Meghalaya launches schemes to expand forest cover, protect catchment areas

Shillong, May 23 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said on Thursday that to expand the forest areas, protect and rejuvenate the catchment areas, the state government recently implemented the Green Meghalaya initiative and the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programme.

Under the PES, the Meghalaya government provides Rs 15,000 per hectare as reward to various communities for their conservation efforts.

The Chief Minister on Thursday also accompanied by senior officials, including state Principal Secretary Sampath Kumar, visited various interior villages of West Garo Hills and informed the ‘Nokmas’ (village chiefs) that the government has initiated several conservation initiatives aimed at protecting and rejuvenating the catchment areas as well as the forest areas.

He also visited villages adjacent to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in the West Garo Hills.

Chief Minister Sangma spent nearly six hours in three villages, meeting with the ‘Nokmas’ from the Ganol catchment area.

The Ganol River, which originates from Nokrek, is the main source of water for Tura and other adjoining areas in the region.

During an interaction programme with the ‘Nokmas’ at Sakal Aduma, a village located in the highest range of Garo Hills at about 1,400 metres above sea level, adjacent to Nokrek, a biosphere reserve renowned for ‘Citrus Indica’, known locally as Memang Narang, the Chief Minister discussed the conservation challenges and initiatives.

He highlighted the importance of consultation and a collaborative approach, ensuring that policies are not imposed directly but are designed to benefit both the government and the community.

Addressing the issue of ‘jhum’ (slash and burn method) cultivation and the community’s dependence on it, the Chief Minister said, “We have initiated several programmes to encourage sustainable livelihoods. Our initiatives aim to create opportunities through green initiatives. The Forest, Agriculture, Horticulture, and Soil and Water Conservation Departments are working together to protect our natural resources with utmost care.”

Regarding tourism promotion in Nokrek and its surrounding areas, Chief Minister Sangma urged the community to promote tourism responsibly.

“In the past 2-3 years, various interventions have been implemented to enhance and promote tourism in Nokrek. We should keep the area clean and encourage visitors to avoid littering. The beauty of this place must be conserved at all costs,” he emphasised.

On the dwindling forest cover due to ‘jhum’, the Chief Minister said that the government has documented the concerns and is working with communities and stakeholders to address the concerns through afforestation and conservation initiatives.



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