Special force pill for Namdapha

The expert committee has very strategic thinking: to bring into working relationship with the Yobin community and the Namdapha Tiger Project. They don’t talk anything about pushing the Namdapha National Park boundary back. They also talk about recruiting our people as protection force.

But the goal of all these assessment is to try to relocate our people outside the National Park’s limit.

Enjoy reading…

Liahey

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Source: Special force pill for Namdapha – Evaluation experts suggest involving Lisus to prevent poaching, by ROOPAK GOSWAMI (Telegraph India, 6 Dec 2010).

Namdapha tiger reserve. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Dec. 5: A rapid field evaluation on Namdapha tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, conducted by experts, has suggested to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) the need to have a separate protection force by members of the Lisu tribe, who have excellent knowledge of the terrain to help in detection of poachers from Myanmar.

The conservation authority has categorised Namdapha as a poor tiger reserve and had asked experts to carry out a rapid appraisal.

The expert committee report, which was recently submitted to NTCA, said there could even be an agreement with the Lisu community that they would take an active role in preventing hunting and other disturbances.

“There can be forest camps every 10km with regular staff posted along with members of the Lisu community,” the report said.

The team opined that Namdapha tiger reserve is of immense value from biodiversity point of view as it also shelters tiger and other key animals. Illegal hunting is a serious threat to wildlife in the park, and is prevalent among all tribal groups.

The report said poaching was likely to be among the primary factors resulting in the current decline in Namdapha, which is located along the international border with Myanmar and close to hotspots of trade in animal body parts.

“In Myanmar, there is a documented decline of tigers because of hunting for trade. Hunting of tigers is a significant threat to the persistence or recovery of tigers and other large carnivores in Namdapha,” it said.

There are 84 families staying in eight villages in the core area of the tiger reserve. It says contingency staff for protection squad should be hired from local communities, rules on educational qualifications should be relaxed as this often hampers the selection of the right people for forest patrolling duties. The best people for this work are often uneducated, but skilled in the jungle.

Not only in regard to recruiting local people, the committee has also called for a change in attitude of the forest department as there has been a long history of blaming the Lisu with poor efforts at understanding their problems or dialogue.

The committee feels this mindset needs to change to move forward positively to solve the park’s problems.

The biggest problem is in relocation of Lisus outside the park as the leaders of the community have indicated that they were not willing to settle for the Rs 10 lakh compensation and would want adequate land to be notified and demarcated for them in lieu of the occupied land in the park.

Settlements inside the park came up since 1997-98.

“All these problems have also been exacerbated by the remoteness of the area with no road connection, poor communication and infrastructure, low staff strength and motivation, poor official interest in the park with very limited action/management on ground. These also results in further deterioration of morale and functioning of the lower field staff,” the report said.

Namdapha: can hunter-tribes be protectors?

Today I browsed again the website of the President of India (www.prsindia.org), hoping to find something on our ST. Sadly, I found the only reference was from the Project Tiger (Union Ministry of Environment and Forest). They are the last government agency we ever wanted to interact with. But then I also read that the researchers for this report are much more objective than the authorities of the Namdapha National Park.

Enjoy your reading and learn the potential policy of the Central Government in the Namdapha National Park.

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Source: The Report of the Tiger Task Force: Joining the Dots (Page 65-67), by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (Project Tiger), 2005.

The reserves in the northeastern states of India are vast and inaccessible, low on staff and high on local control. One conservation option here, as elsewhere, is to spread a security blanket around a reserve and protect it with hard action. This model has been successfully tried in Kaziranga national park, Assam, where a low intensity war has been fought between insurgents and poachers versus the government for a period. But even here, the park authorities and the government have worked on reconciling local interests in protection. But there are other reserves where this protection model is not feasible. What, then, are the options?

The 2,000 sq km Namdapha tiger reserve is located in Changlang district, the eastern-most part of Arunachal Pradesh. It was declared a reserve forest in 1970 under the Assam Forest Regulation Act, 1891 (first proposed in 1947), and subsequently a wildlife sanctuary in 1972. It was finally declared a national park in May 1983; two months before, it was declared a tiger reserve. In 1986, a 177 sq km area of reserve forest was added to the tiger reserve and is designated as the buffer zone, while the rest (1,808 sq km) is considered the core zone.

The area has a wide altitudinal range, from 200 m to over 4,500 m. The terrain is steep and inaccessible. The old 157 km Miao-Vijaynagar road runs through the park, though it is motorable only for 26 km up to a settlement called Deban. The park headquarter is at Miao township, with a single functioning range in Deban. Civil supplies to villages located outside the eastern boundary of the park are carried on foot or on elephant back through the park, mostly along the river and parts of the road. Access for tourists, and even park authorities and biologists, is mostly restricted to areas up to 900 m. The interior and higher areas of the park remain unexplored, except by hunters from local communities.

Local communities: the ones who know

The only ones who really know the forest, therefore, are the local communities that walk the forest for hunting and survival. Aparajita Dutta, a wildlife biologist with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), a Mysore-based NGO, has been studying the region for a while, and believes that hunting pressures on the region are extreme and it is only these hunting communities in the region that really know the forest.

The region is home to several indigenous tribes. Beyond the southeastern boundary of the park (at 80 mile) are 13 villages with 673 households and a population of 5,147. There are four Lisu villages in Vijaynagar circle — these adjoin the park and have 403 households (population 2,600) — and nine other villages of Nepali ex-servicemen with a population of about 2,018; these ex-servicemen had been settled here by the government after 1962. Apart from this, there are other tribal and non-tribal government department staff and personnel of the Assam Rifles and the Indian Air Force.

The Lisu, also referred to as Yobin by some communities, are agriculturalists and also have a reputation of being skilled hunter-gatherers. There is strong resentment, anger, and mistrust against the forest department among most Lisu. Their biggest grievance is that the creation of the park and demarcation of the boundary in 1983 was carried out without any consultation with them, and there was no settlement of rights. Many insist that the area between Deban and Gandhigram is their area and that they had no idea when the national park was created. For instance, most Lisu believe that the biggest hurdle to building the arterial road (which they see as crucial to their development) has been the forest department — it was responsible for stopping road repair and maintenance in 2000. There is also resentment as they believe the forest department has portrayed the Lisu as “illegal settlers who have encroached the area of the reserve from across the international border of the country”.

The field staff strength in Namdapha is very low and they are not trained or motivated; given the poor accessibility, patrolling by the department is restricted to the fringe areas. There are merely 22 sanctioned posts of forest guards to manage and protect 1,985 sq km. Of these 22 posts, only 11 are filled. This effectively means one person per 180 sq km. In contrast, Kaziranga national park in Assam, a model of successful protection through enforcement, has 500 forest guards for 800 sq km (one guard per 1.6 sq km) on flat lowland terrain with numerous ranges, beats and forest camps. In Namdapha, there is a complete lack of basic facilities and of support from local police and administration. Most staff are outsiders; not a single Lisu is currently employed in the department. The headquarters in Miao is 10 km from the park boundary with a single range at Deban. Currently, no staff is posted at some of the accessible temporary camps. Even to patrol this relatively accessible area, the staff depends on boats to cross the river and rations have to be carried there. Often during the monsoon when the river is in spate, it is dangerous to use the boats and staff has been stranded on the other side for days with no food. In the absence of regular staff presence and patrolling, hunters often use these forest camps.

