CM Conrad Sangma visits villages adjacent to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in West Garo Hills

In an endeavor to gain a firsthand impression of the challenges faced in implementing conservation initiatives in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma visited villages adjacent to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in West Garo Hills on Thursday.

Accompanied by senior officials led by Principal Secretary Sampath Kumar, along with a team from the Forest and Environment Department, Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA), and Council of Nokmas, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma visited Sakalgre, Baladinggre, and Sakal Aduma.

He spent nearly six hours in the 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 program with the Nokmas at Sakal Aduma, a village located in the highest range of Garo Hills at about 1,400 meters above sea level, adjacent to Nokrek, a biosphere reserve famed for Citrus Indica, known locally as Memang Narang, he discussed the conservation challenges and initiatives.

During his visit, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma informed the Nokmas (village chiefs) that the government has initiated several conservation initiatives aimed at protecting and rejuvenating the catchment areas. He mentioned that the government is currently implementing the Green Meghalaya initiative and the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) program, which rewards communities for their conservation efforts. Under PES, the government provides Rs. 15,000 per hectare of land conserved.

The Chief Minister emphasized the government’s approach of involving local communities in development and conservation initiatives, especially in eco-sensitive regions. 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 cultivation and the community’s dependence on it, the Chief Minister said, “We have initiated several programs 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, the Chief Minister 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. However, it is crucial that we ensure the ecological sensitivity of the area is maintained. We should keep the area clean and encourage visitors to avoid littering. The beauty of this place must be conserved at all costs,” he emphasized.

On the dwindling forest cover due to jhum, he said that the government has documented the concerns and is working with communities and stakeholders to address the concerns through afforestation and conservation initiatives. He urged the Nokmas for cooperation and support to protect not just the forest cover but also support the government in its endeavour to protect the Ganol catchment area.

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