Conservation Through The Ages Shergaon Bmc, Arunachal Pradesh Best BMC Winner 2021


Abode to picturesque valleys and breath-taking wildlife, the village of Shergaon in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh harbours a tightknit community of Sherdukpen people and their deep-rooted customs connected to nature. This agrarian community is located close to the Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary, thus providing a habitat to various mammals including red panda, flying squirrels, martens, and the Himalayan black bear. While being traditionally involved in hunting, the village-folk have been keen on conserving their natural heritage. Their aspirations saw the first light through the initiatives undertaken by Garung Thuk- a local non-government organisation. To expand the scale and impact of conservation work, a BMC was constituted in 2016 with the support of the village council, the community and Garung Thuk- which acts as its technical advisor under the counsel of the Arunachal Pradesh State Biodiversity Board (APSBB). Since then, the Shergaon BMC has overseen the rehabilitation of endangered species by employing a complete ban on hunting of wild animals by locals. Today, as a result of the BMC’s interactive community engagement efforts, poaching is considered a sin in Shergaon. Apart from running conservation initiatives, the BMC also prepared its PBR in 2019 with the help of the North-Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST). It identified a large variety of plants including endangered medicinal plants and mammals found in the region.

Need for the Initiative

Following the constitution of the BMC, traditional practices have not only been legitimized and institutionalized but a whole range of collaborations from various agencies has vastly intensified the footprints of conservation. For instance, Garung Thuk has supported the BMC in its initiatives while the Shergaon Forest Division also collaborates in activities like planting, providing fresh saplings and monitoring. Support from Wildlife Institute of India and WWF in the form of workshops has accelerated the spread of environmental awareness amongst students. Assistance from various governmental departments such as fisheries and horticulture has been integral to the committee’s modus operandi. Owing to its strong sense of fraternity, the committee has also set up an extension facility to train other BMCs for documenting their PBRs and share their own experiences and learnings. It plans to set up a forest voucher scheme and has provided 70 hectares of degraded land for afforestation wherein local women will look after the nurseries and the youth will be involved as researchers.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

Species Conservation - The Biodiversity Management Committee has reintroduced an endangered tree, Gymnocladus assamicus commonly called as the Himalayan Soap Pod tree into the village and preserved an ancient site of mud houses along with 6 species of Rhododendrons. This site is soon going to be notified as a Biodiversity Heritage Site. The BMC helped identify two in-situ Rhododendron gardens with the help of the village council and declared them as community gardens with support of the Shergaon Forest Division. The use of pesticides in the village has been minimized, thus providing support for an intact food chain. Pine wood has been substituted for valuable timber species in the making of tomato stakes. Ban on Hunting - The community is sensitive to the loss of wildlife. The BMC has been implementing conservation awareness programmes to sensitise the community towards the harmful consequences of hunting. Hunting enjoyed a wide acceptance in the society as a sport tracing its roots to the traditional practices of the region. However, with the efforts of the BMC, poaching is now considered a sin and they have integrated anti-poaching into their traditional folk dances through workshops. All these efforts have resulted in a reversal of an ageold tradition, where hunting by the local tribal folk has now been completely banned. Protection of Indigenous Fish - The BMC has been involved in the protection of indigenous fish species, they have adopted a stretch of the Chhoskhorongkho river for five years from the village council and introduced trout species (Rainbow trout and Brown trout) procured from the Fisheries department, to reduce pressure on natives. The local fish is protected and a traditional three-day hunting festival has been limited to a single day. These integrated sets of activities of BMC have provided a holistic approach towards biodiversity conservation by integrating their efforts with cultural practices of the region. With its efficient implementation and success rate, the Shergaon BMC acts as a model for other Biodiversity Management Committees to emulate. The local participation encouraged by the BMC has led to several conservation gains such as efficiently managing a sacred site with ancient trees, banning logging and minimizing the use of pesticides and an effective ban on firewood collection except for the community lands for domestic use. The BMCs future plans include establishing a 5-hectare demonstration area for medicinal plants and also establishing a medicinal garden. The area has been donated by the community and financial support from CAMPA is also expected. Shergaon BMC plans to extend its technical support to the neighbouring BMCs in terms of knowledgesharing, knowledge products, methodology and monitoring and assessment. Regular field trips for the students and their parttime employment during the holidays on wages/ day basis have been planned to expose them to conservation practices. The BMC plans to increase female employment in the nurseries and medicinal gardens to provide equal opportunities and generate mass awareness regarding the conservation and protection of species. This is an excellent example of a progressive Biodiversity Management Committee, with a clearly defined pathway for its future and will to follow through.

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards