ITANAGAR: Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein on Thursday stressed on necessity and urgency in mitigating climate change impacts on the ecosystem and food security.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Future – The Arunachal Perspective’ at the state legislative assembly here in presence of environmental and climate change experts, Mein said climate change is one of the greatest threats to earth’s ecosystem and global security and it knows no borders as it presents an existential challenge for all.

He said that the state with the mountainous terrain, dense jungles and huge rivers is one of the 12 biodiversity hotspots and perhaps richest in India with more than 5,000 species of flowering plants, 238 plants are endemic to the state, centre of origin for a number of crop plant species, more than 500 varieties of orchids, more than 500 species of fauna, about 85 terrestrial mammals and shelters four major cats including, tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, snow leopard besides, more than 650 bird species.

Arunachal Deputy CM Chowna Mein
Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein addressing a seminar on ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Future – The Arunachal Perspective’ at the state legislative assembly

“Slight variation in the climatic condition coupled with extreme weather due to climate change might impose a challenge to the state’s rich biological as well as cultural diversity, sustainability of social and economic development and the livelihood environment in the state,” he pointed out.

“Arunachal Pradesh, being an entirely tribal state, forests have been the mainstay for the livelihood of local people dependent on forest resources,” he added.

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Quoting the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021, he informed that Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed a loss of 257 sq. km of forest cover compared to the 2019 assessment with the total forest coverage of 66,430.67 sq. km (79.33% of the total geographical area).

He cited the main reasons for the negative change in forest cover as diversion of forest land for developmental purposes and also natural impacts like landslide and flood.

The deputy chief minister said that the impact of climate change is already visible in the state as the five major rivers – Siang, Lohit, Tirap, Subansiri and Kameng – are losing their original emerald colour and are diminishing due to an increase in turbidity.

“Our river basins, thronged by large numbers of people from the neighbouring state and our own people for picnics, have become a dumping ground for plastic waste which is endangering the aquatic lives in the river systems,” he pointed out.

Mein expressed concern over the steady drying up of streams and diminishing freshwater fish due to rampant illegal fishing by means of electric shock using generators and blasting and called for a complete ban on such activities across the state.

He also called for a blanket ban on hunting wild animals and plucking edible plants and forest vegetation for commercial purposes.

The deputy chief minister exhorted the think-tank to come up with the proposal of an alternate source of livelihood for those living in the vicinity of the wildlife areas and the animal corridors, citing that they depend on the forest vegetation for their livelihood.

“They need to be given alternate source of livelihood so that the natural habitations of the wildlife are not disturbed”, he said.

He further pointed out that the diminishing apple orchards at Dirang and Kalaktang area in West Kameng district is also upsetting which is the result of climate change due to global warming.

He said, there is an institutional gap in the forest conservation system when it comes to addressing the climate risks on the forest ecosystems and biodiversity conservation arising from the interaction of climate change and social, economic and political factors.

He called upon the academician and students to fill up the gap in bringing awareness to the forest conservation system.

Mein said that though jhum or shifting cultivation is the tribal way of life, it needs to be substituted with sustainable agriculture and horticulture activities adding, the state government has taken various measures to improve the farming community and to bring in changes in the farming technique with the introduction of farm mechanization, terrace cultivation, through credit link schemes.

Reiterating the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Conference of Parties-26 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mein said that the state government has resolved to accelerate comprehensive, smart, climate-resilient and inclusive development of the people and the state with all-round efforts by adopting the Pakke Tiger Reserve 2047 declaration.

The state cabinet had adopted the Pakke Declaration at Seijosa in Pakke Kessang district on November 13 last year.

“Arunachal is known as the storehouse of hydro-power and we have identified 29 hydro projects to be executed by CPSUs with an estimated capacity of 32,000 MW, some of which have already been given to NHPC, NEEPCO, SJVN, THDC and many are in the pipeline and this is in tune with Modi’s commitment made in COP26 at Glasgow,” he added.

Earlier, Mein along with Speaker Pasang D Sona inaugurated a photo exhibition – ‘Revisiting our roots through the lens of Verrier Elwin’ as a part of the golden jubilee Celebration of Arunachal Pradesh.

The photo exhibition, conceptualized by Mein, is an attempt to generate a visual landscape about the Arunachal Tribes (NEFA) in and around the 1950s. The photographs displayed were captured by the renowned tribal philanthropist and the then advisor to the Tribal Affairs of North East, Verrier Elwin.

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