EB-Project Nature, based at Soi Village of Basar, the HQ of Lepa Rada District of Arunachal Pradesh state, is a composite project on nature conservation involving spring-shed recharge, forest and bio-diversity conservation, wildlife protection and eco-tourism. The project activities include rainwater harvesting, forest regeneration and enrichment with native plants emphasizing on economic and fruit bearing, rare, endangered and threatened species and native orchids, wildlife protection and creation of nature trails.
The project was basically conceptualized in the year 2008-09 as a river and spring rejuvenation project considering rapid drying up of spring-shed areas leading to reduction in volume of three (3) numbers of rivers namely Kidi, Hie and Bam Hile and its tributaries in Basar. The cause of drying was found out to be shifting cultivation activities in many spring-sheds of the area which were critical for irrigation and potable water supply and hence drying process considered as long term threat to food and water security for the area. Spring rejuvenation through artificial recharge by means of harvesting rainwater was identified to solve the problem and a pilot project started in year 2011 at Soi, a village of small population of 357 individuals. The village was most vulnerable, reeling under acute shortage of potable water, especially during winter months as spring known as ‘Bolen’ ; the only source of water used to dry up. The water scarcity also led to abandonment of wetland paddy cultivation in the village. Hence, the aim of the pilot project was to develop a viable model of spring rejuvenation to be replicated in other villages of the area.
It was soon realized that simply digging recharge pits would not solve the problem permanently if protection of forest at spring-shed is not ensured. In the traditional land tenure system of Galo tribe of the state , individual or clan owns the forest land and use it for shifting cultivation from time to time. Hence the model needed inclusion of value-addition to the natural forest so that it gives back more return to the owners in lieu of shifting cultivation. The project focused on enhancing value of the forest with introduction of more number of wild native fruit bearing and economic plants with multiple objectives of conserving rare and endangered local plants securing food for wild life besides economic considerations. Simultaneously, introduction of native orchid species was added in the project activities to beautify the spring-shed forest for eco-tourism with additional objectives of conserving native orchids.
The project achieved its target of spring-shed rejuvenation in year 2017. Now the village gets potable water for drinking as well as irrigation water to revive abandoned paddy fields. At the same time 27 hectares of natural forest has been restored at the spring-shed area enriched with 24 species of native fruit bearing and other economic plants which is expected to yield additional returns for the people on maturity. The project has also established an orchid park in spring-shed forest and an orchidarium in nursery farm where 67 species of native orchids is conserved. Overall above 100 hectares of forests is protected under the project at different locations including some sacred grooves. The spring-shed forests has become home to wildlife like Barking Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Asiatic Wild dog, wild boars, Porcupines, Civets, Martens, Squirrels, etc besides native birds like crested serpent eagle, paradise fly catchers, Khalij peasants, wild fowls, wood peckers and many others including seasonal visitors like Mountain Imperial Pigeons and Hornbills. Since 2019, the project site is opened for eco-tourism by becoming a part of Basar Confluence, a calendar festival of Tourism Department, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, organised by the apex community body called GRK (Gumin Rwgo Kwlaju).
The project model is now being scaled up in other villages of Basar by GRK. Government of Arunachal Pradesh has also announced special budget for rejuvenation of drying springs across the state based on the success model of the project. The task force on Jal Jeevan Mission, Government of India has also appreciated the project as one of the best practices.
The founder of this project is Shri Egam Basar who hails from neighboring Gori Village of Basar ; hence the name EB-Project Nature. The project does not depend on any government or external source of funding, solely looked after by the founder. His relatives, colleague officers and friends offer voluntary service in terms of advice and physical works from time to time, forming EB-Project Nature Team.
Impact of the project:
On awareness on water conservation among communities
After about a decade of activities, the small project becomes a successful model for integrated conservation of nature being first of its kind in Arunachal Pradesh. It not only solved water scarcity problem of Soi village by rejuvenating a drying spring but also inspired other villages of the area to take up water conservation activities. The prominent NGO of the area known as GRK is making awareness of the successful model this project in 34 villages of the area and scaling up. NGOs and communities from other districts of the state also visit the project sites to educate themselves on water and bio-diversity conservation. The project was invited to Ledum Butterfly and Bio-diversity Meet-2019, East Siang District organized by Adi community of the state to share its experience on nature conservation. The project has also been invited by Joram Area Welfare Society (Nyishi community) of Lower Subansiri District to share its experience on water conservation. Scientists, students, development officers, film makers and general public also visit the project site to learn nature conservation from time to time.
On government policy programmes
The project has made a significance influence on the government policy programmes. The Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), New Delhi presented the success story of the EB-Project Nature in Legislator’s Dialogue-2018 for Arunachal Pradesh to aware the law makers of the state on Climate Change impacts. As a outcome of the dialogue, The Government of Arunachal Pradesh announced provision of Rs. 5 crore in Budget 2019-20 to revive 20 numbers of drying spring water sources across the state based on success model of the project.
The model of the project is recommended by the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), Governmnet of Arunachal Pradesh for river and springshed rejuvenation activities in the state. The project has also been invited by the national Task Force on Jal Jeevan Mission, Government of India for presentation as one of the best practice for water and bio-diversity conservation in the country.
On forest and biodiversity conservation
The forest in the springshed areas has been restored completely. About 27 Ha at the core catchment area has been turned to medium dense forest. The project has also maintained 2 Ha of undisturbed highly dense forest. The project has conserved roughly above 100 Ha of forest in adjoining and other places in the area where shifting cultivation is not allowed for future water security. The project has converted the depleted hills as habitat of wildlife. Now it is home to barking deer, Asiatic black bear, porcupine, Asiatic wild dogs (Dholes), wild boars, Civets, squirrels and others animals.The forest has also become home to Crested Serpent Eagles, Kalij Pheasants and red Indian jungle fowls besides many other birds like Oriental fly catcher, Drongos, Laughing trush, Woodpeckers and many others. Hornbills and other seasonal birds like Mountain Imperial Pigeon also visits the project hills during fruiting seasons of Jenkins palm planted there.
Many plants eaten by wild animals and birds were identified through local hunters turned conservators, seed collected, nursery raised and re-introduced in the project forests in large number to ensure food for the wildlife. 24 such species are currently conserved.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF) had installed camera traps and recorded wildlife activities in the forest of the project area.
Few species of extremely rare and endangered orchids were spotted at undisturbed patch of forest or sacred groove in the springshed such as and Anoectochilus roxburghii , Dendrobium sulcatum and Dendrobium densiflorum whereas adjoining jhum affected forests were devoid of such orchids. Hence, need for conservation of orchids from shifting cultivation area was felt. Orchids were collected from trees felled during shifting cultivation and also from Highway road construction sites and brought to the orchidarium constructed for the purpose of conservation. An orchid park has also been created inside the springshed forest so that collected orchids could be conserved in the natural habitats.
There are 67 species of native orchids conserved under the project in which has been identified. There are other species which are in the process of identifications.
Eco-trails and plantations of rare, endangered and threatened native plants
Eco-trails have also been made along the plantation site of rare native species for exposure visits of nature enthusiast and conservationists. There are total of 24 native species conserved in the springshed area which includes rare and endangered plants, native fruiting species and medicinal plants. Endangered medicinal plants such as Paris polyphylla has also been conserved under the project.