The crisis…

Consequently, the park is in a state of crisis. Researchers believe tigers have all but disappeared from the reserve, though information remains unverified. Hunting continues unabated and a resilient and enterprising community turned destitute and desperate by the creation of the park looks upon the ‘park’ (not the forest) with animosity. At present, there is a stalemate. The state is unable to increase the strength of the staff.

Even if the forest department does get additional resources, it will be handicapped without knowledge of the park. The immediate need to ensure wildlife conservation in Namdapha is protection from hunting, fishing and other kinds of disturbance.

…and its solution

Most Lisu today view the park as the biggest barrier to their aspirations and the root of all their problems. They are bearing all the costs of conservation. They have poor relations with the department, which sometimes result in retaliatory hunting, and this needs to be remedied through dialogue and better communication. However, if they can get tangible benefits, there could be a positive attitudinal change.

A solution to the agricultural land problem of the Lisu is also urgently required to stop the influx of Lisu families settling inside the park. A realistic relocation/resettlement plan has to be made in consultation with and the agreement of the Lisu. There is a need to find alternate employment options and opportunities for the Lisu, some of which (such as eco-tourism) could be tied to the national park. The Lisu community’s support for the park would go a long way in ensuring wildlife conservation as they can themselves work either directly as guards and informers (about hunting activity) in the forest department, or through support from other organisations. Once they have a stake in the area, there will be a much better understanding of the need for conservation there.

The Nature Conservation Foundation, which has been working in the area for several years, has already launched a plan on these lines. The plan, in principle, is simple and based on the logic the existing social and ecological set-up demands. It proposes a creation of a protection force for the reserve that is based upon the talent and knowledge of the community. This requires creation of a trained force of Lisu hired by the forest department and working in collaboration with the department to monitor the biodiversity as well as accord protection to the area. The Nature Conservation Foundation suggests a way to reduce the burden of hiring and maintaining such a force: investments can be made to bolster the tourism infrastructure, and the revenue from tourism can be shared with the community.

Eco-tourism is the most tangible benefit the Lisu can get out of the park; through eco-tourism, they can create a direct and positive affiliation with the park as well as a case for protection of wildlife. Tourist inflow into the park is right now relatively low. But the area is known to bird watchers around the world and needs to be marketed and projected as a unique destination. Most Indian tourists are from Assam and only visit Deban, which is seen more as a picnic spot. Infrastructure and other tourist facilities are, as yet, limited to Deban. Building the tourism system is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one; it is easily more viable than positioning more guards and infrastructure in that region. Moreover, the investments made in tourism will be of the nature of capital investments, leading to revenue generation for the cash-strapped department as well as sustainable livelihoods for the people. Such investments, in a climate of political volatility and rising unemployment, are the need of the hour: to invest in creating livelihoods rather than than in bringing in more administration, guards, arms, ammunition which encourage attendant alienation of the people.

The Task Force has received representations from the Nature Conservation Foundation. Its researchers have been engaging with Project Tiger officials as well, to see how the initiative, at present a private one, can be up-scaled into an official mascot for Project Tiger to experiment as an alternative.

This will require the following at the minimum:

  • A formal pact of reciprocity between the Lisu and the forest department with consensus being the binding element;
  • A clear delineation of rights, privileges and benefits for the people even before such a pact is prepared; A clear benchmarking of indicators to monitor the health of the habitat as well as the effectiveness of the Lisu protection force;
  • A collaborative effort between the state, the communities and interested research groups to spearhead the effort; clear demarcation of roles, and responsibilities between the stakeholders;
  • A definitive time frame to set forth this process and, thereafter, to review the effectiveness and look for mid-course corrections if necessary.

While all this is easily done on paper, at the field level it demands the best of staff and the most motivated of personnel. Therefore, both the people as well as the forest department need to be given adequate training in setting up an experiment that demands skills to manage the protection force as well as run it as a profit-making exercise.

But it clearly needs to be encouraged, because unless we experiment and innovate, how will we succeed?

The Journey is the Destination

My Reflection

This is a beautiful description by a traveler and in much details. Ten years from now this will be a treasure to look back at how our road was. We travel but we don’t record. Its all head knowledge.

Particularly impressed here is a traveler, a pure traveler. Very often we have “wild life spies” coming as tourist.

Source

By Sharbendu De (Indian Express, 21 April 2013).

The sky above us rumbled ominously when we woke up, but the downpour started much later. With its reputation of being one of the rainiest places in the Northeast, we were glad to get out of Namdapha National Park (NNP) and Tiger Reserve in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh dry that day. Armed with leech guards, flashlights, food, water purifiers and insect repellants, we were on a week-long trek to Gandhigram and Vijaynagar, Indian settlements on the Indo-Myanmar border. Away from the tourist map, on the eastern fringes of the park, the distance between Miao (the nearest town) and these settlements can be bridged through air sorties from Mohanbari in Dibrugarh (two per month for civilians and a long queue to boot) organised by the Army, or the recently started Pawan Hans weekly helicopter service. But we wanted to test our appetite for adventure with the 157-km trek along the Miao-Vijaynagar Road, that runs past some of the Lisu tribal settlements inside the park.

The NNP and Tiger Reserve is part of a 20,000 square kilometer contiguous forest that stretches from Arunachal into the Hukong Valley forest in north Myanmar. While Arunachal is known to be India’s richest biodiversity hotspot, NNP, spread over 1,985 sq km, is considered to be one of India’s largest national parks. It shares its boundaries with the Kamlang wildlife sanctuary in the north, the Miao reserve forest, the Nampong reserve forest, and Diyun reserve forest in the west and the Kachin Province in Myanmar to the south. The Lisu tribal settlement in Gandhigram is in the east. Listed among 12 biodiversity mega-spots in the world, NNP is known for its dramatic landscapes and a wide range of flora and fauna. It’s also home to four big cats: the tiger, leopard, clouded leopard and snow leopard. NNP’s freshwater lakes — Raja Jheel, Moti Jheel, Bulbulia, Manpong, Dipi, Ganja, Katboi — are also perfect spots to watch migratory birds.

Usually, travellers visiting Namdapha do a circuit-trek in the buffer zone of the park, in the hope of sighting the rather elusive tigers of the region, but it’s also permissible to trek through the buffer area of the park to reach outlying regions. We travelled to Miao last month from Tinsukia in Upper Assam, following the Stilwell Road, onto Jagun to enter Arunachal, and drove to M’Pen, the entry point to NNP. Our next port of call was the Forest Rest House in Deban, 25 km from Miao inside the buffer area of Namdapha National Park. It was late in the afternoon when we reached and David Yobin, our 49-year-old Lisu porter and guide, suggested we camp there for the night and start early the next morning, since evenings arrive early here.

