This is an inspiring story of a community who came together and resolved to conserve almost 100 sq km of forest, helping protect the nature and biodiversity in their locale. This resolve speaks of the economic & cultural value the community ascribes to nature & biodiversity and nudges us to acknowledge how critical nature is for sustenance of life.
Community forests in Chug valley, West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh spreads from an elevation of 1700m to 5000m above sea level. The forest has been declared as a Community Conserved Area (CCA) to meet conservation and long-term livelihood needs. This declaration of Chug Community Conserved Area (92.5 sq.km) is owed to the consensus of the local communities and panchayat members of Chug valley. The aim is to strengthen the community forest management and augment local livelihoods in the villages under its jurisdiction.
With the declaration of the Chug Valley CCA, the Western Arunachal Landscape has a total of eight community conserved areas in West Kameng and Tawang districts. The total area of these protected forests stands at 1500 sq. km. The panchayat also selected leaders of the village to form a management committee to look after various management components of the CCA, including conducting wildlife surveys and patrolling. With this declaration, wildlife hunting, commercial extraction of timber, firewood, medicinal plant, etc. from the conservation area will be strictly managed.
The pristine forests of Chug range from temperate to sub-alpine vegetation made up of Silver fir, birch, Rhododendrons, and Abies sp. These forests are home to rare and endangered species like Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster), Takin (Budorcas taxicolo), Dhole (Cuon alpinus) and high altitude pheasants like Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Satyr tragopan (Tragopan satyra), Blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) including the elusive red panda (Ailurus fulgens). The WWF India team recorded 18 species of mammals, 21 avifauna and butterflies, and amphibian species during a recently concluded biodiversity survey in Chug valley. Further assessment and survey will be carried out in detail in the future. The conservation area is a contiguous stretch of forests adjoining the community forests of Sangti valley and Nyukmadung that forms a connected wildlife habitat of more than 350 sq. km. These natural resources witness continuous pressure from activities such as hunting and indiscriminate resource extraction.
The Chug valley is also one of the wintering sites of the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis). Considered an auspicious bird amongst the Buddhist community, these migratory bird species have been reported from the Sangti valley of West Kameng and Zemithang valley of Tawang.
With the implementation of the CCA framework, the people of the valley aim to bring a mechanism in place to maintain the ecological balance of the forests and secure livelihood of promoting forest-based income-generating activities.
Dr. Dargey Tsering, Circle Officer, Dirang and Thembang lauded the effort of WWF India for encouraging local communities to be part of the conservation effort in Chug valley. Mr. Tsering Khandu, one of the village headmen of Chug valley said, “Animals like the Red panda, Takin, Musk deer, Asiatic black bear, etc. need to be conserved to ensure that their population thrives, and their habitats are protected. Conservation of these rich forests of the valley would bring good luck, health, and happiness to the people of the valley,” he mentioned.
WWF India has been extending support to the community of Chug valley since 2019 by facilitating the installation of community solar power fence to reduce crop depredation, especially by macaques, wild boar, porcupine, and other wild animals. The team will further extend support to the newly formed management committee in preparing a management plan for the demarcated CCA area, undertake surveys as well as devise specific interventions to promote science-based management of natural resources, promote nature-based tourism and other livelihood initiatives.
The conservation efforts in the valley are supported by PwC India Foundation.