The biodiversity in the eight northeastern states is under severe stress. For, as much as 75 per cent of the region’s habitat has been threatened. The reasons are unplanned development, illegal felling of trees and poaching of wildlife.
A World Wildlife Fund study, Eastern Himalayas, Where the Worlds Collide, released on Monday, said over 10,000 plant species, 300 mammals, 977 birds, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 freshwater fish inhabit the eastern Himalayan range.
But in the range, stretching from Arunachal Pradesh to Sikkim and parts of West Bengal in India and touching parts of Myanmar, Nepal and southern Tibet, 163 species were considered threatened. And “90 per cent (of them) are from northeast India”, the study said.
“Destruction of habitat will make many plant species vanish. When there is lesser space for wildlife, weaker animals are thrown out,” said Fayaz Khudsar, 42, an ecology researcher in Delhi University.
He said when animals moved out of their habitat, human-animal conflict, said to be very high in the northeast, would increase further.
The study said as many as 144 new species of wildlife and plants, of which 70 were not available anywhere in the world, were discovered in the northeast over the last decade.
In the eastern Himalayas, which included the northeastern part of India, 353 new species were discovered between 1998 and 2008. The 3,000-km-long Eastern Himalayan ranges are among the biologically most diverse in the world.
“A sensitive assessment of ecology is required before development projects are taken up,” said P.C. Bhattacharjee, zoology professor, Gauhati University. He said, “Habitats are under stress and 3,500 wetlands, which nourish biodiversity, are degrading rapidly.”
Several environmentalists and non-government organisations have been protesting against setting up of hydropower projects, like the one on
the Teesta in Sikkim with a capacity of 10,000 MW, said Himanshu Thakkar of South Asian Network of the Dams Rivers and People, an NGO.
The mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh had submerged several forests, said Bamang Anthony, head of Arunachal Citizens’ Right in Itanagar. He said, “We need to draw a line somewhere.”
(With Rahul Karmakar in Guwahati)