The Telegraph
Monday , June 6 , 2016

Document lists key environment threats

Security personnel plant saplings at Assam Regimental Centre in Shillong on World Environment Day. Telegraph picture

Shillong, June 5: The Vision document for Meghalaya 2030 has listed several key environment concerns for the state, ranging from deforestation to soil degradation and from biodiversity loss to silting of waterbodies.

The document has drawn the attention of various stakeholders, including citizens, on environmental challenges that the state is facing.

"The key environmental concerns in Meghalaya constitute deforestation, fragmentation of forests, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity and contamination and silting of water bodies. Unregulated, unscientific and illegal mining and logging and practice of short cycles of jhum are responsible for these," the document said.

It also noted that paucity of technical and other support to improve jhum cultivation, and almost "total absence" of inputs from research on small area and eco-friendly and high-yielding varieties of rain-fed crops, have resulted in soil erosion, degradation, and low productivity.

Contamination and silting of waterbodies have been caused by "unregulated and unscientific mining, forest clearing, and unsustainable short cycles of jhum", the document noted.

On deforestation, the document said loss of natural forests is a serious concern in Meghalaya, especially when the vast forests provide a range of local and global environmental services.

As far as shifting cultivation or jhum is concerned, the document noted that the local terrain in the region, coupled with dynamic practices of shifting cultivation, and lack of cadastral maps make it "difficult" to provide accurate estimates of areas under such usage.

"In Meghalaya, over 7,000 square km is reported to be still under jhum. The jhum cycle used to be longer than 15 years that enabled regeneration of forests before the same land was cultivated again. However, in the recent past, because of rising population and other changes in the traditional way of life, the cycle has shrunk, in extreme cases, to one to two years. As the cycle of jhum farming becomes successively shorter, the sites cannot remain under vegetal cover, and degrade relatively quickly," the document added.

As part of World Environment Day celebrations, the inhabitants of Mawhiang in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills district, in collaboration with the North East Slow Food & Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS), planted around 800 saplings yesterday in the village as per the Khasi lunar calendar. The Society donated a 1.33-acre plot for plantation.

Similarly, a tree plantation drive was organised by the Assam Regimental Centre yesterday and today.

Defence spokesperson Group Captain Amit Mahajan said hundreds of saplings had been planted and awareness lectures conducted to educate schoolchildren, troops and their families and villagers on the importance of tree plantation.

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