Guwahati: President Ram Nath Kovind Wednesday said careful planning and efforts are required to preserve the rich ecological heritage of the north east and counter the challenges of global climate change.

Attending the valedictory ceremony of the ‘North East Festival’ organised by the Ministry of DoNER in Guwahati, Kovind appreciated the natural beauty of the region and suggested steps to protect it.

“When climate change has emerged as the greatest challenge before humankind, careful planning and efforts will be needed in the years to come to preserve the rich ecological heritage of the north east. This region is part of the Himalaya and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots, the two of 25 such hotspots in the world,” he said.

The president said development choices must integrate the elementary strategy for natural resource management, green industry, infrastructure development as well as sustainable consumption patterns.

“The northeastern region is the natural gateway for India to South East Asia and beyond. With over 5,300 km of international borders with several neighbouring countries, it has significant strategic value,” he said.

Kovind said with the launch of the ‘Look East Policy’ or LEP, the security-centric approach towards neighbours in the east stressed on prioritising economic resources for benefitting from the common potential of economic growth across the region.

“In 2014, LEP was upgraded to the Act East Policy, which brought about a paradigm shift and marked a significant change in the potential role of the north east region. Emphasis was placed on enhanced connectivity, security, stability and development.

“In an innovative move, the government has also assigned Union ministers as in-charge of each of the north eastern states to oversee the projects, and give updates on development and growth of the region,” he added.

The president said that when the freedom movement is spoken of, citizens recall the valour and patriotism of not only its great leaders but also of lesser-known or forgotten people without whose sacrifice it would not have been a mass movement.

“We are rightly proud of the fact that such participation was witnessed in every nook and corner of the country. Every Indian yearned to see Mother India freed from the shackles of foreign rule. The north east region was second to none when it came to joining the struggle for freedom,” he said.

Kovind said when India won Independence, the north eastern region had suffered hugely because of the partition and it found itself suddenly cut off from major centres of communications, education and trade and commerce like Dhaka and Kolkata.

The only corridor connecting the region to the rest of the country was a narrow strip of land in north Bengal which made support to developmental initiatives in the north east a challenging task, he said.

“Yet, we have diligently worked to overcome the challenges of geography. During the last 75 years, the north east has made significant progress on a variety of parameters. Road, rail, airways and waterways connectivity has grown exponentially during the past few years,” he added.

The region has immense inherent strengths and what it offers in terms of tourism, horticulture, handloom and sports is often unique. Efforts are needed now to place the NE states at par with the industrially advanced states so that more jobs are created here, Kovind said.

The president said that about 28 per cent of the total population in the region, especially in the hilly areas, is tribal. The NE is home to at least 133 of the total 705 scheduled tribe groups identified in India and many distinguished luminaries have emerged from among these tribal and other ethnic communities.

“I am happy to learn that efforts are on to preserve the cultural richness and linguistic uniqueness of the smaller tribal communities,” he added.

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