukhrul-based NGO has conducted a study to weed out the bamboo from the lilies habitat. The effort, however, yielded little result. On account of these factors, an avid flower lover Loios Shangh said, “The lily plant has become shorter. In the past few years, the height stands at about 4 or 5 feet, but it has now been reduced to about 2 or 3 feet.”
The Shirui Peak is also declared as a sanctuary Wildlife Board of India. In the month of January, the peak attracts migratory bird “shiris’. Besides, it is known for its rich flora and fauna.

 
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