By the time we set up camp, around 5 pm, darkness had shrouded the mountains. For a city-bred person, it’s impossible to imagine how deep and inscrutable darkness can be. And how silent. With our cellphone connectivity long gone, and barring the forest office’s wireless set that crackled with uneventful updates every hour, we seemed to have dropped off the world’s radar. As the evening progressed, the wind hurled dried leaves and twigs on to our shack, and the gurgling Noa Dihing river nearby lent the quiet night an acoustic theatricality.

In the morning, we awoke to the chirping of birds. After a breakfast of tea and Maggi, our four-member team set off along the MV Road, walking a mile before going downhill to a sandy embankment by the river. David informed us that the road ahead, locally known as the monkey trail, would be arduous. Soon we knew why. Rickety bamboo bridges spanned over the river at several places, our link to an undiscovered world. The bridges were a series of stilts placed vertically at intervals along the width of the river, with two poles thrown on top and tied with forest vines, made and maintained by the Lisus living in the forest. During monsoon, crossing the turbulent river becomes a nightmare, so the Lisus stock up on provisions in winter and early summer, walking for nearly a week to reach Miao.

For us, it was a nightmare even then. The acrobatics involved to cross the unstable bridges were enough to weaken even the strongest resolve. As we dithered, 18-year-old Apho, David’s nephew and our second porter-cum-cook, dashed across the first bridge, in a bid to show us how easy it could be. We braced ourselves and struggled on, eyes straight ahead on the bank, never looking down at the fall beneath. A couple of hours later, we had cautiously crossed four bridges, arriving at the first big stop for our morning meal — a camp with two straw huts, locally referred to as 19-mile.

After eight hours of trekking, we finally arrived at 27-mile stop, our camp for the night. Toll collectors awaited us. A Lisu family had set up base here to collect Rs 10 as fee per head per bridge from passersby. Payments done, we clasped our hot cups of tea and watched two frail-bodied Chakma tribals fish. After a while, I padded down to the river to dip my blistered feet in the ice-cold water. Apho (meaning first son in the Lisu dialect) was cooking dinner over a crackling fire, playing old English hits recorded on his phone, while David scrounged around for firewood. As dusk fell, and with it visibility, we huddled around the fire, eating our earthy meal of rice and dal, exchanging stories and listening to tales about the origin of the Lisu tribe. A solitary bird kept punctuating the night with its calls. David told us, it was a harbinger of spring. “At this time of the year, it calls for days. When we hear the bird, we know it’s time to start tilling the land,” he said.

It took us another three days to reach the 52-mile stop — David’s village Nibudi — named after the blue Patkai hills to the east. Here, we met several other boys named Apho. Apparently, every Lisu family names their first son Apho and their first daughter Anna. Liaso Yobin, their 90-year-old gram bura (village chief) came down to meet us one evening. Over cups of teeta cha (a local variant of black tea), he shared folk tales, stories of fighter planes and wreckages of World War II. The next few days were spent in playing volleyball with the Aphos and joining them for a swim. Nibudi became our destination and plans for Gandhigram were suspended. We ambled through forest tracks, spent hours by the riverbank watching the majestic ranges change colour and sat down with the village elders every evening for cha and gossip. At the end of our stay, on our way back to Miao, we pitched our tent at the confluence of the Namdapha river with Noah Dihing and sat by the bonfire one last time to savour the beauty of this untrammelled region before we returned to the chaos of our urban existence.

How to reach: By flight to Guwahati or Dibrugarh in Assam and then by car to Miao. Obtain Inner Line Permit from Arunachal Bhawan at Delhi, Kolkata or Guwahati before entering the state. Write to the Field Director, Namdapha National Park (Fax: 03807-222249/223131; fdnamdapha@gmail.com) for permits to enter the park.

Sharbendu De is a documentary photographer and travel writer

– See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-journey-is-the-destination/1105325/0#sthash.eEdePi6r.dpuf

Effort to relocate Lisus from Namdapha Tiger Reserve–Comment

This post links to Behind the Scenes for the Relocation Efforts in 2011 and Yobin/Lisu and Namdapha: news reviews of Sep and Oct 2011.

Comments

The news coverage of a meeting on 31 March 2010, made the way for ten of our representatives to write a memorandum, without getting consensus from our general public. Few observations:

  • Reading the news now, it seems the dignitaries like the Parliamentary Secretary, PCCF and others scared our people. The Parliamentary Secretary actually threatened our people.
  • Whoever has reported this news was very biased person. The reporter talked about the dates when the Namdapha National Park was declared, but did not mention a word that Lisu/Yobin were living at Nibodi (52 Miles) prior to 1978 and the village was evicted on 22 February 1979, which was nine months before the actual deadline (12 November 1979) set by the Circle Officer.

News Report at AP Times

Source: Effort to relocate Lisus from Namdapha Tiger Reserve (Arunachal Times, 31 March 2010)

ITANAGAR, Mar 31: Efforts to relocate the Lisus from Namdapha National Park (Tiger Project), Miao is on. The Lisus comprising of 84 families are reported to have encroached in the Core/Critical Wild Life habitat inside Namdapha Tiger Reserve at 5 locations.

On Mar 30, a meeting on Lisu relocation and rehabilitation from Namdapha National Park was convened at Miao which was attended by Parliamentary Secretary (Environment & Forests) Kumar Waii. He said that there is immense pressure from the centre to find an early solution to the rehabilitation of Lisu settlers from Namdapha.

He said that the proposal by Lisu leaders to recognize their settlements inside the Tiger Project by de-reserving the area is not feasible and urged them to accept the compensation package and move out from the Park.  He categorically stated that in near future if the Govt. decides to evict the settlers as they inhabit the critical wildlife habitat, it will be a great loss.

The Lisus have sought some time to arrive at an amicable solution.

Local Kamlung Mossang, ZPM Chairperson Junpo Jugli, PCCF (WL & BD) & Chief Wildlife Warden J.L.Singh along with officials from Wildlife and Local administration attended the meeting.

Namdapha was originally a Reserved Forest and was declared as Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972 under Assam Forest Regulation. It was declared a National Park in 1983. In the same year, it was declared a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger Scheme of the Government of India. An area of 177.425 sq. km. of Reserved Forest was added to the Tiger Reserve in 1986.  Namdapha National Park is the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and is recognized as one of the richest areas in biodiversity in India.

There are 41 tiger reserves in India which includes Namdapha and Pakhui in Arunachal, governed by Project Tiger. The landmark report, Status of the Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India, published by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, estimates only 1411 adult tigers in existence in India including the uncensused tigers in the Sundarbans.

Namdapha Management Plan: Lisu Socio-Economic Conditions

Comment:

After reading this section of the report, I was surprised what authentic information the Department of Environment and Forests have. A researcher (I wish I knew the name) did extensive reviews of government data and did field data collection in our villages in 2004.

