Thursday, September 23, 2021

Nagaland SDG Vision 2030: Sustainable management of biodiversity and protecting environment

The Nagaland Government envisions sustainably managing the State’s rich biodiversity resources and also protecting its environment for providing better livelihoods and ecosystem services by 2030.
These are part of the 17 goals of the Nagaland Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Vision 2030 released by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio recently in the State capital.
For this, the Government has clubbed 4 goals – Ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns; Climate Action – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact; Life Below Water – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and Life on Land – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Nagaland is a landlocked State with 12,489 sq. km of forest cover which is 75.33% of total geographical area.
The Government’s focus, through the 4 goals, would be to integrate climate change interventions in a systematic way across all Departments of the State Government.
It would also aim at raising awareness on climate risk mitigation, adaptation and resilience Improve the State’s quality of forest cover while also promote the sustainable and efficient use of forest resources and fisheries
The Government also envisions encouraging community managed conservation areas to conserve biodiversity in the State and conserve the rich biodiversity on land and in rivers, springs, wetlands and aquatic ecosystems.
By 2030, the Government targets to alleviate economic status of rural population and decrease dependence on subsistence agriculture while also providing ecosystem services through forests, restoration of degraded forests and overexploited underwater ecosystems as well as increase efficient usage of the state’s natural resources to 42.68% by 2030, up from 8.3% in Financial Year 2018/2019.
The Government’s vision document maintained that owing to the unique hydrological, social and legal context of Nagaland, a State-specific water policy is necessitated which is responsive to its existing and future needs encompassing a long-term water resource management programme.
With dependence on fishing as part of the diet of the Naga people, there is a great need to preserve water bodies and life under water as well as prevent overexploitation of such resources, it said.
The continued loss of forest cover and biodiversity over the last few decades can be attributed to various anthropogenic pressures such as logging, clearance of vegetation for agriculture land, establishment of new human habitations, mining etc., it said.
Some of the challenges highlighted in the document include: Unique land ownership, Shifting cultivation, Forest fires and Developmental pressures.
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, chieftains or communities under this traditional system, it said.
With over 88% of forests in private, community or village ownership, the role of these entities in management and conservation of forests is predominant, it said.
The traditional self-regulatory practices have withered under increasing anthropogenic pressures, sometimes replaced with unsustainable and unsuitable practices such as monoculture plantations of commercially profitable species not endemic to the area.
Climate change related pressures will increase and accentuate the need for building communities’ capacities and an intense collaboration between the Nagaland Forest Department and the communities, the vision document maintained.
Increasing urbanisation with the concomitant adverse impact on vegetation and biodiversity, continued dependence on forest products for livelihoods, unregulated exploitation of mineral resources such as mining in the lower hills of Mokokchung and Mon districts and other development pressures such as construction of rural roads lead to direct destruction of forests and biodiversity well as indirectly by providing access to hither inaccessible areas, it said.
Outlining the strategies towards achieving the goal, the Government said the difference in the socio-economic milieu in the State requires locally relevant strategies to combat the challenges that the State currently faces. They are:
Improve the Quality of Forest Cover: As forests are predominantly private/community owned, the strategies of the Department will revolve around facilitating and motivating the stakeholders. Existing village level institutions under the VCs and the State Forest Development Agency will be strengthened.
Conserve Biodiversity in the State: Although Nagaland has a geographical area of only 16,579 sq. km, it harbours very rich and unique biodiversity with the State being a part of the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot.
Nagaland is endowed with salubrious climate and diverse forest types ranging from alpine in the Saramati to tropical evergreen forests in the foothills which are abound with a large diversity of flora and fauna. Over the years, extensive uncontrolled logging coupled with the practice of Jhum cultivation has resulted in loss of virgin primary forest, the reservoir of species and genetic diversity within which may be hidden the answers to many of the problems facing the world today, thereby wiping out vast resources comprising valuable wild fruit trees, edible shrubs and herbs, medicinal plants, etc. and habitat loss for the diverse faunal population in the state. Other factors such as increasing population along with a GDP based developmental strategy have further accentuated this loss.
