Amur Falcon throws up green issues versus local needs
DIMAPUR, OCTOBER 9
ISSUES concerned with wildlife conservation and on the flipside, mitigating the economic needs of the agricultural community are starting to find an open space. The two significant – if conflicting – topics marked a recent awareness programme in Wokha which was organized to encourage conservation and give ‘safe passage’ to migrating Amur falcons passing Nagaland. The need for strong wildlife conservation efforts that conserve and protect flora and fauna and mitigate the condition of Nagaland’s wildlife was highlighted during a seminar on October 5 held in Sungro village in Wokha. However, conservation efforts must be complemented by welfare policies that take into concern the economic impact on the people and area affected by the conservation efforts, speakers said during the event.
The seminar saw in attendance high state officials as well as local community and non-governmental organization leaders. The programme was held on October 5 in Ashaa village, near the Doyang Hydro Electric Project in Wokha. The Sungro Range Youth Welfare Organisation and the Department of Forest organized the programme.
Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden, T Lotha, delivered discourse titled “Man and Wildlife conflict in the State”. The high official urged the villagers to desist from ‘short term profits’ but to focus on long-term, sustainable goals. Conservation should not be concentrated only on migratory birds alone but should also extend to other wildlife, flora and fauna and marine life, he said. Lotha regretted that the destruction of bird habitat, particularly the roosting place for Amur falcons, are being destroyed and cut for shifting cultivation purposes. He appealed to the villagers to conserve the ‘roosting places’ for the migratory birds.
The wildlife official also urged the non-governmental organizations to play a proactive role in creating awareness and conservation activities in the area. They must, however, he said, refrain from indulging in seeking ‘media hype’ but verify facts with the department before publishing ‘things in the internet and social media.’
Sunil Kayrong of the Wild life Trust of India, which is spearheading conservation efforts, also spoke during the programme, while Steve Odyuo, chairman of Natural Nagas, outlined the policy initiatives which his organization has been undertaking for the conservation of birds and wildlife in the area. Among others, Odyuo mentioned the ‘Bird for birds” project which give free chicks to help villagers generate resources and reduce the reliance on birds as a source of livelihood. Another project which Odyuo mentioned was one called “grain for grain” which aims to provide food grains to farmers whose agricultural fields were destroyed by wild elephants.
NGO leader N Janbemo Humtsoe from Green Foundation of Nagaland also spoke. Conservation efforts can be successful only when there is a concerted effort from all sections and only then the affected communities are put at the center of the policy, he said. He expressed dismay at the “mismatch of conservation strategies and economic development and the benefits” that belongs to the people.
Referring to the absence of power supply at Ashaa village which lies just 500 meters from DHEP, he questioned why the affected communities are deprived of their share for ‘first use’ and benefits. He said ‘people cannot talk about conservation when their fields are being destroyed by wild elephants adding there should be a policy to compensate the people for the loss or for foregoing the economic benefits because of conservation.’
Suggesting a need to adopt local strategies for conservation, he urged the “outside communities to respect and understand the culture, tradition and customary practices of the indigenous people and the Nagas before pointing undesirable remarks.”
In a related matter, Extra Additional Commissioner of Wokha Shaying Sheu has requested cooperation from the villagers to successfully enforce the ban on hunting. He pointed out that the Wild Life Act 1972 prohibits trapping or killing Amur falcons. Under the Act, trapping or killing the birds is a punishable offence with 3 years of vigorous imprisonment or a fine of Rs 25, 000 or both. Moreover, he pointed out that village development funds could be curtailed if villages continue to indulge in the illegal practice.
Village authorities also submitted a petition to the Minister for forest for resumption of works at Polytechnic institute at Sungro, setting up of forest beat office and appointment of forest guards from the surrounding villages.