The most notable point is about our population from the Census of India data from 1961 to 2001. His conclusion rubbished the hearsay and myths of the Field Director and Conservation NGOs (NCF?) that there is continuing migration from Myanmar. Good analysis. Who would migrate to a place where one has to walk four days to reach a nearest town?

Interesting quantitative for the 329 Lisu households in 2004:

  • 61 produced honey and totals to 683 liters.
  • 41 had solar power.
  • 75 had tin roofing.
  • 67% makes 1-2 trips a year to Miao, 14% 3 to 12 trips, 7% rarely went, 12% never been to Miao.
  • See more on mortality, land holding, rice production, cash income, literacy rate and so on.

You will also find detailed historical review of our interaction with the Namdapha.

Happy reading and do something.

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SOURCE: Management Plan: Namdapha National Park (A research project undertaken by Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India and Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre-WWF India). URL: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Namdapha%20Management%20Plan-08022012.pdf (accessed: 3 July 2013). Page 73 – 84, Annexure 3.

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Understanding Lisu the socio-economic conditions:(Source: Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Department of Environment and Forests Report)

Lisu population growth:

There is a widespread belief and rumors that Lisus are still migrating in from Myanmar. These reports by the FD and some conservation NGOs have been circulated in the media without proper on-ground verification. I analyzed available census data and used my socio-economic data collected in 2004 to examine this contention.

The Lisu population in the 1961 census was 78, increasing to 926 in the 1971 census. In 1981, some records only show five Lisu (Dutta Choudhury 1980); although Maitra (1993) reports 971, while his own household census was 1016. In 1991, the Lisu population totaled 1530 (Dutta Choudhury 1980, Choudhury 1996), while the 2001 census records 2106 in 376 households. However, my estimate from a household census of Lisu villages (including those in the park) in 2004 enumerates 2370. There was considerable migration from Myanmar between 1961 and 1971 (1.08 per year). Following this, the growth rate declined to an average of 0.03 per year calculated between 1971 and 1991 possibly due to the curtailment of immigration and high infant mortality rates. The growth rate has increased in the last ten years at 0.07 per year.

Lisus marry very young (often at 16, or lower) and the average number of children per family is 6. Arunachal’s growth rate is about 0.03 per year, while for India, it is 0.02 per year. Given lack of family planning and high reproductive rates, the average growth rate of 0.04 (1971-2005) among Lisus is not surprising. A more detailed demographic analysis of population structure, birth and death rates would provide a clearer understanding of the contention that Lisu numbers are increasing due to recent migration from Myanmar. Based on time spent in these villages, a socio-economic survey and cross-checking electoral rolls and other records, it appears that these rumours are baseless. They have been probably fuelled by the fact that Lisu hunters from Myanmar (and others too) do come into the area occasionally mainly to hunt and given the lack of communication it is easy for such rumours to spread. There is government administration, SIB, SB, Assam Rifles and the Air Force guarding these border areas. If migration was happening, the Government has to curtail it; the burden of proof should not be on existing Indian Lisus who are often suspected as encouraging this. Lisus say they already face land shortage, and would not support new Lisus coming into the area. In addition, this can be remedied by issuing ID cards to all Indian Lisus to check new infiltrations. Occasional migration from Myanmar is also prevalent in Changlang district by Tangsas and Singphos who also originally came from Myanmar.

In 1971, the Yobin formed 0.25% of the Scheduled Tribe population, now they form less than 0.002% of the total population. Yet there are continuing fears and rumours of Lisu population growth, influx and migration from Myanmar. Beyond the south-eastern boundary of the park (at 80 mile) are 13 villages with 673 households and a population of 5147 (2001 census) in Vijaynagar circle. There are four Lisu villages (Gandhigram, Sidikhu, Hazulu and Dawodi) with 385 households (2742 population), apart from 9 villages of Nepali ex-servicemen in 288 households with a population of 2405 who were settled here by the Assam Rifles after 1962. There are also other tribal and non-tribal Government staff and personnel of the Assam Rifles and the Indian Air Force.

Honey production and collection

61 of 329 Lisu households surveyed produced honey in home-made beehive boxes. Those who produced honey had an average of 2 beehive boxes in their households. 62 households were engaged in wild honey collection, 5 said they used to collect earlier. While 22 households were engaged both in production and collection, 36 households were engaged only in production, while 40 only collected from the wild. Honey was collected or produced mostly for household consumption and occasionally for sale to others. One litre of honey is priced at about Rs. 150. A total of about 683 litres of honey was reported as being collected by 43 of 62 households which amounts to an average of 16 litres.

Solar power and tin roofing

A total of 41 households of 329 reported (12.5%) having solar power. This was purchased at a subsidy from APEDA in 2004. 27% of households had tin roofing mostly purchased at a subsidy from Government departments. 75 households had full tin roofing, while 13 houses were partially roofed. The remaining 241 households used mainly cane (jeng patta) or more rarely tokko palm (Livistona jenkinsiana) leaves, but many households were in the process of trying to acquire tin roofing.

Access to nearest town for markets, health care, essential supplies.

Sixty-seven % of households had to make at 1-2 trips a year to Miao which takes about 3-7 days depending on the season to purchase essential commodities, or for health care. About 14% of households made between 3 to 12 trips a year to Miao, while 7% went very rarely once in 2 years. 12% of households said they had never been to Miao. The total road distance from Vijaynagar to Miao is 157 km, while from Gandhigram and Sidikhu it is 136 km. However, the actual walk is approximately 90-100 km as short cuts are taken along the river. The walk usually takes 3-4 days for most Lisu in the winter. Some supplies are available in Vijaynagar which is 21 km from Gandhigram.

Mortality

Eighteen % households reported 72 deaths over the last 2 years. Of the 72 deaths, 42 were of children (below 18 years). 48 deaths were of males and 21 of females. Exact cause of mortality was unknown in 42% of the deaths. 23 deaths were due to malaria and/or jaundice, 5 due to dysentery, 2 due to tuberculosis, and 1 each due to blood cancer and appendix. Three people died due to accidents (drowning, tree fall).

Agricultural land shortage

Of 48 households that had moved into the National Park, 42 % had less land or low production not enough to meet household rice requirements, while 19% of families had no agricultural land left in Gandhigram. For 14 households there appeared to be no damage to agricultural land in Gandhigram, yet they had moved in to the park probably fearing future land shortage or moving with their relatives and kin to a new area. The reasons for movement of 5 more families remain unclear.

What needs to be emphasized is that land shortage is not restricted to the families that have moved into the National Park. In a household survey in Gandhigram, 70% of households reported some land shortage (n = 254), either because of low production, less land to meet annual household needs, or direct loss to erosion, floods, sand deposition and landslides. Only 30% household reported no problem or damage.

Where to relocate the Lisu?

