GUWAHATI, May 30 - Rapid growth in population and the resultant increase in population density per square kilometre (sq km) on the one hand, and the spread of a sort of imposed urbanisation and industrialisation on the other, have caused immense pressure on the otherwise highly sensitive environment of the NE region, which is giving rise to a range of ecological and sociopolitical problems, said Prof Abani Bhagabati of the Geography Department of Gauhati University (GU). He was delivering the 20th Prof SP Chatterjee Memorial Lecture on ‘India’s North-East: Environmental Change and Challenges,’ held at the Department of Geography, Calcutta University recently. The lecture was organised by the Geographical Society of India (GSI).
Disclosing this, Prof Bhagabati told this newspaper here today that to buttress his assertion he took the help of the Census of India figures that show the rise in the population of the region from four million in 1901 to 45 million in 2011.
He further said that the unprecedented rise in the incidents of conflict between man and wild animals in the region in the recent years may be attributed to the above factors of rapid rise in population and imposed urbanisation and industrialisation. These have resulted in tremendous stress on the region’s forests and given rise to its other problems like soil erosion, sand casting, flood and bank erosion and severe degradation of the wetland systems both in the plains and hills.
In this context, he maintained that the incidence of the problem of landslides, which is now very common in the hilly areas, was very negligible earlier. In support of this assertion, he referred to the peculiar regional environmental framework that the indigenous people of the region carefully evolved through their century-old tradition of harmonious living with nature.
The biological diversity of the region, which has been now under tremendous threat, was appreciably conserved particularly by the hill people in the form of “sacred groves,” setting enviable examples for others in the area of spontaneous conservation of nature.
The hill slope agriculture, especially the terrace farming and related water harvesting methods practised by most of the hill dwellers of the North-East, is the best example of traditional landscape development in the context of the mountainous environment of the region.
If the natural resources and the ecological settings of the region are not sustainably managed, keeping in view the carrying capacity of the areas at the micro level, the region shall have to encounter a much more deplorable situation in near future, warned the GU Professor.
It needs mention here that Prof SP Chatterjee (February 22, 1903-February 27, 1989) was a Professor of Geography at the University of Calcutta. He served as President of the International Geographical Union from 1964 till 1968, and coined the name Meghalaya for Meghalaya state. Chatterjee received the Murchison Award from the Royal Geographical Society in 1959 and Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 1985.