GUWAHATI, June 6: A programme to celebrate World Environment Day was held at the State Convention Center. The global theme for this year was “Beat Plastic Pollution.” In addition, Meghalaya adopted a second theme—”Save Shillong’s Rivers”—for the event, which recognised a pertinent local problem.
The event saw the participation of Rangbah Shnongs, non-governmental organisations, children from various schools, senior state government officials, including chief minister, and other members of civil society.
Chief minister, Conrad Sangma called on citizens to take ownership of protecting the environment by partnering with the government. “Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution”, he exhorted. He substantiated his point by underscoring the conservation success of community water committees. Further, he called on each person to feel a sense of ownership for tree protection through the slogan, “One citizen, one tree.” He highlighted the important role that communities are playing in the effective management of natural resources.
The chief minister announced the Chief Minister’s Solar Mission, to be launched on June 7, 2023. Under the scheme, each household will be given the option to install solar units. This will help address the power demand problem in the state. The solar units will also provide a facility for households to send unused power to the main grid.
The chief secretary to the Government of Meghalaya, D.P. Wahlang, pointed out the irony of Meghalaya having the cleanest river in the world, while Shillong had two of the forty-five dirtiest rivers in the world in Umkhrah and Umshyrpi. He shared how Meghalaya had put in place a plan to rejuvenate Shillong’s rivers. Leveraging GIS technology to map the rivers, the river course is being divided into blocks to be managed by local state officials in collaboration with Dorbar Shnongs and civil society organisations.
During the event, prizes were distributed to the winners of various competitions held on Environment Day. Moreover, documentaries on ‘LiFE Mission’, ‘Save Shillong Rivers Campaign’, and others were also screened.
Sampath Kumar, principal secretary, community & rural development department, Government of Meghalaya, who is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority, delivered the keynote address. He highlighted the various initiatives undertaken by Meghalaya for the protection of the environment and to address the challenge of climate change. In particular, he gave credit to the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), launched in June, 2022 by the Chief Minister, for addressing livelihood concerns along with conservation. Under the scheme, communities and individuals are paid to conserve forests. He informed me that 17000 hectares of forests have been conserved under the scheme so far, and the plan is to conserve around 50,000 hectares of forests over the next five years. This will help generate 100 million carbon credits, which could be marketed to boost the state’s economy.
An important highlight of the event was the introduction of the state Natural Resource Management (NRM) mascots: Mai Mai, the hill mynah, and Pakhnai, a clouded leopard.