Changlang district has a population density of 20 per km2, however much of the district is hilly and forested. There has been high decadal growth of 31% in this district primarily due to high immigration and settlement of various tribal communities. The main tribes of the district are the Tangsa, Tutsa, Singpho and the Lisu, however, the Government since 1965 has settled various other communities in the district, primarily Chakmas (14,000), Lamas (about 150), Nepalis (2500) and Tibetan refugees (ca. 2000). Unfortunately, all these communities have been settled in the Miao and Vijaynagar circles within which the Namdapha National Park is located. In those days, population density was very low and the area was largely uninhabited and forested. The Tangsa and Singpho also originally migrated into India from Myanmar and consequently still have some ties of kinship, family, trade across the border. This has resulted in some level of immigration into the Jairampur, Miao and Kharsang circles. In addition, there are populations of tribes from other areas living here such as the Khampti, Nocte, Wancho, Adi and Nishi with increasing numbers over the last 5 years especially in the Miao township area. There is also a considerable non-tribal population mostly of Marwaris, Biharis, Assamese and Bengali residing in the townships that are engaged in private enterprises or work in government departments. There are also Army and paramilitary personnel whose presence has increased after the spurt in insurgency activities since 2002 by different factions of the NSCN and with the demand by the NSCN of including Changlang and adjoining Tirap districts as part of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim.

In Arunachal Pradesh, as in much of North-east India, there have been no cadastral surveys or demarcation on-ground of revenue land, villages are homogenous of one tribe, each tribe has land ownership claims to a traditionally designated area, therefore distinct and separate areas exist for each tribe. All community-owned forests fall under the category of Unclassed State forests (USF) and these are all traditionally occupied. Land is the most valuable resource for tribal communities here and flat land for agriculture is at a premium. The mainstay of most of these tribes is now settled wet rice cultivation and flat land available for this is limited. With the influx of other communities and increasing populations, there has been considerable encroachment into the Reserve forest areas around Miao with occupation by Singpho and Tangsa, this land could be located here. The district administration initially suggested looking for land in the Pritnagar (Lisu name: Badadi) area and ordered a survey to estimate land available here. However, there are already existing land disputes between the Lisu and Nepali here which have been long pending with no resolution by the administration. While the Lisus view this area as part of their area with 5 households cultivating here, about 4 Nepali households from nearby Mazgaon village are also cultivating land here. The Pritnagar area does not fall within areas originally allotted to the Nepali families when 195 families of ex-servicemen were given land pattas (deeds) for settlements. In any case, the land survey in October 2005 has already revealed that there is only about 30 ha (76 acres) of land suitable for cultivation here, most of which is already occupied by Lisu and Nepali families. The total area of the USF area in Vijaynagar circle is 637 km2, however flat land or valley area is restricted to 23 km2. Much of the area is above 1500 m, precluding even shifting cultivation. Almost all of this cultivable land area is occupied and there is land shortage resulting in food insecurity. Annual erosion by the Noa-dihing River results in further loss of existing agricultural land. The land requirement for the 83 Lisu families enumerated by the Forest Department survey means about 166 ha (2 ha per family) would be required to relocate the Lisu here, however a more realistic requirement maybe 250 ha.

In my view, this can only be obtained if the District Administration and the Forest Department carries out a survey to determine the willingness of Nepalis to move out of the area if given adequate cash compensation. There are 9 Nepali villages with an allotted land holding of 764 ha, therefore even if one or two villages could be convinced to move out; there would enough land to relocate the Lisu. Many Nepali families already have moved out and settled in the plains in Assam, the children of many families study in towns in Assam, most have at least 2-3 family members that are employed in the Assam Rifles, therefore they may be willing to resettle in the plains elsewhere with road connectivity and access to markets, health care and education. As most are employed in the Assam Rifles, they manage to avail of air sorties more than the Lisu and get other help. However, many Nepalis who have grown up in the area maybe reluctant to move out given their long association with the area and their relative economic prosperity in the area due to the large landholdings provided by the government. They also have voting rights, Panchayat representation and appointed village headmen and youth are involved in local politics. A survey and engagement with the Nepali community is necessary to determine their views. The Nepali families were settled in 1966 in 9 villages. There were originally 193 families with total allotted land being 1888 acres or 764 ha (an average of about 4 ha per family). Strangely while the allotted land area for Nepalis amounts to 764 ha, 1971 census data of land under wet rice cultivation for Nepali villages records only 120 acres (48.6 ha) as being cultivated. In the same year, 340 acres (137.6 ha) are shown as being under wet rice cultivation in the largest Lisu village of Gandhigram. According to a 1973 survey, 19 families deserted and sold land and left the area, over the years apparently others have also left the area. There population as enumerated in the 2001 census was 1658 in 300 households, while another estimate indicates 288 households with a population of 2405 (Arunachalam et al. 2004) but more recent estimates indicate a population of XXXX. There are increasing tensions and disputes with the Lisu nowadays. Some of the youth are also demanding the status of a Scheduled Tribe.

Nepalis were settled in some of their old settlements in the 1960s, their citizenship and ST status was taken away in 1979, then the national park boundary was demarcated 5 miles from their village, road access and building was stopped partly because of the national park. What options will such a marginalized people have and of what relevance is conservation to them? It is no wonder that they are antagonistic to the park. It is ironic that it is the Government that encouraged the Lisu to take up wet rice cultivation in the valley and provide farming implements. This transformed them from their earlier hunter-gatherers lifestyle with some dependence on shifting cultivation. Now they are completely dependent on wet rice cultivation.

The first-ever meeting between the Lisus, local park authorities, officials of the Arunachal Pradesh State Forest Department, Project Tiger Director and the District administration to discuss the encroachment issue and possible options for finding land and relocation took place on January 20, 2006. The consensus that was arrived at was that land had to be identified in the Vijaynagar circle possibly by determining the willingness of Nepalis to move elsewhere. In this regard, the DC suggested that the Project Tiger authorities would then have to provide a double cash compensation package to both communities. The Project Tiger Director reiterated to the Lisu that there would be no forced relocation and that any land identified would first be shown to them. The Lisus had earlier stated their land shortage problems and demanded that either the park boundary had to be moved back to 40 mile or land had to be identified and given in Vijaynagar by resettling Nepalis elsewhere. The Project Tiger Director categorically ruled out the possibility of denotification of part of the park area citing stringent wildlife laws and requested the Lisu to take the option of a relocation package. He stated that under the present scheme, all families willing to resettle would be provided 2 ha of land, at least 1 lakh cash compensation, and other facilities. He also indicated that activities for welfare of Lisu villagers in the buffer zone outside the park would be initiated and that he would arrange for visits by the Lisu to better managed tiger reserves in India to understand how local people can benefit economically through tourism-related income from the park. He also agreed to the need for a road but reiterated that it should be for limited use mainly for the people of the area and by park management and would be under the control of the Forest Department. He agreed to the double compensation package suggested by the DC but also requested the District Administration not to rule out options for locating land towards the western side near Miao. He urged the committee appointed to identify land to become more active in finding a solution quickly.

