Aaranyak, a registered society, which was established in 1989 mainly as a neighbourhood NGO, celebrated its 32nd foundation day.
From a small beginning in 1989, today, Aaranyak has become a leading research-based conservation organisation of Northeast India garnering national and international recognition.
Thanking its dedicated employees and members, Aaranyak said it could portray itself as one of the premier NGOs contributing not only towards addressing conservation issues of Northeast but also towards the national policy framework of the Government of India to secure the future of “our ecology and wildlife heritage”.
For the purpose of addressing conservation challenges that the region has faced, Aaranyak has formed various applied research and conservation divisions and programmes wherein it has engaged over 120 employees.
These employees have been engaged in various project activities, building local expertise and giving opportunities to budding and passionate conservation workers and volunteers, Aaranyak said.
September 9, 2021 marks the 32nd foundation day of Aaranyak, which comes in the midst of a global pandemic and escalating climate and biodiversity crises that the region has been facing, which exacerbate inequalities.
Ongoing unsustainable human activity in parts of Northeast India compounds the situation and threatens not only our own survival but the foundation of mother earth’s ability to offer us oxygen to breath and potable water to drink.
“Besides all other issues related to species and habitat decline in the region and also globally in many parts, our biggest concern for Northeast India is to ensure unabated flow of oxygen and potable water.
“It is time that we focus on the very basic needs of human survival – the air and water and we can only ensure its free flow if we take good care of our forest, wetland, grassland and other such ecosystems,” Aaranyak said in a statement.
“We have surely reached a tipping point, however, our windows of opportunity to respond to these interlinked crises are also unlimited. What we need is to focus our mind solidly to address key environmental issues with some bold decisions.”
“That’s where our government needs to be briefed properly with science-based inputs so that our government could take informed decisions keeping in mind the various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN and also the Aichi Targets that could make balance between environment and development.”
Aaranyak says haphazard promotion of any mono-culture of plants including the proposed plan for palm oil in Northeast India which may lead to the destruction of forests and biodiversity.
“We feel that the government needs to take utmost cautious steps to look into pros and cons of going for such plantations of single species and its potential impact on essential ecological services such as carbon sequestration, water-security, soil health and human wellbeing,” Aaranyak said.
Recent studies have highlighted that forest conversion may favour the outbreak and spread of zoonotic diseases, the COVID19 pandemic being one of the examples.
It said, “The loss of native species, as we already know how the Orangutan populations from many parts of southeast Asia have been wiped out due to unplanned promotion of palm oil. Let’s hope such threats are not invited for our arboreal species like threatened Hoolock Gibbons or Golden Langurs!”
The invasibility of natural habitats remains as an overlooked issue but poses a serious threat to the native population of wildlife and their habitat, it said.
The threat is amplified for threatened and habitat specialist species, for example, the One-horned rhinos, Eastern Swamp Deer, Hog deer, Pygmy hog and many others in grassland habitat.
The spread of invasive plants has been known to hugely impact agro-biodiversity, reduce productivity and cause human health hazards as well.
“It is high time that we come up with pragmatic and cost-effective measures to control invasion in order to secure wildlife habitats, native species, ensure food security and address the target of SDGs,” the organisation said.
It is worth mentioning that Aaranyak has already initiated a long-term, science-based work in Manas National Park to arrest invasion and reverse habitat degradation to aid in the conservation and secure livelihood of people.
Illegal wildlife trade in the region is a serious challenge to the survival of not only threatened species but also to our national security, it said.
Some recent investigations carried out by the country’s law enforcement and security agencies have brought to light the nexus of some anti-national groups with rhino horn trade.
A book recently published by a police officer of Assam reflected how arms are being exchanged across the international border in lieu of rhino horn.
This is indeed a great concern for national security and as such rhino poaching and rhino horn trade should be looked at from a wider perspective of national security.
“It is good to see that due to the concerted efforts of government agencies in past years and a strong commitment of the Assam government, the rhino poaching rate has been found declining and that deserves applause from all of us,” Aaranyak stated.
“We need to maintain such a trend of success even as we constantly anticipate that wildlife smugglers may hit our rhino-bearing areas harder due to the rising illegal demands of rhino horns in some Asian countries,” the NGO said.
“Water security for Northeast India has to be a priority area of focus for the region as we have already faced situations like too much water or too little water,” the NGO said.
Apart from the natural variability of the southwest monsoons, climate change has rendered our rainfall patterns more uncertain both in space and time. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see many new areas suffering from abnormally low rainfall and erratic rainfall patterns resulting in agricultural droughts as well as flash floods.
Contamination of groundwater with excessive iron, arsenic and fluoride is a big threat to public health. Many of our pristine river stretches have become polluted making them dirty and their water unusable for human beings, livestock and even for wildlife.
Assam is one of the 12 states in India which is highly vulnerable to climate change, it said.
Nature-based adaptation strategies can be an important consideration in building resilience and mitigate the threat of climate change.
The local communities of Northeast India have been traditionally practising nature-based solutions to safeguard their well-being as well as biodiversity. For instance, the traditional “dongs”- a water distribution and management system practised in water deficient areas along the Indo-Bhutan border in Assam.
These community-constructed micro-dams have substantial implications in reducing soil erosion, floods, disaster risk reduction in downstream agricultural areas and biodiversity protection.
Aaranyak has highlighted and documented how this traditional knowledge-based approach is strengthening the management of protected areas and overall conservation of biodiversity.
“We have also pitched in and working cohesively with local communities across various parts in Assam, for instance, watershed management in Kohora River Basin in Karbi Anglong district, facilitating and promoting rural tourism in Manas landscape and Karbi Anglong, supplementing livelihood opportunities through skill development and trainings for extracting organic dye from natural plant sources,” it said.
Together these approaches will help in mitigating climate change issues, augment livelihood, and ensure human well-being.
Aaranyak said it is committed to put up its best efforts always to address diverse ecological challenges.
“We shall always welcome suggestions from all concerned so as to enable Aaranyak to shape its future interventions for securing the future of North East India’s biodiversity and thereby human wellbeing,” it said.