The best system of governance entails a seamless collaboration between governments and the communities they govern, with trust being reposed on either side. One can cite numerous examples of how such an alliance results in better governance outcomes.
In Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district, one can witness this form of partnership between the members of the Bugun tribal community from Singchung village and the local Forest Department. Together, they make up the Singchung Bugun Village Community Reserve Management Committee (SBVCR).
The alliance was formalised in January 2017, and earlier this week, this community reserve was awarded the India Biodiversity Award in the “Conservation of Wildlife Species” category for its effort to conserve the critically endangered bird—Bugun liocichla.
To the uninitiated, the award is conferred by the National Biodiversity Association, and this year it was presented by the Union environment ministry and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The community reserve, considered a biodiversity hotspot, covers an area of 17 square kilometres, and is adjacent to the to the Eaglesnest Wildlife Sanctuary (EWS).
“The ten staff members (village boys) of the SBVCR [take turns and] patrol the area every day and have already prevented several instances of illegal road building and boulder extraction in the habitat of the Bugun Liocichla,” Millo Tasser, divisional forest officer of EWS, told The Telegraph.
These boys were reportedly trained by the Special Task Force of the Tamil Nadu police, and the initiative has given many local youths a shot at gainful employment via this government-community collaboration.
“The Reserve was instituted under a clause of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 that enables any state government to declare a community-owned forest area as a ‘community reserve’ if the locals are willing to participate in conservation efforts for the same,” reports The Indian Express.
These community reserves are afforded the same legal protection as National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, according to Tasser, who also spoke to The Indian Express.
Coming back to the Bugun Liocichla bird species, experts contend that the small bird has not been spotted anywhere except the reserve and the nearby EWS. It was first identified in 1996, by Dr Ramana Athreya, a birdwatcher and astronomer with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.
It was, however, formally identified as a new species of bird in 2006, making it the first such discovery in India since Independence. Conservation efforts by the Buguns in Arunachal have led to the small babbler-like bird being named after the tribe.
The SBVCR not only works towards protecting the environment but also provides jobs to the local youth, by employing them as drivers, wildlife guides, cooks and field experts in their eco-tourism initiative. Every household in the village has one member working in these services, reports TIE.
With the twin aim of protecting the environment and offering job opportunities, this collaborative effort in Arunachal Pradesh is seemingly bearing foot.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)