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Agatha Sangma, an MP from Meghalaya has flagged concerns through a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding his ambitious expansion of oil palm plantations in the "biodiversity hotspot and ecologically fragile" Northeast (NE) region."Palm tree is not an endemic species of plant of the NE region and large-scale adoption of a foreign species of plant, which is water intensive, harvest will definitely create irreparable ecological imbalance and distort the ground water table," the Tura MP said in a letter to Prime Minister Modi on Saturday. The Union Cabinet had last week approved the National Mission on Edible Oils - Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) as a new centrally sponsored scheme with a financial outlay of Rs 11,040 crore. The scheme proposes to cover an additional area of 6.5 lakh hectare (ha) for oil palm till the year 2025-26, thereby reaching the target of 10 lakh ha ultimately. The NE region and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands were chosen in the renewed scheme for expansion in oil palm plantations. Environmentalists have already termed the government's announcement as not just an ecological disaster for the fragile biodiversity in those areas but also a social disorder. While oil palm plantations are not new for NE India, yet the environmentalists are concerned as there has been no assessment on the environmental impact due to the proposal for increased plantation area.
"The concern is generated when one peeks into the finer details of the programme, the plantation areas so selected are the NE region and the Andaman Islands, both of which are biodiversity hotspots and ecologically fragile. Photo by gryffyn m on Unsplash
"The concern is generated when one peeks into the finer details of the programme, the plantation areas so selected are the NE region and the Andaman Islands, both of which are biodiversity hotspots and ecologically fragile. Palm plantations in all certainty will denude vast swathes of land of its forest cover. Loss of habitat for the endangered wildlife will have a devastating impact," she said in the letter, a copy of which is with IANS. Sangma also flagged the other concern vis-a-is the socio-cultural issue. Stating that the Northeast India, though sparsely populated than the rest of India, is dotted with many ethnic tribes with their own cultural heritage and practices. "Ownership of land is a centrality of any tribal society, which is also connected to the identity, in many cases, it is the community ownership. Widespread plantations for commercial gain in all possibilities will detach the tribesman of this prized possession of land and wreak havoc on the social fabric," the letter said. She ended her letter registering her "opposition to the unilateral imposition of the NMEO-OP programme on the people of NE region" and requested the Prime Minister to have wider consultation with all stakeholders before moving forward with the decision. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Meghalaya, palm, oil, tree, habitat
As climate change morphs into a real time threat, Meghalaya has turned to invoking its traditional leaders and institutions by turning them into evangelists and climate actors and crusaders. Meghalaya Forest Minister James Sangma has decided to take it upon himself to collect ecological knowledge and climate wisdom from the ancestral conceptions and indigenous tribal leaders of traditional institutions to create awareness and strategy of climate change adaptation and mitigation for the state.
A grassroot 'mini climate change conference' was held with 18 villages of a province called Ri-Bhoi - known for facing the ravages of fast approaching climate change reality.
Apart from the formal government systems (the state legislature and judiciary) as well as Autonomous District Councils that were carved to allot greater autonomy to tribal communities in Meghalaya, the state's village level traditional institutions called Dorbar in Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Nokma in Garo Hills. In that sense, Meghalaya is a strong decentralised society where these Dorbars and Nokmas organise the community and social life for their citizens and hold a great degree of historical legitimacy amongst people.
A grassroot 'mini climate change conference' was held with 18 villages of a province called Ri-Bhoi - known for facing the ravages of fast approaching climate change reality.Photo by Rasheda Akter on Unsplash
Infact, Meghalaya was exempted from the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act which allows for the devolution of governance through the decentralised Panchayati Raj system because of its strong grassroot and community governance structure. One of the global learnings emerging from Covid response all across the world is a new form of 'decentralised' governance where the state works in alliance with traditional and grassroots institutions and leaders. This bottom up approach is critical for social mobilisation and tackling the 21st century challenges like climate change.
