| Debal Deb inspects the rice seed bank in Jorhat on Tuesday. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Feb. 26: The Northeast was the first place in the world where rice was first cultivated and the place had recorded as many as 45,000 varieties out of the 1,00,000 created by man. Now, there is no record of how many have survived and how many have been preserved.
These were small snippets of information which Debal Deb, known as the saviour of rice germplasm in India, told children of the Government Boys HS and MP School Eco Club at the Shiksha Bhawan after inaugurating the rice seed bank of the school.
Deb, who had earlier inaugurated the Mudoijan Bharalua LP School seed bank, said it was commendable that so many young children were involved in conservation efforts of indigenous rice seed varieties.
The children had collected 62 varieties of rice grain, which would be cultivated and thus preserved.
Addressing the gathering, Deb, who is the founder of Vrihi Beej Binimoy Kendra, the first non-governmental rice seed bank for farmers, and the largest folk rice seed bank in eastern India, said only four years ago, scientists had discovered that rice had first been domesticated in the Northeast — Arunachal Pradesh, Assam or Meghalaya.
“We have domesticated animals and birds and nearly 200 varieties of trees and the whole process began about 17,000 years ago but we stopped doing this some 2,000 years ago. We have not added a single variety for domestication after that though satellites have been created and man has gone to the moon. Today, there are only 17 species of rice to be found in the wilds now and Oryza sativa, which was such a variety, can now be found only in the fields of farmers,” he said.
Stressing the need for the process to continue, Deb said he was not sure how many of the earlier recorded 45,000 varieties of rice, which had been domesticated here, still existed.
It was imperative to find as many species and conserve these as hybridisation of rice had resulted in a large number of species getting extinct and that may be hardly 10,000-12,000 still existed.
Earlier, children of a school at Elengmora under the direction of Sapan Bezbaruah, enacted a play on environmental conservation.
Deb, who had come from Rayagarh in Odisha, was accompanied by Cal Kelly and Erin Harper, members of Fertile Ground: East/West Sustainability Network from Canada.
Tomorrow, they will attend Assam’s first annual seed mela in Digboi.