L.H. Thangi Mannen
The word “Happy” is often associated to wish someone or celebrate an occasions – be it a birthday, an anniversary, mother’s day, father’s day, women’s day, valentine day etc. It is an expression of our love, concern and acknowledgement of the person and the occasion. Likewise, on this WED 2021, let’s take time to wish a happy WED to each other, and commit ourselves to respect, restore, care and nurture the environment, that is so very vital for our wellbeing and survival. The darkness of uncertainty surrounds us today, due to the pandemic which has disrupted our lives in many ways and for some more than others. But this global experience has also shown that humanity needs nature; a foundation upon which we can hope to build a renewed respect for it.
WED takes place every year on 5th June. It is the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world. 2020 was a year of reckoning, when the world faced multiple crises, including a global pandemic and the continued crises of climate, nature and pollution. 2021 sees the deliberate steps to move from crises to healing: and in so doing, recognize that the restoration of nature is imperative to the survival of our planet and the human race. Thus the theme of WED 2021, adopted by the UN is, “Ecosystems Restoration”, which perhaps is very relevant in today’s existing scenario.
WED 2021, will also lead all nations to restore the damaged ecosystems through the “UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration”. The UN Decade runs from 2021 through to 2030, which is also the deadline for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified critical for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The UN Decade is intended to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems to fight the climate crisis, prevent the loss of a million species and enhance food security, water supply and livelihoods. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. Using the hash tag #GenerationRestoration, the UN Decade is galvanizing a global movement, in which everyone can contribute to the mission. Restoring ecosystems means protecting their biodiversity and helping them to deliver benefits for people and nature. It means using ecosystems on land and in the oceans in ways that strengthen their natural resources and processes. Actions for restoration can also mean preventing degradation or reducing its extent.
There are mainly three interconnected environmental crises the world faces today, namely, (1)climate change, (2)nature and biodiversity loss, and (3)pollution and waste levels. These crises are manifested in air and water pollution, pestilent and erosive land-use practices, desertification and extreme weather events. The global restoration of ecosystems is key to addressing these crises and to keep check of our consumption and production patterns. Restoration of eco-systems is also our single largest nature-based opportunity for climate change mitigation. The science is clear: the next ten years are paramount in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of nature and biodiversity. As the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration in 2021, commence, it is vital that we all grasp and acknowledge that restoration is a global mission and we all have a part to play however big or small. Ecosystems are the web of life on Earth. It comprises of all living organisms and the interactions among them and with their surroundings in a given place. They exist at all scales from a grain of soil to the entire planet and include forests, rivers, grasslands and estuaries etc. Cities and farmlands contain important human-modified ecosystem. Ecosystems are important for our physical and mental health and for our identity, as it supports all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. Focussing, on protection and restoring the diversity, abundance and connectivity of life on earth is that- in doing so- we are also tackling hunger, poverty, pollution and of course climate change. It is impossible to tackle any of these issues properly without helping nature to recover.
However all over the world, ecosystems face massive threats. Forests are being cleared, rivers and lake polluted, coasts and ocean degraded, farmlands and grassland overexploited, and mountain soils eroded, polluted and degraded. Unless we change our ways and protect and restore our ecosystems, we will not only destroy the landscape we love, we will undermine the very foundation of our own well being and bequeath a degraded, inhospitable planet to future generations.
Nagaland, like the rest of the Himalayan region is one of bio-diversity hotspot of the world. But for how long, as we are witnessing the continuous degradation of our land, air and water. Our forests are dwindling (logging, mining, encroachment and deforestation), wildlife is almost nonexistent and much of the existing forests are like silent graveyards, in the absence any signs and sounds of wildlife – be it birds, insects or animals, due to hunting and other foraging nature of humans. Our hills are crumbling down (hill top quarrying and deforestation), our rivers face pollution from chemicals, plastics and sewage, are over dredged, and exploited with unsustainable fishing (poison, dynamites and electric shocks), harming other micro organisms so vital for a healthy eco system. There are piles of garbage in various cities, towns and villages and even forests, polluting the soil, water and the air .
All these factors and more are contributing to the climate change we are witnessing here too. According to a Report on Climate Change and its Impacts on Human Development in Nagaland, published jointly by GOI and the UNDP, it was predicted that between 2021-2050, the average temperature in Nagaland is likely to increase by about 1.6 to 1.8 degree Celsius. Furthermore, the report states that rainfall in the State is likely to increase by 57% and extreme rainfall by 26%. Increase in drought like conditions is also projected during 2021-2050, and weekly droughts likely to increase by 20-25% during the same period. Thus resulting in higher flood discharge and landslides and will affect water resources, forest and biodiversity and the agriculture and allied sectors considerably. Nagaland State Action Plan on Climate Change (NSAPCC) in 2012 had also revealed these temperature trends in Nagaland. This should have served as a wake-up call 9 years ago.
Another report on land degradation prepared by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), states that among the top seven states with the highest increase in land degradation in the last 10 years or so, six are in the northeast. Nagaland stands third with 47% degradation, after UP and Rajasthan at 53% and 52% respectively. One of the major causes of this degradation could be the increased frequency of high rainfall events in the region, resulting in a vicious cycle of devastating surface floods, flash floods, and landslides in the state. These are serious data that cannot and should not be ignored any longer.
Nagaland is already suffering from the affects of climate change. It is not something that evades us anymore. In the last few years the State has witnessed erratic and unpredictable monsoons, floods, droughts and massive landslides. These environmental disasters only points towards the changing eco-system. Our agriculture is also being hampered. Farmers are witnessing changing sowing and harvesting seasons. There are also instances of late or early blossoming of flowers (fruit and ornamental) and worrying instances of local vegetables and fruits (eg. local oranges and the indigenous passion-fruits) becoming scare in certain places. Changes in temperature and precipitation will have serious and far reaching consequences on climate-dependent sectors such as agriculture, water resources and health. Agriculture, which is by far the most important source of livelihood for rural communities, is strongly linked to both temperature and availability of water. Temperature changes coupled with the hilly terrain and the large variability in climate within the state would also impact crop yields. This calls for every stakeholder to do their part to try and mitigate the causes and effects of climate change.
The future of the environment and the life it supports rests on the decisions we take over the coming years. This represents an enormous responsibility on our shoulders, which must be seen not only as a burden—but also as an opportunity to act and rectify the damage. Collective efforts from both the Government and the public are required to bring about the restoration of our ecosystem in the state. The NSAPCC of 2012, is an exhaustive document, wherein and keeping in line with the eight national missions, the challenges and strategies of all the major departments to achieve sustainable development with co-benefits of climate change had been elaborated. These include agriculture and allied sectors, forest and bio-diversity, health, energy, urban habitats, and water. To what extend the NSAPCC -2012, or at least some components of it has been initiated/ implemented, even partially, is required to be re-visited.
On the other hand, Nagaland has a unique system of land ownership which is governed by tribe-specific customary laws and traditions, and has been roughly brought under the institutional framework of Village Councils by the State Government. Land and its resources, including water and biodiversity, are controlled by individuals, family, clans, or communities under this traditional system. With over 88 per cent of forests in private, community or village ownership, role of these entities in management and conservation of forests is predominant. They have the added responsibility to ensure that the livelihood and the developmental path the society chooses are sustainable and “climate smart”. Change only happens when individuals take action. There is no other way, if it doesn’t start with people. This is all the more relevant in the context of Nagaland. Change begins with each one of us. We need to be responsible today to be sustainable for the future.
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land,
Purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt