Meghalaya is a state with almost 70 per cent of geographical area under forest cover but what is not taken into account is how 40 per cent of this forest cover has degraded into open forests and shrubs. There are many reasons for the widespread land degradation which are tied to key environmental issues which need immediate addressal.
Deforestation, mining and shifting agriculture (jhuming) have been hugely responsible for many of the environmental concerns of the state. This is where the role of CLLMP comes in as the project tries to find solutions through various interventions.
Types of Degradation
Deforestation is one of the environmental concerns in the state. Unregulated and unchecked logging has rid the state of much of its forest cover.
One of the key issues is the absence of clear resource use policies. There is lack of clarity on ownership rights of resources which only adds to the problem along with an unclear land use policy. This issue is extremely contentious and with much of the land owned by private individuals, traditional bodies and clans, it is difficult to check widespread deforestation. It should be noted that forest-rich states are usually forest- dependent states with a big chunk of the rural population dependent on forest resources, it is important to find the correct line to draw to determine how conservation efforts can benefit both sides.
Mining as a hot topic has come to the forefront, especially since the NGT ban on rat- hole mining since 2014. Meghalaya is coal rich and has an estimated 599 million tonnes of coal reserves.
Indiscriminate and unchecked mining has caused widespread degradation of land which has not only affected the soil but also the acid drainage into water bodies is a matter of huge cause of concern. Rat-hole mining not only causes damage to the environment but also poses a threat to human lives which include multiple health hazards.
Shifting cultivation, commonly known as Jhuming is practiced in many parts of Meghalaya.
The jhum cycle used to be longer than 15 years in order to enable regeneration of forests before the same land was cultivated again, but at the rate it is being practiced, mainly due to increase in population, the land does not get time to recover. It results in soil erosion, degradation and low productivity of land while also killing essential micro- organisms.
At the backdrop of large scale land degradation in various parts of the state, a key factor during the initial phase of CLLMP is creating awareness. This is crucial and this creates the foundation for the implementation of the project.