The regulatory and developmental frame envisaged under The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 has to be integrated in biodiversity conservation by suitably adapting it to the State’s requirements of involving communities in biodiversity management and promoting it at village level.
Promote the Sustainable and Efficient Use of Forest Resources: Forests are a valuable natural resource for the Naga people. The forestry sector plays a vital role in the State’s economy, which is evident from the fact that the yearly timber export is roughly to the tune of 50,000 cu. m. However, it is pertinent that the extraction of timber is on a sustainable basis and that there is negligible effect on the State’s ecology. Another important forest produce for the people of the State is fuel wood. There has been no in-depth study on the quantity of fuel wood extracted in the State but the continuation of the traditional hearth or fireplace in most Naga homes give a fair picture of the immense demand for fuel wood in the State. The people in the State also depend on forests for many non-timber forest produce such as medicinal plants, wild vegetables, broomsticks, etc.
The extraction of such products also has to be based on scientific lines of sustainability. Thus the strategy is to promote the sustainable and efficient use of forest resources so that the pressure on existing forests can be minimised and at the same time increasing the margin of returns from forest enterprises.
Nagaland is naturally blessed with abundant bamboo resources and this crop is a very important Non-timber Forest Produce (NTFP) in the State.
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Bamboo is intrinsically linked to the custom and tradition of the Nagas and features very prominently in the everyday life of the people of the State given its versatility in use. The State’s bamboo resource accounts for 5% of the national bamboo resource which amounts to 4,48,000 hectares. So far, 46 species of bamboo have been reported in the State. The predominant species found are Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Bambusa tulda, Bambusa pallida and Schizostychum dullooa. Developments of the proper propagation techniques, uses and application of bamboo through scientific interventions have the potential to enhance the value of bamboo manifolds. Bamboo, as compared to other industrialised processes, allows the rural communities to partake in a larger proportion of value addition. Bamboo as a value added industry can provide an integrated solution that uses abundant natural resources which are environmentally protective and can be processed and generated through community owned enterprises both small and large. The annual growth habit of bamboo also makes it a very important species to mitigate climate change in the form of carbon sink. The opportunities created by these interventions and prospects have made bamboo a viable vehicle suitable for sustainable livelihood generation particularly for people in the rural areas besides the important role it can play in the mitigation of the effects of climate change. The Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency is focussed on tapping the attributes of bamboo as a potential resource for both sustainable economic development and ecological security.
As Nagaland Forest Department has also mandated for raising bamboo plantations on a large scale in the State, it is envisaged to dovetail the activities of the two agencies so that the development perspectives of bamboo resources of the State can be fulfilled.
Provide Ecosystem Services through Forests: A myriad of services are provided by forests over and above the consumptive services such as timber and NTFP resources such as: regulation of water regimes, microclimatic conditions and stabilisation of soil and enhancement of its fertility, just to name a few. These are collectively known as ecosystem services and are intangibles (cannot be quantified directly into monetary terms). This role of forests in maintaining the ecological balance of an area is by far the most important role.
Manage Water Effectively: Water is fast becoming a very scarce commodity in the State. At present the State, especially in urban settlement areas, is gripped with scarcity of water. Water, both quantitative and qualitative is fast becoming a scarce commodity in Nagaland. In addition to the general water scarcity experience, there is a failure to manage water and water sources in the State as a result of degradation, Jhum cultivation and other factors such as ownership. Natural water catchment areas have been disturbed owing to both developmental as well as anthropogenic pressures. As such, perennial water bodies are now fast becoming seasonal. With the grim spectre of climate change looming on the horizon, appropriate remedial strategies have to be put in place to stem the loss of water catchment areas.
Community Managed Conservation Areas: Such areas would have a positive effect on the improvement of forest cover quality in the State. In such endeavours, the most important factor is the trade-off between conservation and development. When such strategies are evolved, the returns from conservation must far outweigh that of development to elicit the active participation and involvement of stakeholders. The endeavour of such conservation efforts is to link the existence of (scenic) value conservation areas with livelihood.
