Itanagar- ( By Pradeep Kumar )- Arunachal Pradesh though rich in natural resources but still a poor state for its inability to encash them as useful resources,” said State Forest Research Institute director Koj Rinya, state’s first woman IFS officer (2006 AGMUT cadre).
“It is high time for all of us to do something tangible to tap these vast resources and convert them into encashable resources to serve as boon for this fund-poor state,” she said .
Rinya, also Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) member-secretary, is right as this state with 79.63% forest coverage (followed by Meghalaya-76.33%, Manipur-75.46% & Nagaland-75.31%), has maximum richness of species in terms of trees, shrubs and herbs followed by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as per State of Forest Report 2019.
This forest rich state in Eastern Himalayan has recorded forest area of 51,407-sqkm, including 10,589 sqkm reserved forest, 9,779-sqkm protected forest and 31,039-sqkm unclassified forest. This is growing stock or living assets of about 2000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide which serves as one of the major ‘carbon sinks’ or ‘lungs of the globe’. This amply explains the potential of this hidden Himalayan state which is yet to draw attention of those who matter, even Act East Policy has remained in limbo.
This ‘hidden land’ boasts of India’s highest hydropower potentials (58,000 MW), oil reserves trapped in coal deposits (in the state and parts of Assam) capable of producing 140 million-tones oil per year to sustain India’s fuel need for 100 years (according to ex-geologists-cum- OIL ex-CMD Chudamani Ratnam, and confirmed by Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer on 10-11-05 at Itanagar).
With the state posing to tap its vast tourism sector, it is high time to analyze and project its huge potentials in right perspective to draw tourists keen in nature, adventure, rafting, culture, traditional, religious etc. Moreover, its highest number of regional languages in the Indian subcontinent and unique indigenous cultures would also draw writers, poets, historian and researchers to immensely benefit the state.
But rich forest coverage of Arunachal Pradesh, known as the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ or ‘Orchid State of India’ or ‘Paradise of the Botanists’ or ‘Future Power House of India’, has been disappearing mostly due to ‘papi pet ka sawal (The question of hungry stomach)’!
The poor have been deprived of their constitutional rights of share of socio-economic development. ‘In 1950, Assam (which included Arunachal Pradesh), NE India’s largest state, was more than four per cent richer than the rest of India. Isolated and often ignored, by 1999 it was more than 45% poorer, with the gap steadily widening.’ It is unbelievable but true, according to a United Nations report. The above data clearly indicated Arunachal forest coverage of 82% in 1999 got reduced to 79.63% in 2019 due to human interference though Arunachal is among 200 globally important eco-regions and harbours nearly 50% of total flowering plant species in India.
Thus, every Arunachalee has to shoulder the responsibility of bringing an end to wanton destruction of forest coverage in the name of development. If no alternative is provided to Arunachalees who live in the lap of nature would raise a vital question: ‘Buvukshitah kim na karoti papam? (What vice is unthinkable to an empty stomach?).’
Therefore, I suggest a multi-pronged strategy encompassing – 1) Mass awareness, 2) Promoting forest-based industries and 3) Effective forward and backward marketing linkage – as panacea to offer solution to this ever growing problem.
There are many nature lovers, who have been touring to learn state’s uniqueness as biodiversity hotspots. Pasighat-based Collage of Horticulture & Forestry (CHF) RABI Project assistant manager Evie Koyu, a great nature connoisseur, with her friends have been touring these places, including Tawang upto Sangestar Tso, popularly known as the Madhuri Lake, ahead of Bum La Pass, Daying Ering Wildlife Sanctuary (DEWS), Yingkiong and Ziro Valley (state’s lone UNESCO World Heritage Centre) (all in pic). Such initiatives and posting these breathtaking pictures are worth emulating for which Evie deserves applause as a role model.