Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mawlyngbna village an example of judicious forest conservation


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By Our Special Correspondent

 Maysynram: There are some things that strike the visitor to Mawlyngbna village which is some 17 kms away from Mawsynram and is close to Lawbah (75 kms from Shillong). The village with 340 households started a community irrigation project to prevent water run off into the plains of Bangladesh. People of the area are mostly farmers subsisting on cultivation of fruits, bay leaves, black pepper and areca-nut amongst other things. They also earn from broomstick cultivation but have now realized that broomstick can deplete the soil of all nutrients. Hence they have allowed broomstick to come up only in the fallows and rocky ridges.

The village has a natural spring known for its medicinal properties. It emits huge volumes of water round the clock throughout the year. This could well become Meghalaya’s future mineral water project and bring in economic dividends for the people of the area. The GIZ project an Indo-German collaboration project on Climate Change Adaptation has already prepared a detailed plan for upscaling the economy of this village.

It is interesting to note that while the mountain range close to Mawlyngbna – the Dom Myntaid is a picture of stark barrenness due to rapid deforestation, the headman of Mawlyngbna village, Bah Bling Kynter says in his village anyone wanting to construct a house, writes an application to the Shnong with a fee of Rs 30. The person is allowed to cut a couple of mature trees.

When there is a celebration in the village the Shnong allows that household to lop off some dead branches only. Their effort at community conservation through judicious use of forests is exemplary. The villagers have realized that the three kilometer long verdant bforest they have conserved is a perennial source of pure water.

But what has started enticing several visitors to Mawlyngbna are its rich collection of fossils dating back to 450 million years. While the villagers have carefully collected some of the fossils, mainly sea urchins and kept them in safe custody after they learnt of their importance, there is a whole sea bed with fossils which could become the research center for geologists from across the world.

Urchins typically range in size from 6 to 12 cm (2.4 to 4.7 in), although the largest species can reach up to 36 cm (14 in).[2] Like other echinoderms, sea urchins are bilaterans. Their early larvae have bilateral symmetry, but they develop five-fold symmetry as they mature. This is most apparent in the “regular” sea urchins, which have roughly spherical bodies, with five equally sized parts radiating out from their central axes.

The earliest echinoid fossils date to the upper part of the Ordovician period (circa 450 MYA), and the taxon has survived to the present as a successful and diverse group of organisms.

The Government of Meghalaya, particularly the Department of Community & Rural Development has been focusing on developing this village according to a detailed master plan. Some species of fish have been released in to the new irrigation project last year. The dame is well guarded by the village to prevent over-exploitation of fish.

What is of concern is the idea of eco-tourism in Mawlyngbna which could turn the village into an over-exploited destination with too heavy a carbon footprint than it can cope with. Once the road to the “Fossil Village,” which resembles a dry sea bed is completed there will be many more curious visitors who could leave with a few fossils as they return. Building the capacities of villagers to understand the nuances of eco-tourism is integral to its sustainability. Villagers must own the entire development process.


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