[ Kamal Medhi & Harshad Sambamurthy ]
In Zemithang, locals recently named a mountain ridge along the Kharman / T-Gompa road “Goral Point” for the frequency of sighting this particular ungulate. While traveling there, I was lucky enough to spot seven Himalayan gorals foraging for food. Located at the northwest corner of Tawang District, amidst a backdrop of snow-capped mountains surrounded by lush forests and high-altitude lakes, it has quickly become a popular attraction.
The natural resources of these areas have historically been governed by local communities. However, these centuries-old relationships gradually began to erode, leading to significant changes in land use. Natural resource extraction has multiplied with demand from neighboring townships and is expected to increase steadily due to urbanization, linear infrastructure, hydroelectric power projects and changing lifestyle aspirations.
Forests in northeast India make up more than 65 percent of its geographic area, or around 17 million hectares. This region, which is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the Eastern Himalayas and Indo-Burma, is rich in floral and wildlife diversity, includes 120 important bird areas, and is home to over 45 million indigenous people. These forests are mainly governed by
at the community level through traditional institutions with various provisions of the Indian constitution.
Globally, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework proposes an expansion of conservation areas, especially as more and more evidence links biodiversity loss to threats to economic prosperity. Specifically, biodiversity loss can lead to flooding, the spread of communicable diseases, scarcity of clean water, crop damage and climate change. At the regional level, we have many areas outside the protected area networks that contribute to effective conservation of biodiversity in situ. Appropriately recognizing, reporting and supporting these areas will become increasingly important in the context of biodiversity loss and climate change.
In Arunachal Pradesh, over 60 percent of the state’s forests (3 million hectares) are de facto under the control of local communities. These forests are home to a range of diverse species, including the elusive red panda and the snow leopard. Since 2004, working closely with the local community, WWF-India has helped launch a community conservation model in the western districts of Tawang and West Kameng by establishing community conservation areas (CCAs), where local communities set aside a certain part of their forests for conservation and to frame rules of participatory management for the use, the promotion of livelihoods and the prevention of any misuse of natural resources.
Although CCAs lie outside any designated protected areas, they continue to demonstrate how local communities can simultaneously enhance livelihoods, derive essential ecosystem services, and secure critical habitat for wildlife. To date, nine ACCs, covering a combined total area of 150,000 hectares, have been established. Other approaches similar to the CCA model have also been adopted by the Gumin Rego Kilaju (GRK) and the EB-Basar Project. The government support and resources needed to scale up such approaches can help define a conservation policy framework that protects forests through community management.
Arunachal Pradesh has immense potential to play a central role in mainstreaming community-led biodiversity conservation on the global stage. As protected areas achieve a centralized conservation goal, Arunachal Pradesh should define its conservation roadmap with more emphasis on a decentralized, community-centered approach. Local institutions such as panchayats and traditional organizations such as mangma should be empowered to make management and conservation decisions within state policy and to map forest resources that fall under their traditional customary jurisdiction. .
Ensuring the conservation of biodiversity is at the heart of innovative and well-designed livelihood programs, and would help maintain economic well-being while preserving forests. The involvement of other resource organizations, academic institutions and state apparatus will also promote a more inclusive approach to biodiversity conservation in Arunachal Pradesh, which will require greater clarity in the conservation policy of the area. State that clearly defines the role of local communities and incorporates pre-existing rights. and privileges. (The contributors work for WWF-India. The opinions expressed in this article are personal.)