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Since 1st March, 1999
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Unique Apatani impresses Unesco
- UN agency wants world heritage site tag for valley in Arunachal

New Delhi, June 16: Unesco wants the Apatani valley in Arunachal Pradesh declared a world heritage site for its 'extremely high productivity' and 'unique' way of preserving the ecology.

In a decision considered rare, the UN agency has decided to propose that the state government initiate the process of nominating the 26 square km landscape in Lower Subansiri district in the exclusive category. To date, only two sites, Kaziranga and Manas, from the Northeast have managed to figure in the list.

'Though we will send our suggestion shortly, our role is limited. There is a procedure to be followed and the onus is on the state government and the Centre as they would have to directly correspond with the Paris-based centre,' Unesco programme officer Sudha Mehendiratta said.

The Apatanis are one of the 26 major tribes in the hill state inhabiting mainly two districts, including Upper Subansiri. To reinforce its viewpoint, the agency has also completed filming a 45-minute documentary on the landscape, which was funded by the US-based MacArthur Foundation. It was greeted with a warm applause when screened at a conference in Tokyo held between 30 May and June 2.

'We were amazed to observe their farming and conservation techniques, which are rare in the world. The idea is to spread awareness about these simple practices so that others may also emulate,' said Prof. P.S. Ramakrishnan of Jawaharlal Nehru University who was the driving force behind the documentary and the idea to inform the state government.

The Apatanis practise different varieties of wet rice cultivation using methods whose 'energy efficiency' was found to be higher that those practised by advanced agricultural systems like those in the US and Japan, not to speak of flourishing states in India such as Punjab and Haryana. Energy efficiency is measured in terms of a ratio of labour input and overall output. While for the Apatanis, it was around 1:70, it was 1:7 for Assam and 1:01 for the US and Japan.

The high productivity is sustained by an adept system of recycling of waste matter and organic residue, coupled with an elaborate forestry management that makes the whole process highly sustainable.

A tedious process is involved before a landscape or monument is accepted as a world heritage site. After a proposal is received from the state government, the Centre forwards it to the Paris-based World Heritage Centre. Subsequently, Unesco teams are dispatched to the site for an assessment. The entire process takes around eight years.

It may be mentioned that the Centre had recently drawn up a list of 21 sites for nomination to the club that includes Majuli from the region. It is likely that the nomination of the Apatani valley will take place only after the pending nominations have been completed.

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