In compliance to the direction of the Committee on Environment, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, Shillong during their visit to Garo Hills region, the Deputy Commissioner, West Garo Hills, Ram Singh convened a meeting with the Nokmas of Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and Tura Peak area, Garo Hills Autonomous District Council, Tura, including line departments comprising of Forest and Environment, Soil and Water Conservation, PWDs, PHE, Agriculture, Horticulture, Block Development Officers of the district on Tuesday at DRDA Conference Hall Tura.
Stating that the Committee on Environment had flagged massive destruction of natural forest cover for practicing jhum cultivation in Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and thereby threatening the sources of Simsang, Ganol rivers and Didare which originates from the Nokrek region and the main source of water supply to the people of Garo Hills region in general and Tura in particular. He further mentioned that the members had stated that these water sources are not maintained well and time may come when this water source will dry up if jhuming is continued in the upper stream and near catchment areas.
Considering the importance of preserving the Nokrek catchment areas and since it belongs to the A∙king land of the Nokmas of the area, he urged the line departments to provide alternate livelihood opportunities so as to wean away from jhum cultivation and facilitate to protect the Biosphere Reserve and water catchment area for our future generation.
The Divisional Forest Officer (Territorial), West Garo Hills Division Sachin Gavade while addressing the challenges faced by the inhabitants of Nokrek region had suggested the intervention of other line departments for providing job or other livelihood opportunities for them if possible so as to uplift the economic condition of the people of the region. He also mentioned that as per their record jhuming is showing a downward trend which most probably be the result of the interventions already in place by various departments.
Since the region falls under the Rongram Community and Rural Development Block, the Block Development Officer, Shelley Momin also highlighted on the different activities being undertaken by the block in this area such as issuance of job cards under MGNREGA, various plantation activities under Bottom 20 in which people plant indigenous plants at Dura Kalakgre near Didare stream, bamboo plantation amongst others, she added.
Emphasizing the problems of livelihood of the people of Nokrek region, the Project Director, DRDA, Tura C N Sangma said that the government has been issuing rice, etc to the people through Supply department and added that the responsibility is inter-dependent and both government and people should help each other, he added.
The President of Nokma Council, Tura Skylance G Momin, who was also present during the meeting had advised the counterpart Nokmas of Nokrek region to be judicious with the land used for jhuming and claim only the portion they can manage to cultivate since many times it was noticed that they have a tendency to claim a large part of land and is unable to cultivate them all which results in abandoning and destruction of forest cover. Moreover, he urged them to consult the expertise in different departments and plant only those species suitable to the region for better harvest. He also encouraged them to preserve and increase the growth of medicinal plants in the region as it has potential market value as government is promoting Ayush medicine in the country. He also suggested the Nokmas to control illegal fishing in their respective areas and to inform the police department if they come across any new person in their villages.
While stating the necessary requirement of the people of Nokrek region, the Nokma of Sasatgre informed that road communication is the most important requirement and has agreed to preserve and protect the water catchment areas, but seeks the support and assistance from the government for their livelihood.
Another important concern flagged by Nokma of Akonggre Locality, Tura Rakkan Sangma and BDO, Rongram, C & RD Block, Shelley Momin is about the spraying of chemical herbicides for jungle clearing by the people which is a dangerous trend and will harm the environment in the long run. They also mentioned that it is surprising that the chemical herbicide is being sold openly in weekly market in the district.
Further, the Nokma of Nikrang Ading Locality, J M Sangma had informed that illegal stone collection is being done in Babupara locality which is also a serious environment concern as it is very close to the Tura Peak water catchment area.
CFO, GHADC, Rangku Sangma, Additional Chief Engineer, PHE J Sangma, AEE, PWD Roads, John D Shira were among other who spoke during the meeting while Sub-Divisional Officer (C), Dadengre Sub-Division, Syeed F Hamid, SDO Sadar, Jagdish Chalani, Block Development Officers of the district, Nokmas of Sasatgre, Sakalgre, Baladinggre, Mandalgre and officials from line departments were present at the meeting.