The Arunachal Pradesh government has initiated a programme for the protection of bird species of the state, under which people having air guns are encouraged to surrender them to the government. In conversation with Northeast Today, Arunachal Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports, Environment & Forest, Water Resource, Mama Natung, spoke at length about the programme.
NET: What Prompted you to initiate the air gun surrender programme?
Mama Natung: As you know, Arunachal Pradesh is mostly covered with forests. However, the communities here do not know about its value. Though hunting has been part of our culture it did not hugely harm the animal kingdom as traditional weaponry was used. Now with guns and modern weaponry hunting is drastically reducing the numbers of wild species. Thus, with the initiative and guidance of our dynamic Chief Minister Pema Khandu we launched the gun surrender program.
NET: Is there any time-bound targets for this gun surrender Abhiyan?
Mama Natung: Till now there is no specific time frame as such. It will continue as long as needed.
NET: Are you facing any resistance on the grounds regarding Air Gun Surrender.
Mama Natung: People are good and understanding. If they are approached properly and the idea is communicated well that this initiative is to protect Mother Nature, they understand. In short, till now we have not faced any resistance as such.
NET: Recently, Arunachal Pradesh Speaker appealed to the members not to receive any hunted fauna as gifts. Your comments?
Mama Natung: Even I too met all the legislative Assembly members and we talked about that with all officers. All of them agreed to respond positively to the appeal
NET: There are reports that some forest guards from the Pakke Sanctuary have not received their salary for the last six months.
Mama Natung: The salary of these guards comes from the Centre. Due to the pandemic disruptions, there has been a delay. But it has been nearly sorted out and the forest guards shall get their salary soon.
NET: Any steps in the pipeline so that this is not repeated?
Mama Natung: We are already planning for a revolving fund in coordination with the centre to make sure this does not happen.
NET: The Biennial 2019 Indian State of Forest Report informed that forest area has decreased in Arunachal. Your comments?
Mama Natung: Factors like Jhum cultivation, hydropower, road projects are making a dent. However, it is not so much. At the same time, we are using the funds from the centre for extensive plantation drives.
NET: Arunachal Pradesh is known for its Orchids. At the same time smuggling of this precious resource is increasing. How do you plan to curtail it?
Mama Natung: Till now, there is no report of smuggling as such. But we are monitoring as well. At the same time under Green Arunachal, we are growing a record number of plants and orchids.
NET: There are reports of forest fires during the dry season. Is there any monitoring mechanism in place?
Mama Ntung: Sometimes forest fires occur due to Jhum cultivation and other reasons. Such cases are monitored closely and reported to New Delhi.
NET: Recently, a Youtuber used racial slurs against the Pasighat MLA and Arunachal Pradesh at large. Your comments?
Mama Natung: I will say this, whoever thinks about the northeast like this, I want to request them to come here and see, understands people, see the diversity, different culture and vibrant.
So whatever happened recently is very sad, sister and brother from own nations, if you can’t recognize it’s very shameful, which should not be happened. So I want to say, the northeast has been part of India for a long time, even if you see the history, you will find it there.
In1962 when China attacked India, we resisted the Chinese. We are Indians, our birthplace is India, we are from India, we are not from any other places, we are here from the beginning.
NET: As a Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs how do you see its potential in the state?
Mama Natung: The way sports is developing in the state, in within a decade Arunachal Pradesh will create new landmarks.
NET: What are the main infrastructure projects in sports that are being undertaken?
Mama Natung: We have a natural centre for excellence along with Manipur and Assam in the Northeast. So experts and coaches come here all the time. Also, a massive Badminton Stadium in memory of Dorjee Khandu is coming up.
NET: How do you plan to encourage people to take up sports as a profession or hobby?
Mama Natung: We are trying to identify the talents in their respective sports and bring them to the academy for training.
NET: Any steps to preserve and promote traditional sports?
Mama Natung: We are planning to host one soon. We already are collaborating with Rajiv Gandhi University on it.
NET: As the geography of AP allows adventure sports how do you plan to promote it?
Mama Natung: Yes, we need to take notice, to promote such sports. We already have cycling, motorbike sports here. We are looking to promote bungee jumping, rafting, and others.
NET: As you head the water resources department, what steps are being taken to stop erosion caused by heavy rains and floods?
Mama Natung: We are in constant coordination with CWC and reinforcing the banks where erosion takes place.
NET: AP being in Himalayan foothills, can tap and sell mineral water to help the economy of the state. Your comments?
Mama Natung: There’s no news on that, yes we have freshwater but nothing like that policy has taken. So I request the people, if any businessman wants to do that, the government will them.
(The article has been published in the June issue of Northeast Today)