Sunday, August 11, 2013

Area under jhum cultivation significantly reduced in Arunachal

Arunachal Pradesh has made a significant progress in gradually doing away with the age-old practice of jhum cultivation or shifting cultivation, which degrades the environment. Jhum cultivation, also known as the slash and burn agriculture, is the process of growing crops by first clearing the land of trees and vegetation and burning them thereafter. The burnt soil contains potash which increases the nutrient content of the soil.

In line with the Centre's stress on conventional methods of cultivation, the state with a 72 per cent forest cover had been able to reduce the total area under jhum cultivation from 1,10,000 hectares to 84,000 hectares in the last 10 years, the state's agriculture department said. Agriculture department adviser A K Purkayastha said, "About 8.4 lakh metric tonnes of biomass gets lost due to burning of trees resulting in a huge emission of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides and other gases. The emission has been reduced by taking up rice and maize cultivation in terraces." Purkyastha said that the harmful effects of jhum cultivation included rapid soil erosion due to deforestation of hill tops and slopes and high runoff velocity and siltation of reservoirs, rivulets and valleys.

"The harmful effects also resulted in the rapid decrease of jhum productivity due to removal of top soil by runoff water and very little time to recuperate soil fertility due to reduced jhum cycle," he pointed out. Sixteen districts encompassing the eight Northeastern states, including West Kameng and East Siang districts in Arunachal Pradesh, are among the recently-identified 100 most climate-sensitive districts of the country. A study has indicated that climate change can create impediments to some traditional practices especially paddy cultivation and fish culture in the famous Apatani plateau of Arunachal Pradesh. Purkayastha said that slashing or felling down of trees, herbs and shrubs for jhum cultivation reduces oxygen generation and burning of them pumps harmful carbon-monoxide, nitrous oxides and many other gases into the air.

Arunachal Pradesh, with over 50,000 sq km of moderate to very dense forests, is equivalent to 550 million cubic metres of growing stock or living assets (equivalent to 2000 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide) that serves as one of the major "carbon sinks" or "lungs" of the globe, Purkayastha said. Purkayastha endorsed the Centre's policy to abolish jhum cultivation and replace it by horticultural crops, saying it was a viable alternative for boosting the local economy while protecting the environment.

The state government's attachment of top priority to agriculture, horticulture and allied sectors, would add to the national food productivity and help achieve 6.5 per cent annual growth by the end of 12th Five Year Plan set by the Agriculture Ministry, he said.


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