Jhum or slash-and-burn cultivation is one of the primary causes of killer landslides in Arunachal Pradesh and elsewhere in the Northeast. This was underscored at a workshop on micro-zonation of landslide and earthquake in Itanagar on Friday.
According to Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, the government was initiating proposals for fencing of slope farms and terrain-specific irrigation to help jhum cultivators switch to permanent cultivation in order to reduce landslides.
“We are awaiting the Centre’s approval for such innovative schemes toward greater ecological good,” he said.
Experts at the workshop said landslides, a common phenomenon in the Northeast, occur due to various human factors and can be minimized through awareness. Improper construction and unplanned towns on slopes are debilitating factors too..
Every year, monsoon-induced landslides kill at least 60 people in the Northeast, a majority of them in Arunachal Pradesh. In 2008, the Arunachal Pradesh government was forced to change building bylaw after a landslide in State capital Itanagar claimed 17 persons.
Agriculture experts, though, are divided over the ecological impact of jhum, something various hill tribes of the region have been practicing for centuries.
“There’s a misconception about jhum, which has traditionally been cyclic. A patch of hill slope forest burnt down once for cultivation would be allowed to grow back before using it again. The problem lies in places where due to land crunch and population pressure farmers return to the same patch sooner than was traditionally mandated,” said land resources specialist Amba Jamir from Nagaland.