Arunachal Pradesh: Garung Thuk Making a Difference, Performing The Sacred Duty of Protecting The Environment

Garung Thuk (in Sherdukpen means “Our Village”) is an NGO started in 2014 in the village of Shergaon, Arunachal Pradesh by Lobsang Tashi Thungon, a forestry graduate from NERIST, along with a few of his classmates from VKV, Shergaon. It was started with a desire to conserve the rich flora and fauna in and around the village.

Garung Thuk, in association with the state Forest Department, has been conducting an annual Nature Camp in the Eagles’ Nest wildlife sanctuary for the last 7 years. They also were instrumental in forming the Shergaon Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) with the approval of the Senji Blu (The Shergaon village council), which was recently awarded at India Biodiversity Awards 2021..

They have set up a community library close to the Govt Higher Secondary School, Shergaon, housing over 50,000 books. Inculcating the habit of conservation in both old and young alike, they focus on traditional methods which have been practised in the indigenous communities.

Many such beliefs and traditions have been revitalised and given a fresh lease of life like the sacred month of Zipa Saka Dawa (April-May) where traditional beliefs forbid killing and consumption of animals, birds and fishes. Garung Thuk carried out a plantation drive in this Saka Dawa month around the Kro (sacred cave) and planted more than 90 oak species.

Quercus serrata, commonly known as oak tree is endemic to Western Arunachal Pradesh. It is also deeply entrenched in local beliefs where felling one is considered taboo. The Shergaon village council protects a grove of oak trees called ‘Sebu Athoh’, which translates to ‘a place of leaves’.

In 2015, just like the sacred oak grove, Garung Thuk mapped some 6.7 hectares of rhododendron forest by GPS for in-situ conservation. The rhododendron tree is another species entrenched in traditional beliefs, with the wood being considered sacred and used for carving traditional masks, the leaves for incense sticks and the edible flowers are used for medicinal purposes.

The NGO and the BMC have also adopted Chhoskhrong River in Shergaon for five years. In addition to protection against fishing and felling of trees along the river banks, several fish fingerlings were released and many new species introduced.

Garung Thuk is developing a Nature Education Centre at Shergaon which will offer year round nature education to students and visitors.

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