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Residents of ‘cleanest village’ invite Modi

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Shillong: Khasi tribesmen of Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong village, who call it “God’s own garden”, have invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit their village after he acknowledged the hamlet as “the cleanest village in Meghalaya”.

“The inhabitants of Mawlynnong were so excited when they came to know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged our village as cleanest village in Meghalaya and lauded our work to keep our village clean in his monthly radio talk – Mann ki Baat – on Sunday,” Mawlynnong village headman Thomlin Khongthohrem told IANS on the phone.

“His acknowledgment would further motivate us to maintain the cleanliness of the village, and would also encourage other villages in India to keep their village clean. We are also happy that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched Swachh Bharat mission as cleanliness is very important in human life,” he said.

Mawlynnong, which means “a cluster of stones” in the local Khasi dialect, is located on the southern slopes of East Khasi Hills, and is also cited as “Asia’s cleanest village”. It is about 90 km from Meghalaya capital Shillong and four km from the Bangladesh border.

Khongthohrem said that the villagers also felt that the village should invite Modi to step into Mawlynnong for first-hand knowledge on how cleanliness is maintained in the village.

“A majority of the villagers felt that an invitation should be extended to the prime minister to visit Mawlynnong and to further motivate us and other villages across India on the need to maintain cleanliness and how to keep their surroundings clean and green,” he said.

In his “Maan Ki Baat” programme broadcast through All India Radio on Sunday, Modi mentioned Mawlynnong and appreciated the people of the state and their attitude towards cleanliness.

“Meghalaya Governor V. Shanmuganathan wrote to me and mentioned Mawlynnong village. This village has been devoted to cleanliness since several years, he said in his letter. He said this village was awarded the cleanest village in Asia a few years ago,” Modi said in the Mann ki Baat programme.

“I was happy to know that in our country there is such a village in the northeast, in Meghalaya, which is passionately carrying forward the mission of cleanliness for years. All this infuses confidence in us that our country will surely be clean through the efforts of the countrymen,” the prime minister added.

Echoing her village chief, resident Hosanna Mawroh felt that the prime minister should ask his team to come visiting and learn from them about cleanliness.

“It is not only about promotion of tourism alone, but we the people of Mawlynnong also want to educate and encourage other people visiting our village from other states about the importance of cleanliness, preservation and protection of the fragile ecology,” she said.

Former Meghalaya home minister Robert. G. Lyngdoh, who is now the chairman of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum, said that Modi’s acknowledgement would surely be a big boost for the village.

“This should motivate the Meghalaya government and the inhabitants of Mawlynnong to further improve their litter, garbage and solid waste management, and other villages in Meghalaya should also be motivated to get the same recognition,” Lyngdoh said.

He also felt that the government should initiate other green initiatives like water management and alternative sources of energy.

Mawlynnong presents itself as a pretty queen amongst a cluster of rural areas located on a critical micro-watershed of the Wah Khuri (Khuri river). Unlike other tribal villages, where one is greeted with barking dogs and strange looks, Mawlynnong warmly receives tourists with open arms. The villagers are polite and friendly.

Most of the houses are built with traditional material like stone, tin, bamboo and wood. There are a few cemented houses too. Each house is decorated with exotic and ornamental plants, while the courtyards are covered with a green carpet of grass.

The footpaths and lanes within the village have been carefully built with stones and boulders. In each walkway, there are cone-shaped bamboo dustbins. Nobody is allowed to litter plastic or any waste material on the footpaths or in the village premises.

It looks so clean that one would hesitate to throw anything on the ground – and even if there is some litter, it would be cleaned up in no time.

Mawlynnong village was discovered by missionaries of the Anglican church who came in contact with the village to spread the gospel way back in 1902. They later built a church there with the help of the highly-skilled local masons.

The natural beauty and simplicity of the local folk attracted foreign tourists well before the domestic and city visitors began to flow in. The foreigners marvelled at the simple, self-sustained village with its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. The villagers too were inspired by the adulation of the visitors. They realised that if they could conserve the forest and biodiversity of the area, it could fetch them not only praise but also income from the tourist inflow.

The Dorbar Shnong (village council) makes sure the tourists are comfortable and safe there. There is a tourism management committee in the village that supervises the itinerary of the tourists and their comfort that includes providing tourist guides, accommodation and food.

(IANS)

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Eye In The Sky: Space Technology Aiding Meghalaya To Expand Boro Rice Cultivation

The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion.

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Meghalayas tough hill terrains that limit field visits, space technology is aiding the selection of areas that are suited for growing and expanding cultivation of boro rice

In Meghalayas tough hill terrains that limit field visits, space technology is aiding the selection of areas that are suited for growing and expanding cultivation of boro rice which is sown in winter and harvested in spring/summer, officials said.