Another possible solution is rationalization of the park boundary. Although this will seem detrimental to wildlife conservation and be anathema to conservationists, it is more prudent to save and be able to protect a smaller area of the park properly than have a large area that is vulnerable to ever-increasing encroachments. Parts of it are already becoming degraded all along in patches due to the scattered settlements inside. The park’s area is 1985 km2, with contiguous large tracts of forest (several adjoining PAs) on all sides including across the border in Myanmar. It will not be such a great loss to conservation if 2-5 km2 is sacrificed for the genuine land needs of a people hemmed in by high mountains and the international boundary on three sides, the national park on one side and confined to a stretch of 11 km. Given the problems of locating land on the western side and possibly even on the eastern side as it requires willingness of the Nepalis to resettle elsewhere and compensation to be paid to them, it may be more pragmatic to do this rather than procrastinate for several more years. The families in the park have already been there for about 8-10 years now and the longer it takes to find land to resettle them, the greater the reluctance and more difficult to implement this. If the boundary is rationalized, there can be safeguards against further encroachment which would of course need to be properly implemented by enforcement agencies.

Landholdings of individual families

We measured the agricultural landholdings of 16 households; the average landholding was 1.51 ha ranging from 0.19 ha to 4.5 ha. Seven families had less than 1 ha of land, while seven had about 2 to 2.5 ha. Interestingly, two families that had over 2 ha of land and the one family with 4.5 ha had left Gandhigram and moved into the National Park in the settlement at 38 mile. One family that had only 0.4 ha of land had returned back to Gandhigram from 52 mile despite lack of land as all his children had died due to malaria in 52 mile. In 2005, we measured the entire area available for rice cultivation in Gandhigram village. The total area currently available is 311 ha in the valley which amounts to about 1.35 ha per family in Gandhigram. Based on our mapping, the total estimated valley land for cultivation and settlements for Lisus amounts to 375 ha. In contrast, the agricultural landholdings of Nepalis amount to 764 ha with an average landholding of 3.96 ha. Nepali families reportedly have excess rice production often up to 800 tins per household. Excess rice is sold or made into liquor.

The 65 Lisu families in the park are now cultivating an estimated area of 86 ha with an average landholding of 1.32 ha. In addition, 10-15 km2 of the park area adjoining these settlements are partially affected by fuelwood extraction, felling of poles and timber clearing.

Impact zone of various communities on the Namdapha National Park

Currently 12% of the Lisu population is settled inside the park in 3 settlements, while 62% are settled in two villages that are less than 5 km from the eastern boundary of the park. The entire Nepali population is settled in 9 villages that are > 10 km from the eastern park boundary. The Chakma population numbering about 2500 is < 5 km from the western boundary of the park. The Mishmi and Lama are settled in one small village each < 5 km towards the west of the park. Only the Lisu and some Nepali traverse the park on their way to Miao and back to access various facilities. Others who access the park are Chakmas, Lamas, some Singpho and non-tribals as porters to carry ration supplies to Vijaynagar. This is done mainly in the winter months (November to February). However, this has been mostly stopped since last year and supplies are now being carried mostly by elephants. Chakmas and a few Mishmis enter the park to collect fuelwood and NTFP, and for fishing and hunting but this impact is restricted to areas up to Firmbase.

Rice production

We estimated Lisu rice production based on an estimate of rice yield per landholding. We calculated this based on the number of tins of rice produced from a sample of landholdings of households. Lisus measure rice production from the number of tins of rice produced. Rice is nowadays dehusked in machine mills that several households possess, while some amount is dehusked using traditional water mills. One tin of grain converts to approximately 6.5 kg of dehusked rice. The total rice production by all Lisu households amounts to 535,000 kg with an average of 150 tins per household. An average Lisu household consumes about 5 kg of rice per day, therefore annual requirement of rice amounts to 600,000 kg resulting in an overall shortfall. This shortfall is met by either purchasing subsidized rice from the Government Public Distribution System (PDS) store Supplies are brought in on foot from Miao and transported to the Vijaynagar civil supplies store. Almost all households have ration cards. More often families meet the shortfall by purchasing rice from other Lisu households with excess rice or by taking from relatives and kin. In times of severe shortage and no alternatives, people resort to eating flour made from pith of tubers, palms and ferns. Lisus plant their rice fields in May-June and harvest the crop in October-November. Usually the shortfall of rice occurs after August, before the next crop is ready for harvest. Therefore some families have shortage of rice for 2-3 months between August and October.

Shifting cultivation

While slash and burn agriculture used to be the mainstay of the Lisu earlier, currently they are moving away from practicing shifting cultivation mainly because of the high amounts of time, energy and effort required often with meager returns. Crops are often damaged by insect attack, unseasonal rains and other factors. The younger generation is also veering away from this practice. Although almost all households have designated jhum land which is kept as an asset for the future, 66% of households have stopped jhumming, while 32% still practice some jhum mainly for maize and vegetable crops and 2% reported practicing jhum a few years earlier.

Cash income of households

Two hundred households reported cash incomes of less than Rs. 5,000 per year, while 10 reported no cash income. Ten households did not report their income. 65 households reported cash incomes between Rs. 5000-10,000 a year, while 37 reported cash incomes between Rs. 12000-60,000 a year. Three households had incomes greater than Rs. 1 lakh. The average income per household (n = 315) was about Rs. 7245 per year (Rs. 605 per month). However, it is likely that incomes were not accurately reported; therefore not much confidence can be placed on these numbers.

Home gardens, bamboo groves

Eighty-three percent of households (n = 278) had planted bamboo groves around their homesteads for household consumption, while 48 households had no planted bamboo. Data on bamboo groves were not recorded for 50 households.

Literacy rates and formal education

Lisu literacy rate is 42% with 48% literacy among males and 36% among females. There was very low literacy among Lisus with only 30% of adult males being literate. Adult female literacy was only 12%. While 10% of adult males had at least studied in school (maximum of Class 7), about 15% had studied between Class 7 to 10. Only 10 males had studied up to Class 12, while 11 had done BA or MA. Overall, among children currently, the school going rate appears to be high with 73 % children between the ages of 3 to 17 years now going to school. In the age group of 3-5 years, 56% go to school, while between 6-11 years, 85% go to school and in the 11-17 year age group about 76% go to school. Interestingly, the literacy rates of the Lisu appear to have been the highest among all tribes in 1971t appears that there has been little progress in achieving higher literacy among the Lisu because in 1971, literacy rates were 28%.

Health care facilities

There is no Government facility. Till 2004, villagers used to get some medical help from Assam Rifles stationed at Gandhigram and Vijayanagar. For proper treatment they had to go to Miao on foot, very rarely people would take the infrequent and expensive air sortie from Vijaynagar to Dibrugarh. Many ailments are treated by traditional medicines. In Vijaynagar, there is supposed to be a primary health care centre but there is only a compounder with a meager supply of medicines. In 2004, the Assam Rifles camp in Gandhigram was discontinued. Since 2004, the villagers get medicines regularly through NCF, provided by NCF health worker Khiyohey Yobin, who is from Gandhigram village. No deaths were recorded in this village in the last one year.

