EM Exclusive, Kohima
Earth Day: ‘Times and eras have changed, so is our surrounding and our lifestyle’
Kohima, April 21 (EMN): “I remembered crying myself to sleep most of the nights for fear of the sound of wild animals, roaring winds, and chirping of crickets at my new home.” Right after her wedding ceremony on December 6, 1967, a 21-year-old Kikruseü Hiekha, came to Kohima to live in her new home at Dzüvürü (Porterlane) colony.
There were around five scattered mud brick houses in the middle of the forest when she first came.
“The whole New Ministers’ Hill area was a thick jungle, while the roaring sound of ‘big’ Mohonkhola River was scary to even look at,” said Hiekha, who is now 76 years old.
Recounting her ordeal, she said: “Whenever my husband was not home, I could neither eat nor sleep and would imagine if I died out of fear”. Her fears were amplified by the fact that the Indian army personnel stationed near her house would come asking for a glass of water in those turbulent days. Her husband was one of the Angami leaders and had to travel from village to village for days.
After 20 years of residing in the forest, two houses were built in the neighbourhood and now the area is filled with buildings, she said.
Over the years, vast development has taken place and drastically changed Kohima. It is now home to 2.68 lakh people with a density of 183 per sq.km, according to the 2011 census.
Nature reclaims: Not in Nagaland
Amid global health crisis, reports of nature reclaiming its spaces in various corners around the world have emerged. Recently, residents of Jalandhar in Punjab witnessed the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years, photos of which were tweeted and shared across social media platforms. Scenes of peacocks roaming and dancing on empty streets in urban areas were also recorded.
According to Abeni Lotha, a member of Green Team Dimapur (Better Dimapur), the world is healing up to some extent with industries and commercial activities coming to a standstill during the lockdown. “The air has become cleaner and the environment is more peaceful,” she said.
After the lockdown, the usual dusty roads of Dimapur have become “much cleaner”, Lotha said.
On the other hand, hunting and killing of wildlife animals in Nagaland continues. Despite hunting being declared illegal under Wildlife Protection Act, some citizens have paid no heed to the order.
To a large extent, people have disturbed wildlife habitats, causing animal-human conflict over the last few decades. Flora, fauna, and water bodies have been harmed.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22 since its inception in 1970. Covid-19 has shifted the emphasis of celebration—to take action to save the planet through mobile digitalisation.
‘Controlling greed’: A way forward
Speaking to Eastern Mirror, Satem Longchar, a wildlife researcher, shared on how to address and preserve the environment, maintain co-existence with wildlife.
“We can co-exist with wildlife as long as we believe that living together is a viable strategy to survive, supported by good management approach and constructive perceptions and attitudes,” Longchar said.
The only way to stop destruction of nature is “by controlling our greed, over-harvesting and consumption of wildlife, over-deforestation and overusing land,” she added.
“Afforestation, sustainable and integrated farming, learning to use the resources in a sustainable manner, finding alternative approaches to curb our dependency on the natural resources and recycling can address the issue,” Longchar said.
Nagaland has recorded a forest area of 8,629 sq km amounting to 52.04% of the state’s geographical area of 16,579 sq km as of March 2018, according to the department of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
Keeping in mind that the majority of forests are community owned, Longchar said: “It is equally important for us to participate in working together to tackle this issue. When we stand united for nature conservation and protection, the effective outcome is shared by all.”
According to the researcher, “curbing deforestation, changing our attitudes and perception of co-existing with our wildlife and encouraging sustainable lifestyle” is the way forward.
“We are clearing large amount of forest, and altering our landscape at an unprecedented rate for our ever-growing population not realising that we are becoming vulnerable to the outcome, which is change in the climatic patterns, our well-being and our economy,” Longchar pointed out.
She went on to add that deforestation for unsustainable agriculture and farming and logging has resulted in the loss of biodiversity, leading to the depletion of natural resources and also resulting in extinction of many local species.
The researcher said that there is a need to educate Naga people more on wildlife conservation. “We also need to lose our egos and our primitive thinking of living in our ancestral ways. Times and eras have changed, so is our surrounding and our lifestyle,” she said.
Perhaps, 53 years ago, the 21-year-old Heikha would have never imagined that the sound of wild animals and chirping of birds would be stilled just because of the increase in human population.