Boro refers to a special type of rice cultivation on residual or stored water in low-lying areas after the harvest of kharif (winter) rice. Space technology has zoomed in on potential stretches in the state and offered a bird’s eye view of tracts that are best suited for growing boro season rice.

This will help bridge the demand-supply gap in Meghalaya, where 81 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture but the net cropped area is proportionately quite less: only about 10 percent of the total geographical area of the state.

So, to identify areas for expansion of boro rice in Meghalaya, the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) at the request of the Meghalaya’s Directorate of Agriculture, tapped into a suite of geospatial technologies.

Eye in the sky: Space technology aiding Meghalaya to expand boro rice cultivation

These technologies such as remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems are a range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of a range of data about people, such as population, income, or education level and also about landscapes.

The move to expand area of rice grown in the boro season comes under the Meghalaya State Rice Mission (MSRM) aimed at narrowing the gap between rice production and consumption by doubling the production of rice – a major staple food of the northeastern state, accounting for over 80 percent of the foodgrain production.

In West Bengal and Bangladesh, expansion of irrigation, essential for supporting the boro rice production, led to a rapid increase in boro rice area and production during the past two decades and Meghalaya can benefit by deploying a similar strategy of expanding the boro season area, the state agriculture department opined.

Previous estimates from the rice mission document peg the consumption at approximately 400,000 tonnes annually during the years 2010-11. This estimate is double the rice produced during that period.

“Rice recorded an annual production of 3,01,076 metric tonnes during the year 2015-16 at an average productivity of 2.72 metric tonnes per hectare. Our spring rice/boro paddy produces an average yield of 4.28 metric tonnes per hectare under assured irrigation,” the agriculture department said.

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Mature rice fields of, IR8 and DGWG varieties. VOA

In Meghalaya, the rice crop is distributed in three rice ecosystems. They are low- altitude rice that covers 70 percent of total rice growing areas, mid-altitude rice covers 25 percent and high altitude rice that covers five percent.

In a report submitted to NITI Aayog, the Meghalaya government has said that the under-utilisation of land during the winter season has resulted in shortage of rice for the ever-increasing population.

In addition, with assured irrigation, boro paddy yield is double the average yield per hectare compared to sali rice.

“Boro paddy gives an average yield of 4 MT per hectare compared to the average yield of 2 MT per hectare of sali paddy,” according to the report.

Further, winter planting is free from flash floods and is well-suited for SRI (System of Rice Intensification) technique with yields of 6-7 MT per hectare, the report said, justifying the augmentation of boro paddy cultivation in areas where this practice was not in vogue.

With the NESAC data at its disposal, the department of agriculture has initiated steps for application of the findings by taking a policy decision to link the activity for growing boro rice with the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) program.

“This will achieve both the objective of providing assured employment under NREGA and also productive output and income for the NREGA wage earner cum farmer,” an agriculture department official said.

Space tech can reduce time lost on trial and error

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Rice cultivation requires extensive labor. Source: Pixabay

“By using satellite images and data with ground information on parameters such as slope, soil and climate, we mapped potential areas for expansion of boro rice cultivation. This was one of the first of its kind project in the northeast,” Pratibha T. Das of NESAC told Mongabay-India.

Having space technology focus on potential areas saves time and money in implementation by skipping the field trial stage, explained Das.

In an email communique to Mongabay-India, officials at Meghalaya’s agriculture department also reiterated that this approach eliminates the trial and error method “saving time, effort and money and scale of implementation in a given (short) period of time.”

Das further said: “Even though the identified areas are small, the agriculture department need not conduct field trials; they can directly select the potential areas from the maps and start cultivation.”

The mapping exercise covered landscapes spread across nearly 5000 square km at elevation below 200 metres and excluding forest, built up and barren rocky areas. The findings published in Current Science show that out of 4903 sq. km study area only 807 sq. km (16.5 percent) is suitable for boro rice cultivation.

Though 16.5 percent area is suitable for boro rice, only 0.8 percent (6.35 sq. km) area is highly suitable, which is found in West Garo hills district. Around 581.74 sq. km is marginally suitable whereas 219.07 sq. km area is moderately suitable.

“The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion,” said Das.

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Based on problems/limitations of the land, land users and planners can decide on crop management strategies to increase productivity, she said.

Thematic maps like soil drainage, soil texture, soil depth, flooding and gravel/stoniness and land use maps were dovetailed with soil sample analyses and digital elevation models to get a clear picture on ground.

Soil samples were collected from 121 locations and analysed, revealing that sandy clay soil texture, that was best fit for boro rice, was distributed in six percent of the area examined. (IANS)

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. )