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Arunachal tribals join hands with WWF to preserve ecology
Published on 25 Nov. 2009 12:21 AM IST
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In a secluded part of Arunachal Pradesh, local community members have joined hands with WWF-India to usher in changes that would ensure sustainability for both nature and human beings. Remarkably, the pioneering effort – due to its sound fundamentals – could be replicated in other parts of North East India. According to a report in Sinlung, in the western part of Arunachal Pradesh, the local Monpa community who own forest areas has declared parts of it as Community Conserved Areas (CCA). At present the CCAs comprise Thembang Bapu and Pangchen Lumpo Muchat, together covering more than 400 sq km of pristine forest land. The idea behind the initiative is to maintain the ecological balance of the sensitive zones, and to ensure that the ties that bind the people with the land stay strong and stable. Recognising that their lives, and the future of later generations, rely on locally available resources like wood, water and good quality soil, community members have decided that saving the forests is a pragmatic measure in a remote and difficult terrain where livelihood options are limited. One of the factors responsible for the successful partnership has been identified as the belief and value system of the Monpas, who have deep regard towards nature and all living beings. Such a spiritual outlook has reduced the obvious challenges in building consensus among community members. According to WWF-India personnel based in Tezpur, community members have zoned the CCAs in a way that part of it could be used for grazing, while collection of timber and plants could be sourced from other specified areas. Expertise from WWF-India is being used for developing management plans, which integrate feedback from the ground level. Recently, community-based tourism has been introduced in Thembang Bapu, offering tourists “a cultural and ecological experience”. combining exposure to the village life with the wilderness. The move has paid good dividends providing economic gains to the community members. The location of the CCA has increased its potential as a tourist destination. With the settlement situated on a hill top, there are grand views of mountain ranges and the Dirang river. The amiable nature of the Monpas, and their traditional living practices add to the experience. Describing Thembang Bapu as a success story, Pijush Dutta of WWF-India said that community members have been able to halt commercial extraction of firewood, a step that would help conserve the rich ecological space. In one instance, villagers apprehended a foreign tourist as he was collecting some wildlife specimens from the area. The revenues from tourism during the first year have also been encouraging. At Thembang, tourists are provided with home stay facilities with double accommodation, toilet, hot water, bed tea, breakfast and dinner. Camp sites contain alpine sleeping tents, dining tent and toilet tent. Trained guides and porters are available locally. At present, six trekking options are available from Thembang. The highest trekking destination is Potok at 4,500 metres above MSL. Attractions on this route, which touch Gunthung, Semnak, Lagam, Thungri and Larjap, include pheasants, black bear, blue sheep, musk deer, and red panda. The flora of the area includes dense temperate, coniferous and alpine forests and rare species of orchids.

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