Though the northeastern region of the country is considered an ecological hotspot, large sections of the local people are not even aware that the region reservoirs of biodiversity are under constant threat.
Experts say that at present the region is suffering from destruction of forests that is threatening permanent loss of biodiversity due to unsustainable logging and jhuming (slash and burn method of farming).
In fact, scientists say that the rate of “biodiversity depletion” in the region is quite alarming than many parts of the world as there is an estimated annual conversion of 3% of the primary forest into secondary or degraded forest mainly due to jhuming (shifting cultivation).
“The exotic pitcher plant found in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, small variety of bamboo, stone moss and many other unidentified plants, most of them having medicinal value are facing extinction threats. Therefore, there is in an urgent need to explore ways and means to save the unique plants of the region,” says scientist PK Das, who had carried out extensive research on the pine plantations in Meghalaya.
In fact, a unique feature of the region was prevalence of traditional institutions for maintaining biodiversity. However, sacred groves, protected by socio-religious sanctions are fast eroding with changing beliefs. At present, only about 10% of the sacred groves are found to have crown cover of 100%, studies conducted by the North Eastern Region Community Resources Management Project (NERCORMP) have brought to light.
“The need of the hour for policy makers is to hold serious deliberations on forests, wildlife, non-timber forest produce, medicinal and aromatic plants, joint forest management, agriculture, horticulture, water security and aquatic environment, traditional institutions and customary practices, gender perspective in conservation, environmental services and carbon trading,” says the botanist, who is keen on launching an awareness scheme on the issue.
“Awareness on bio-conservation must be promoted among the masses and policy makers must be alerted on the impending need to protect, preserve biodiversity resources in the northeast, one of the richest bio-hotspots on earth,” he iterates.