Bringing nature back to life

ITANAGAR, Sep 16: While shooting an environment travelogue for Doordarshan, environmentalist Sievituo Solo from Kohima, Nagaland, along with his team visited Soi village in Basar, in Leparada district, to see the work of a voluntary project called EB-Project Nature, which is engaged in spring-water rejuvenation and biodiversity conservation.
The visit was part of meetings with fellow environmentalists of the Northeast region to know their works and establish a base for future cooperation. The team had earlier visited Assam’s Majuli to document the work of Jadav Payeng, who is popularly known as the Forest Man of India.
The documentary will be telecast by DD after all other states of the Northeast are covered by Solo and his team.
EB-Project Nature’s founder and team leader Egam Basar told the visiting environmentalist that the project started with the idea of solving the water scarcity in the village. Large-scale shifting cultivation had denuded the forest in the catchment area, resulting in drying up of the stream which was the only source of drinking water supply to the village.
After surveying the area during 2008-09, it was decided to recharge the catchment area by harvesting rainwater, for which several harvesting pits had to be dug at various locations. The original target was to dig 1000 pits with a capacity for collecting 2000 litres of rainwater per shower. Even though only about 200 pits had been dug by 2017, the stream started to flow perennially and ceased drying up in winter.
Basar informed that pit digging is continuing at a slow pace due to paucity of fund, as the entire funding of the project comes from his own source of income. Basar is an officer in the horticulture department.
He further informed the visiting team that although the project was initially started with the objective of water conservation, it grew up to become a biodiversity conservation effort as numerous birds and animals started to thrive in the restored forest in the catchment area.
“Deer, bears, wild boars, porcupines, civets and wild dogs are thriving well in the forest, and a leopard also occasionally visits the project area,” Basar said.
The area is also home to the Golden eagle, wild fowls, and many other species of birds. In order to secure food for the birds and animals, the project planted numerous native species of fruit-bearing trees in 2017, besides creating an orchid conservation park.
Dekbin Yonggam, an officer in the state medicinal plant board who is also the advisor to the project on medicinal plants, informed the visiting team that a medicinal plant park would be developed inside the project area. Overall, the catchment area has become a kind of a mini-biosphere reserve.
On being asked about the impact of the project, Basar said the villagers are now happy that they get perennial water supply, “which is only going improve further as the forest grows denser.”
He informed that after the Integrated Mountain Initiative, a policy advocacy body, presented the project’s success story to the state government in 2018, “the project is being replicated in other parts of the state, wherever water scarcity is experienced owing to drying of streams.”
The government has announced a fund of Rs 5 crore the 2019-20 budget to rejuvenate 20 drying streams, Basar informed.