Just last week, a friend sent a photograph on social media of the picturesque hills he was passing through. Another friend, seeing the swathes of barren land dotting the landscape, had a different take. He commented, “Saddened at the amount of deforestation.”
The discussion had me pondering, on the oft heard development and livelihood versus ecological conservation debate.
On the same note, an officer in the Indian Forest Service (IFS) during a media workshop on Climate Change in Kohima regretfully remarked that conservation efforts always take a backseat whenever it is pitched against development.
Case in point – in September this year, there was a tussle between the Forest Department and the Geology and Mining Department over right to levy tax (royalty) on ‘minor minerals’ (sand and gravel). The State Government ruled in favour of the Geology and Mining department and with that, the little restrictions imposed by the Forest Department, to prevent random and excess exploitation of resources was tossed out the window, according to the IFS officer.
Herein lies the crux of the issue – The Nagaland State Action Plan on Climate Change (NSAPCC) in 2012 citing a study of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore revealed that temperature trends in Nagaland have shown a steady warming trend in both the minimum and maximum temperature. The study further projects that the state in the mid century (2020-2050) will experience an increase in annual average temperature between 1.6 and 1.8 degree Celsius.
This should have served as a wake-up call 5 years ago.
Weather experts/climate scientists term fluctuating weather conditions as an indicator of the impact of global warming and climate change. Without going into the science or the factors responsible, the erratic or unstable weather behaviour (unseasonal rains, warmer winters) locally observed and experienced over the past decade is palpable enough. A sign of climate change or a one-off phenomenon, still, the hills are getting warmer while the plains below are getting hotter.
Studies have shown that changes in temperature and precipitation will have serious and far reaching consequences on climate-dependent sectors such as agriculture, water resources and health. Agriculture, which is by far the most important source of livelihood for rural communities, is strongly linked to both temperature and availability of water.
Projected temperature changes coupled with the hilly terrain and the large variability in climate within the state would also likely impact crop yields.
This calls for every stakeholder to do their part to try and mitigate the causes and effects of climate change.
In the case of Nagaland, where only 11.8% of the forest is owned by the state government because of the unique land holding laws, individuals, village councils and civil societies have the added responsibility to ensure that the livelihood and the developmental path the society chooses are sustainable and “climate smart”.
(The Writer is an Assistant Editor at The Morung Express. Send in your climate smart ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org)