Several complex issues such as climate change, diminishing rain patterns, green livelihoods were discussed with indigenous examples of several localised climate legislations - emerging in the conversation. In the idea exchange, there were conversations about green energy and livelihoods, agroforestry models and several preservation models that could incentivise the villagers and junta to create a new template of climate action economy.
After having piloted a successful project using multi strains of indigenous Algae or phyco-remediation to clean up the toxic industrial waste of one of its rivers, the Forest Minister has launched an open mandate to embrace local ecological knowledge and build nature based solutions..Photo by Mike M
After having piloted a successful project using multi strains of indigenous Algae or phyco-remediation to clean up the toxic industrial waste of one of its rivers, the Forest Minister has launched an open mandate to embrace local ecological knowledge and build nature based solutions.
Sacred Groves in Meghalaya, which are community based sacred forests, have been largely instrumental in community led forest management practices and large scale preservation. There were more green livelihood options such as algae and carbon farming, agro-forestry models and wellness tourism using folk medicine - with abundance of high value indigenous wellness knowledge systems were also discussed with the grassroots representatives.
Forest management and climate change adaptation strategy should integrate socio-cultural and ecological phenomenons and should be aimed to sustain human needs and maintain the ecosystem integrity. It has also been emphasised to include climate change and conservation as a part of school along with several green interventions with the headmen for turning the province into a 'climate action zone'. The grassroot conference was one of the first interventions on the part of the government to start collecting indigenous knowledge, community engagement and empower decentralised governance to bolster its fight against climate change.
(Article originally written by James Sangma)(IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: climate change, meghalaya, waste, industries, nature
The Meghalaya government has decided to undertake a fresh study at the proposed uranium mining sites in South West Khasi Hills district after the reported incident of radiation hazard, officials said on Friday.
A senior Meghalaya government official said that after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary M.S. Rao, the state government requested the Shillong-based North Eastern Hills University (NEHU) to assist the state government by way of a “third-party investigation” to ascertain the factual position regarding the radiation levels and whether there is any health hazard in the area.
An official statement said that in view of the alleged incident of radiation hazard at Domiasiat, Nongbah, Jynrin, and Wahkaji areas in southern Meghalaya’s South West Khasi Hills district bordering Bangladesh, the state government has requested the NEHU to undertake the third-party investigation to determine the accurate position about the radiation levels. A six-member expert team led by B. Myrboh from the Department of Chemistry, NEHU, had visited the sites on November 10 last year.
“An interactive session on the report of the expert committee was held last week under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary. The expert committee report reveals that the radiation levels at the source (tanks and pits), villages, and human habitations nearby as per the millisievert/year unit of measurement using the Radiation Survey Metre are well within the safety levels,” the statement said.
It added: “Further, the expert committee found that 100 feet away from the source in the rivulet Phud Syngkai, the levels of radiation are higher than at the source which requires further study. Therefore, the Meghalaya government has decided that a fresh study on the rocks and sediments of the stream Phud Syngkai will be conducted and the samples would be analyzed at a credible laboratory to determine the exact cause of the radiation.”
Earlier, the local people, several NGOs, and environmentalists had separately claimed that high radioactive emissions have been noticed in areas close to the uranium waste storage tanks. They had claimed that there are four effluent storage tanks and two other reservoirs in the Domiasiat-Nongbah-Jynrin areas which have developed wide cracks causing leakage of toxic waste.
The Hynniewtrep Youth Council (HYC), a local body, has announced to file a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) if the state government does not take appropriate steps in the matter. The tanks were built a few decades ago, reportedly for storing wastes extracted during the exploratory drilling for uranium deposits.
Such exploratory drilling has been carried out in many places in the uranium-rich South West Khasi Hills district. The Atomic Minerals Directorate had reportedly decided a few years ago to stop exploratory drilling for uranium in the district. India’s largest and richest sandstone-type uranium deposits estimated to be 9.22 million tonnes are located in Domiasiat-Nongbah-Jynrin areas in central Meghalaya.
The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had made a plan to develop the mineral resources in Domiasiat under the “Kylleng Phendengsohiong Mawthabah (KPM) Uranium Mining Project”. The project has the potential to generate substantial nuclear fuel for the atomic power plants of the country. But due to strong local protests and agitations, the project could not progress.
