Environment

Can we work on Climate change from Grassroots up? Meghalaya answers!

History has always shown that powerful grassroot organizations have often triggered major social changes around the world.

Minute changes have brought brave and unimaginable changes, ranging from bringing in women rights movement to taking out Britishers or to the much-celebrated environmental movements now.

However even today, grassroot efforts remain under-appreciated and underfunded.

But with a great opportunity lost, there is a lot at stake.

Today, we are in the middle of another war, between creation and his/her surroundings. At times, one counterpart may harm the other using a greater tool, say Climate change or deforestation. Yet it is a part of Earth that’s lost.

Effective grassroots solutions around the world can inspire and enable our local communities to protect their rights to water, soil, air, forests, livestock, timber and land.

This approach addresses the environmental, economic, and social issues as well as aspirations of the people bringing in uniformity and inclusivity.

Once a wider consensus and imagination is brought into focus, it can spark a broad, comprehensive response to the threats of climate change.

Humans who have been worst affected, can probably devise the best of methods to comply with their immediate nature.

Meghalaya is now looking onto its villages to fight Climate change:

Forests and its revival are critical to Meghalaya as it is one of India’s greenest states. As per India State of Forests report, 80% of the state’s area is under tree cover, nearly thrice the Indian average.

Sacred forest grooves and community reserves have been core to the very idea of North-East since eternity. This makes it beautiful, unique but extremely vulnerable. With its rainforests at stake, Meghalaya may have to witness the hard lessons of survival.

UN REDD+ initiative to fight Deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries has provided international funding since 2011 to project integrating communities or villages with their Environment.

The Meghalaya government also received a 2018 World Bank funding to better manage its resources effectively, which was in fact diverted to the communities to protect the patches of forests in their village backyards.

For example, Mawphlang project to become India’s first such project as it is the largest amongst the total 200 sacred groves in Meghalaya (Khasi hills).

Its revival and protection can thereby spur motivation across the programme leads in the times when IPCC has warned the world of 1 degree C rise already with more deadly threats arriving at our doorstep.

Under it, the community members are dissuaded to cut trees which can potentially release Carbon-di-oxide into the atmosphere leading to temperature rise worldwide, no fruits get cultivate, no animals killed.

“If sacred groves were to extend to the entire Meghalaya, we will be able to reverse the damage caused by climate change,” explains a localite.

What woke up Meghalaya to work hard and smart?

Meghalaya’s forests have seen rainfall variability, food insecurity, rising temperatures, deforestation due to infrastructure projects and logging, unnecessary flooding etc.

An environmentalist explains: “Forests act as a sponge. Having forests is good for the community that depends on the water bodies.”  When it rains, without roots in the area, water flows without hinderance causing floods, droughts etc.

“The changes in rainfall affects our crops. The orange is no longer as sweet as it was once, and the size of the fruits that we grow is much smaller.”

Meghalaya, lying sandwiched by lands on all sides: Assam and West, comprises of Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, one of the most threatened and unique biodiversity hotspots in India.

About 10% of these are tropical wet evergreen forests called rainforests, known for various endemic species including the famous Orchids.

But rapid resource exploitation and habitat loss has made this area vulnerable. According to an IISc-Bangalore study, half of the its forests are “extremely disturbed” from the impacts of climate change.

“The places where we saw maximum forest degradation were the places with the most biodiversity. The annual mean minimum temperature has increased by 0.6% between 1951 and 2000”.

“Fragmented forests don’t recover from the impact of temperature and rainfall changes like natural forests do.” These problems in tandem, may vanish all the natural springs in the area.

Although Meghalaya is unique and blessed as almost all the forest land in the state is controlled by its people and not the government.

Nevertheless, this has been further marred by government’s rejection of 46% of forest rights as per as reported in March 2019 by IndiaSpend.

Despite the odds, this state has retained its green cover, unlike the other Indian states.

What is being done to assuage the depleting Nature?

A well-drafted policy needs to be made, with proper insights from the awakened political representation.

Community members have recently tried to revive traditions protecting Nature. Individual villagers have even tried to identify patches of degraded lands and have even restricted access to allow natural regeneration.

Many of them nurturing these lands personally also look out for invasive species introduced.

An impetus to such spark shall be further supported. “We already know how to conserve the forests. We have been doing it for centuries. All we need to do is support and help spread the tradition.”

Moving examples of such community service from the world:

The anti-coal movement 2018 in the Hambach forest of North Rhine-Westphalia led to Germany’s biggest climate march and the consequent moratorium on further logging.

Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion are a few known names already.

Against the unilateral decision of US to withdraw from The Paris Agreement under Trump, faced criticism from the coalition by the name “We are Still In”.

Over 100 U.S. cities, under this faith, have committed to shifting over to purely 100% percent renewable energy.

Be it the landmark ruling by a court in the Hague, that ordered Royal Dutch Shell company under the Netherland Government to cut GHG emissions by at least 25% within next five years.

With increasing awareness about the climate change that can potentially affect and smother us all, more and more people are taking things in their hands, to make things right.

For better or for worse, many of us have become alive to revive our planet.

Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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