Changing weather patterns an enduring worry to North East

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A lime stone quarry in Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. File Photo.

State governments must initiate strategies to develop NE as India’s negative carbon emission zone

Bengaluru, Jan 28: A report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has warned India of harmful cost if current trends of global warming are not addressed immediately. Based on the trends observed in North East from 1971 till date, several scientists predict a rise in the regional annual mean temperature and decrease in annual rainfall.

“The continuous depletion of ecosystems and loss of agricultural outputs resulting from environmental stressors has a substantial impact on the socio-economic well-being of residents in northeast, especially on poor. This need to be addressed immediately,” said Anissa Lamare, a resident of Shillong. Climate change is one of the biggest environmental threats of North East, potentially impacting food security, sustained water supply, biodiversity of forests, other natural ecosystems, human health and settlements.

Before the monsoons, Assam, Manipur and Mizoram were affected by floods and in late July Assam also dealt with heat wave conditions. The East Khasi Hills district in the state of Meghalaya, one of the wettest places on planet Earth, has received 20 per cent less rain than normal. The lamentation of Arunachal Pradesh’s environment minister on water crisis due to climate change increases the tension in the region. He also mentioned that around 200 rivers and streams have dried up in Arunachal.

As per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) reports, the eastern and north-eastern regions have together received 31 per cent less rainfall than normal in this south-west monsoon. As per the scientific observations, the number of drought weeks during monsoon months in Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur, will increase by 25 per cent in the future.

“Nested between the ridges of Himalayas, NE states still have more than 60 per cent of the landscape under forest cover, which no other Indian states can boast about. More than 60 per cent of its population are indigenous tribal communities live in rural areas leading a sustainable life depend on natural resources. But due to developmental pressures to cater to the needs of the rest of the country like mining, damming of the rivers for electricity, and corporate farming etc. the ecological integrity of this landscape is fast declining and climate change is a looming threat here. In a place where people largely depend on biodiversity for their livelihood, it would be women and poor more vulnerable to the impacts of the climate change,” said Dr.  P.D. Rajan, an entomologist.

“Few instances like ignorant mining have contributed to reshaping and destroying of the landscapes of the terrain, thus causing landslides killing the habitat and people. Moreover illegal poaching also causes irregularities in the food chain causing ecological imbalances. Dumping garbage in the mighty river Brahmaputra leads to abnormality in river flow path causing flood in Assam every year, affecting people. Shifting cultivation popularly known to be “jhoom” in Assam is a major contributor of climate change as many trees are deforested and burned,” added Himon Baruah, a resident of Assam.

In comparison to most of the other states in India where urbanization in the form of overdevelopment of infrastructure hangs like an over-bearing cloud of environmental destruction. But development in North East is slowing encroaching upon the livelihood, at a cost. The word development itself gives a positive note, but ironically it has contributed to destruct the natural resources and the indigenous eco-system of northeast. “The idea is not to fight this development, rather to learn how to safeguard the very nature that provides us as safe zone where we wish to build our homes. Learn how to build around the tree, not through the tree,” added Himon.

North Eastern states need a new development paradigm which should suit to its cultural ethnicities and unique landscape features. Blinding adopting the conventional concepts growth and developments could cause ecological and human disaster here. NE region has the potential to be developed as India’s negative carbon emission zone.  A carbon friendly development model-similar to “Bhutan model of development’ – which can bring economic self-reliance, livelihood sustainability and ecological integrity to the region may be adopted.