Villagers develop community reserve forest

ITANAGAR, 30 Jan: At a time when the state has been seeing a constant decrease in its forest cover over several years, the villagers of Chopnu in Longding district have set an example for others to follow by developing a community reserve forest on their own.

“In 2008, the villagers unanimously adopted a resolution to develop a reserve forest in the Nanjunhua area. As decided, they purchased the land from the owners with fund collected from the villagers,” Chopnu village raja Choiwang Wangham said over the phone.

Wangham said that they are planning to convert the reserve forest into a wildlife sanctuary in the future. He sought help and assistance from the government “to fulfil the villagers’ dream.”

Expressing happiness over the villagers’ initiative, Kanubari MLA Gabriel D Wangsu said, “Pleasant surprise to see a wildlife sanctuary in jhumland. Never thought the villagers of Chopnu would take my advice during a trekking session in 2005 so seriously.”

“Even the village authorities have purchased land from villagers to extend the protected area having natural lakes and water bodies,” Wangsu said.

“Jhumland, including pineapple gardens, were abandoned to further extend the area that today houses wild animals and birds,” he said.

The MLA said that hunting has been totally banned in the reserve forest, and that those found hunting are fined a hefty amount.

The MLA, accompanied by the raja, former Chopnu ASM Tachan Khiham and others visited the reserve forest on 22 January.

Khiham, who played an important role along with the raja, the panchayat leaders and the village elders in developing the reserve forest, said there are two natural lakes, streams and nallahs within the reserve forest.

“However, the waters in the lakes and the nallahs are slowly drying up,” he said.

Khiham said that Wangsu has assured to get a project under the PMKSY sanctioned to conserve the water bodies in the community reserve forest. He said that wild animals like boars and deer are taking shelter in the reserve forest.

The former ASM also said that the total area of the reserve forest will be measured within the next few days.