Namdapha Management Plan: Proposal for Buffer Zone

 

Comments

This notification dated on 20 August 2009 by Field Director of NNP, stated a series of meetings that took place. Several villages in Miao and Nampong areas unanimously agreed for the NNP boundary. We did not agree. How can we agree? See the facts:

  • We lived in the park prior to its declaration. No other tribes around lived that way.
  • Our shortage of land is too acute. The authorities took the land upto to 80th Mile, which physical 7 miles along the road from Shidi. The terrain is fully hills; no way we’ll have cultivation. Those in Miao and Nampong have at least plain lands and have sufficient.

Buffer Zone Notification Memo

SOURCE: Management Plan: Namdapha National Park (A research project undertaken by Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India and Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre-WWF India). URL: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Namdapha%20Management%20Plan-08022012.pdf (accessed: 3 July 2013). Page 52.

04 Namdapha Buffer Zone

Namdapha Management Plan: Threats to Namdapha National Park

 

Few thoughts as I read this section:

  • “There are two Lisu (originally belong to Myanmar) settlements in the core zone of the park, damaging the virgin forest.” My problem is with the parenthesis. Why would they want to say that? I will have bigger problem if they imply that those two villages [Nibodi and Ngwazakha] are Burmese citizens.
  • “Hunting, illegal fishing and trapping of wild fauna like tiger, barking deer, leaf deer, sambhar, wild boar, bear, wildcat and a variety of birds by local inhabitants (Lisu, Chakma and Mishmi)”. Yes possible. But why keep blaming when authorities do nothing? Wildlife authorities normally do not come beyond Deban. Moreover, they do not have a forest camp in Shidi anymore. They had in the 1980s.
  • “Thus, it is evident that the buffer-zone concept failed with respect to Namdapha National Park”. Yes it is good. How would a tribe survive within 6 to 7 km – between 80 Miles to Chidudi (Ramnagar)?

Read more about this below and whole report if you like, given in the link.

 

Threats to Namdapha National Park

SOURCE: Management Plan: Namdapha National Park (A research project undertaken by Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India and Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre-WWF India). URL: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Namdapha%20Management%20Plan-08022012.pdf (accessed: 3 July 2013). Page 30 – 32.

The existing threats to the National Park can be briefly summarised as follows:

(i) Human influx – In recent years, human migration caused by population increase has posed increasing threats to the biodiversity of forest zones all over the world (McCool and Kruger, 2003). Although Namdapha is in a remote corner of the country, it could not escape from human interference (Arunachalam, et al., 2003). As has been mentioned earlier several ethnic human communities have been living in and around the park and are fully dependant on the resources of the national park for their day to day life. Besides the side-line settlements mentioned above, there are two unauthorized settlements in the core zone with 43 households and a population of 280 (Arunachalam et al., 2004).
The Chakmas, originally belong to the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, have settled down in different parts of the State as refugees (mainly in Changlang and Lohit districts) during 1964-65 (SAHRDC, 2001). Prior to the declaration of Namdapha as a national park and tiger reserve, the Chakmas were living in Haldibari, Zero camp and Farmbase (present buffer zone). After declaration as a national park in 1983, they were resettled outside the park boundary in the adjacent Anchal reserve forests. However they continue to use the park resources for their livelihood. Similarly there are other migrant communities dependent upon the forest resources. There are two Lisu (originally belong to Myanmar) settlements in the core zone of the park, damaging the virgin forest. About 170 ha of forest land (in the core zone) has already been cleared within the last few years for agriculture (excluding jhum) and settlement. Further, there is illegal felling of trees and collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) (Arunachalam et al., 2004).

(ii) Extraction of forest products – People depend on the park for timber, bamboo, roofing materials, medicinal plants and other NTFPs (Adhikari and Arunachalam, 2003; Sarmah et al., 2003; Sarmah et al., 2004). Happy Valley, Haldibari and M.V. road side areas (in the buffer zone) have been identified as extraction zones in the park. It is estimated that about 975 tonnes of bamboos and posts, and 45.5 tonnes of wild vegetables and medicinal plants are harvested annually in the villages in and around the national park. This can be attributed to demographic pressure and easy accessibility to the forest as well as to the local market demand. Fuel-wood is the major source of energy in these areas, as no alternative energy sources like electricity and cooking gas are available. The consumption of firewood is higher during winter in comparison to summer for processing of agricultural products for their value-addition. Also, more firewood is required for warmth during winter season. Illegal felling and trafficking of trees have been noticed several times inside the park area although Supreme Court banned such activities in the North-eastern states since December 1996 (Arunachalam et al., 2004). Extraction of these forest resources in such unsustainable manner, will ultimately affect the overall biodiversity of the park, in the long run

(iii) Hunting and poaching – Hunting, illegal fishing and trapping of wild fauna like tiger, barking deer, leaf deer, sambhar, wild boar, bear, wildcat and a variety of birds by local inhabitants (Lisu, Chakma and Mishmi) for bush meat and hide, is a severe concern for the management of Namdapha (Arunachalam et al., 2004). Habitat destruction poses further threat to wildlife (Lau and Shi, 2000).Although the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 was extended to Arunachal Pradesh in May 1973, and prohibits picking, poaching and hunting of wild animals and plants, its enforcement is not to be of much use in this area (Arunachalam et al., 2004). The great Indian hornbill (Buceros bicornis), the State bird of Arunachal Pradesh, has played an important role in the traditional lifestyle and dressing habits of many tribes in the state. The tribal people use the beak of the bird as a headgear to be worn as a traditional knot on the forehead. Thus, the world’s most colourful bird is heading towards extinction in the north-eastern states of India. Moreover, there are ample game hunters around Namdapha who frequently hunt birds for fun and food. The Apatani tribe residing in higher elevations (Ziro) of Arunachal Pradesh now use artificial beaks of the hornbill, as reiterated by the WWF-India (World Wide Fund for Nature – India) in the state (Arunachalam et al., 2004).

(iv) Buffer zone – The buffer zone concept of Namdapha nature reserve is somewhat different from the IUCN (International Union of Conservation) concept. The buffer area (177 sq km) is confined only to the north-west corner of the park. This area had human settlements earlier (Haldibari, Farmbase and Zero camp) and was later added to the park in 1986. Currently, in the buffer zone (demarcated by forest authorities), there is no human settlement, but the resettled communities frequently visit the zone for various forest produces. The south-eastern periphery of the park was earlier considered as a core area and human interference was supposed to be negligible there. However, decadal increase of human population in the fringes of this reserve has compelled people to encroach the park area. Further, immigration from neighbouring Myanmar is also adding to demographic pressure over the natural resources in the park. Consequently this is disturbing the pristine forest vegetation and the resident wild fauna in the protected area. Thus, it is evident that the buffer-zone concept failed with respect to Namdapha National Park (Arunachalam et al., 2004).