A committee constituted by the Meghalaya Assembly in November last year had suggested that though the Atomic Mineral Division has stopped all activities in the Domiasiat-Nongbah-Jynrin areas after the state government’s revocation of the land lease to UCIL, including suspension of uranium exploration and mining, regular and close monitoring of the radiation levels in the villages is required. (IANS)
By Sujit Chakraborty
Three northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram — are taking steps to protect the endangered clouded leopard, which was listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In India, clouded leopards are restricted to the country’s northeast region — the eastern Himalayas, the Assam valley, and the hills south of the Brahmaputra.
According to an official document, Mizoram’s Dampa Tiger Reserve holds the distinction of housing the highest number of clouded leopards in Southeast Asia.
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The density of population of clouded leopards, locally known as “Kelral”, is 5.14 per 100 sq km in the reserve, situated along the Mizoram-Bangladesh and Tripura. A Forest officials said that in 2018, India added clouded leopards to its recovery programme for critically endangered species to aid more research and strengthen conservation efforts.
“The state animal of Meghalaya, the Clouded Leopard, a beautiful spotted cat, is a majestic sight to watch. Sadly, it has been declared vulnerable by the IUCN. Let us work towards preserving such rare species,”
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma tweeted on the occasion of the ongoing wildlife week.
Meghalaya wildlife officials said that they have taken steps to protect the habitats of the Clouded Leopard and their captive breeding.
The officials said that the Indian Olympic Association is considering holding the 39th National Games in Meghalaya in 2023 and the Meghalaya state animal ‘Clouded Leopard’ has been chosen as the mascot for the National Games.
“Besides the governmental steps, we are trying to make people conscious about the significance of the conservation of the endangered clouded Leopard,” a Meghalaya forest official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Tripura’s Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Clouded Leopard National Park have also taken a series of steps for captive breeding of the species in the zoo. “Following the guidelines of the Zoo Authority of India, we have started the process of captive breeding in the zoo situated inside the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Clouded Leopard National Park,” Wildlife Warden Biplab Datta told IANS.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: उम्मीद है, आने वाले मैचों में ऐसा ही प्रदर्शन जारी रख सकेंगे : धोनी
He said that among the zoos in the country, the highest number of 9 Clouded Leopard is in the Sepahijala zoo (in western Tripura). “There are at least five wild Clouded Leopards in the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary,” Datta claimed.
Wildlife scientists and the Mizoram Forest Department indicate that clouded leopard density in Dampa Tiger Reserve is perhaps the highest among forests of South and South-East Asia where the species is found.
The state’s Environment, Forests and Climate Change Department in recent years placed several camera traps at different places across the Dampa Tiger Reserve, which captured the clouded leopards 84 times. Wildlife expert Apurba Kumar Dey said that like the clouded leopard, much of the wildlife in India’s northeast remains elusive, poorly understood, and inadequately protected.
A six-year-old boy was recently mauled to death by a leopard in Maligaon, on the outskirts of Assam’s main city of Guwahati. Maligaon, headquarters of the North East Frontier Railways and a place prone to human-leopard conflicts, comes in the Guwahati Municipal Corporation area, which encircles several big hills and seven reserve forest areas.
Earlier also several people were injured after being attacked by leopards in Maligaon and the adjoining areas. Wildlife activists said that the habitats of leopards and other wild animals have been shrinking over the decades due to encroachment by the people leading to man-animal conflict.
There have also been incidents in the recent past when angry mobs killed leopards and other wild animals. Wildlife activist Mubina Akhtar said that the hills are where the leopards live but people have been encroaching upon their habitats.
“There are seven reserve forest areas adjoining Guwahati city. The forest department has neither demarcated them properly nor has it put up any signs or notice boards, resulting in encroachment of forest land,” Akhtar told IANS over phone.
She said: “Since 2010, men and wild animal conflicts are rising in Guwahati areas. However, authorities are doing nothing to stop such incidents.” (IANS)