The strategies for providing ecosystem services through forests include:
Harnessing water resources through conservation of catchment areas with the involvement of communities and in collaboration with other Departments to mitigate the problem of water shortage in the state.
Promote ecotourism to provide alternative livelihood options to stakeholders and generate awareness on nature conservation.
Conserve Rivers, Springs, Wetlands and Aquatic Ecosystems: Streams and rivers are the lifeline of Nagaland. All efforts will be made to ensure minimum natural flow in rivers and cams at all times like ensuring constant flow of war in the streams and rivers through activities like a catchment area protections and regeneration of forest cover/plantations, soil and moisture conservation, plantations along the stream and river banks etc. Allocation of water for ecological needs could be done keeping in mind the living needs of aquatic ecosystems. Wetlands and water bodies will be protected from encroachments by the VCs and community and maintained through scientifically prepared management and action plans. Water bodies having their origin and passing through reserve forests, community conserved areas or protected forest will be protected under the relevant forest and environmental legal frameworks.
Strengthening Disaster Risk Governance: Institutionalisation of various disaster management functionaries and mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction by developing a set of guidelines correlating each level of authorities and governance will go a long way in managing disaster risk.
Invest in Disaster Risk Reduction for Resilience: Public and private investment in disaster risk reduction through structural and non-structural measures are essential to enhance the economic, social, environment, health and cultural resilience of persons and communities. For Rapid Visual Screening, the service of trained engineers may be used for survey/verification to retrofit vulnerable infrastructures like roads, bridges and buildings etc. The aim is also to create legislation that permits the formation of the State Disaster Mitigation Fund (SDMF) under the State Fund.
Build on Ecotourism: The State Government’s Department of Tourism aims to create awareness on conservation and presentation and nature and local culture. Specifically, messaging on water conservation and creation of economic opportunities for local communities in Khonoma, Dzuleke, Dzukou valley, Mt. Saramati, Green Dikhu project, Benreu, Sendenyu Biodiversity Conservation area, Chida Lake, Japfu Peak, Kapamedzu Peak, Doyang Reservoir and Zanibu range will continue.
Encourage Aquaculture Practices: Rivers, streams, reservoirs, lakes and wet terrace fields are some of the surface water sources that can be used effectively to develop aquaculture practices. While efforts must be made to use traditional practices in order to cause the least harm to underwater life as well as try to curb overfishing on the demand side, focussing on aquaculture on the supply side would help bring about greater ecological balance. Since Nagaland is blessed with a heavy amount of rainfall during the monsoons, a longer aquatic phase is possible alongside the low-lying rice fields as well. Besides this, aquaculture helps improve livelihood generation and can help improve the State’ GSDP as well. The following initiatives are planned to encourage aquaculture practices:
Construction and Renovation of Ponds and Tanks and Availability of Quality Fish Seeds and Feeds: This will allow maximum utilisation of existing water bodies and will effectively create new water resources. In order to also obtain higher production per hectare of water body, availability of fast growing good quality fish seeds and feeds would be a necessity. Similarly, lakes, reservoirs and streams must also be leveraged in order to increase fish availability.
Paddy-Cum-Fish Culture: This requires modification of paddy plot by construction of semi-permanent embankment and fish shelter ponds, which will help in water retention for a longer time period for culturing fish.
Fish Seed Production Unit: With fish seed currently being imported from outside the State there is a dire need for State-led production of good quality fish seeds for greater self-sufficiency in the aquaculture process.
Fish Seed Rearing Unit: Availability of quality fingerlings is a necessity for fish culture and therefore there is a need for creating infrastructure to rear fish seeds. This is a limiting factor currently but with the creation and establishment of more fish seed rearing units, this challenge can be overcome.
Sport Fisheries (Ecotourism): Sport fisheries holds great potential of being an employment-generating sector as well as boosting tourist inflow due to the availability of sporting fish such as mahseers, trouts and large catfish. Developing feasible areas for sport fishing would involve procurement of angling equipment, organization of angling competitions, extension of assistance to angling associations, entrepreneurs, etc. from the relevant stakeholders at the state-level.
(Page News Service)