Namdapha Management Plan: Demography

Several indigenous tribes and other communities reside in and around the park such as the Lisu, Miju Mishmi, Lama and Chakma communities (Deb and Sundriyal, 2007; Datta et al., 2008). The Chakma and Miju Mishmi enter the park for fuel-wood, nontimber forest produce collection (Arunachalam et al., 2004), hunting and fishing. While their impact is restricted to the western portion of the park, it is members of the Lisu tribe that reside along the eastern fringe of the park who access the interior and remote areas. A population of 3988 (Census of India, 2001) reside beyond the south-eastern park boundary in four villages of the Lisu tribe and nine villages of the Nepali community. Although some Lisu households existed within the park earlier, more Lisu families have migrated into the park since 1997, as their populations have grown and owing to a serious decline in cultivable land due to erosion by the river Noa-Dihing. Currently 65 such families reside in the park and practice settled rice cultivation in the river valley (Datta et al., 2008).

MY COMMENTS:

  • Why are only Lisu, Miju Mishmi, Lama and Chakma mentioned as living around the Park? What about other tribes like Singpho and Tangsa? It is even strange that Lama is even listed. They don’t come close; they live within fixed boundary away from the park.
  • Report rightly mentioned Lisu lived in the park earlier. It should be rather stated “before the park was declared”. And it was not more people have migrated but the sons and daughters of those who lived there in the 70s have increased.
  • Good counting of 65 families within the park. I wouldn’t have known the exact figures if not of this research and Aparajita’s.

SOURCE: Management Plan: Namdapha National Park (A research project undertaken by Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India and Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre-WWF India). URL: http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/Namdapha%20Management%20Plan-08022012.pdf (accessed: 3 July 2013). Page 22-23.

Influencers on Yobin Society: Aparajita Datta

Aparajita Datta (Photo: Topnews.ae).

As we all know, in our villages all know her by the name “Loghina” (loghi is a variety of deer and na is the Lisu way of indicating the first born daughter). I have never met this great lady but her reputation goes much ahead of her.

Recently I have been thinking how to describe her. She is a mobilizer, a social worker, a scientist, an adventurer and a leader. Then I read her bio in the National Geographic and I thought they captured her well, “… persistent requests for government attention, Datta is uniquely poised to connect political, conservation, and local interests.”

HER CONTRIBUTIONS FOR LISU

Among all the researchers who have come to Lisu area, none have influenced us as much as she did. Look at what she and her team did among the Lisu/Yobin:

  • In partnership with Katha Schools, she started four schools in Ngwazakha, Hazolo, Shidi and Shidiku since 2005. One of my sisters studied in their school and she is doing well in her studies.
  • Flood control in Shidi. Noa-Dihing River destroys our paddy field. She and her team built control by putting stones and boulders inside metal wrap locally called “Jhali”.
  • Medicines at Shidi. Essential medicines were dispensed until recently. That helped many sick people.  For one round, she organized medical camps in many of our villages.
  • Solar lamps, water heaters for Hazolo villagers were provided in collaboration with Madam Nandita Hazarika of EcoSystems-India, based in Guwahati.
  • She wrote a lot on her research. Through her writings, our problems and needs are projected to the world.

I am very glad she recently received “Green Oscar” award for her initiatives to preserve the hornbill.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

She used emotions to get her way. When people don’t agree with her, she cried. What can you do? Sometimes she gets extremely angry and walked away, leaving the people behind confused.

I’m often surprised in her statements about us, hunters or to her Lisu workers “ex-hunters”. Its strange to brand the whole tribe as “hunting tribe”.

She never disclosed she is working for the Namdapha National Park and a member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India. That became apparent to all Lisu only in 2010 when she represented the Tiger Project at Miao. People in the villages without internet access blindly believed. Because of this, I wonder whether our people will accept her as we did in the past.

She had also formed a group of Lisu men, several years ago, to help her distribute financial assistance to the Lisu students studying in and around Miao. She had also proposed to financially help Lisu business aspirants.  Both these promises are yet to be realized. But we hope she will fulfill them as well.

FINAL COMMENT

But whatever the reasons, she is a remarkable woman. She benefitted the Namdapha, the Lisu/Yobin, her organization “Nature Conservation Foundation”. For Namdapha she had provided information, to us she has done several humanitarian projects, and to her organization, she developed many scientists and a name.

Read more:  her writings, profile, Nature Conservation Foundation.

 

Strategies of Namdapha People

The Expert Committee reported to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) with the following recommendations:

  • To recruit our people as protection force.
  • Forest camps in every 10 km, posted by Lisu. Potentially more from Nibodi.
  • Forest Department to change the habit of blaming the Lisu.

Brilliant suggestions. If these are implemented we will have to be careful. They have these provisions coming up but there is no solution for our settlement.

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Read below the full report:  Special force pill for Namdapha – Evaluation experts suggest involving Lisus to prevent poaching, by Roopak Goswami (The Telegraph, 6 December 2010, accessed on 27 June 2013).

 

Namdapha tiger reserve. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Dec. 5: A rapid field evaluation on Namdapha tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, conducted by experts, has suggested to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) the need to have a separate protection force by members of the Lisu tribe, who have excellent knowledge of the terrain to help in detection of poachers from Myanmar.

The conservation authority has categorised Namdapha as a poor tiger reserve and had asked experts to carry out a rapid appraisal.

The expert committee report, which was recently submitted to NTCA, said there could even be an agreement with the Lisu community that they would take an active role in preventing hunting and other disturbances.

“There can be forest camps every 10km with regular staff posted along with members of the Lisu community,” the report said.

The team opined that Namdapha tiger reserve is of immense value from biodiversity point of view as it also shelters tiger and other key animals. Illegal hunting is a serious threat to wildlife in the park, and is prevalent among all tribal groups.

The report said poaching was likely to be among the primary factors resulting in the current decline in Namdapha, which is located along the international border with Myanmar and close to hotspots of trade in animal body parts.

“In Myanmar, there is a documented decline of tigers because of hunting for trade. Hunting of tigers is a significant threat to the persistence or recovery of tigers and other large carnivores in Namdapha,” it said.

There are 84 families staying in eight villages in the core area of the tiger reserve. It says contingency staff for protection squad should be hired from local communities, rules on educational qualifications should be relaxed as this often hampers the selection of the right people for forest patrolling duties. The best people for this work are often uneducated, but skilled in the jungle.

Not only in regard to recruiting local people, the committee has also called for a change in attitude of the forest department as there has been a long history of blaming the Lisu with poor efforts at understanding their problems or dialogue.

The committee feels this mindset needs to change to move forward positively to solve the park’s problems.

The biggest problem is in relocation of Lisus outside the park as the leaders of the community have indicated that they were not willing to settle for the Rs 10 lakh compensation and would want adequate land to be notified and demarcated for them in lieu of the occupied land in the park.

Settlements inside the park came up since 1997-98.

“All these problems have also been exacerbated by the remoteness of the area with no road connection, poor communication and infrastructure, low staff strength and motivation, poor official interest in the park with very limited action/management on ground. These also results in further deterioration of morale and functioning of the lower field staff,” the report said.