Impact of Buddhism on Biodiversity Conservation in Arunachal Pradesh, India by Dr. Mainu Devi

From Buddhism and Australia
Jump to: navigation, search

Impact of Buddhism on Biodiversity Conservation in Arunachal Pradesh, India by Dr. Mainu Devi

Dr. Mainu Devi
Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, Diphu Govt. College,
Diphu-782 460, Karbi Anglong, Assam, India.
E.mail: mainu.devi@rediffmail.com

Abstract

Buddhism has played an unique role in Arunachal Pradesh, the largest state of North East India, which is well reflected in conserving Biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh. Buddhism is a living force in Arunachal Pradesh and is playing a very important role in the flourishing of Arunachali culture . Around thirteen percent people of the of Arunachal Pradesh follows Buddhism in both form, Mahayana and Theravada and some has come under Buddhist influence. The state is very rich in sacred groves culture, a traditional way of biodiversity conservation. The dense forests and big trees are looked upon as ancestral souls, and hornbill hunting is banned during the breeding season. The tiger is sacred as it is the ‘brother of Tani’, the first humans on earth’. Due to the influence of Buddhism, people of Arunachal Pradesh have stopped animal sacrifices and consumption of alcohol, opium and meat has been reduced. The sacredness, religious culture, belief and taboos play a significant role in promoting conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity of this region. Lord Buddha's teachings are more relevant today than they were about 2500 years back dictating the direction of development of rampant environmental degradation and loss of biological diversity. In this paper an attempt is made to study the impact of Buddhism on Biodiversity Conservation in Arunachal Pradesh, India.

Key words : Buddhism, Arunachal Pradesh, Biodiversity Conservation, Sacred groves.

Introduction

The state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast region of India is known for its rich biodiversity and is the largest state of the region, sharing international boundaries with Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. It lies between 26°28’ to 29°30’ N latitude and 91°30’ to 97°30’ E longitude having geographical area 83,743 sq km which constitutes 2.54% of the area of the country. There are twenty six major tribes and 110 ethnic groups belonging to the Indo – Mongloid racial stock inhabiting in Arunachal Pradesh ( Chaudhry et al;,2011 ). Around thirteen percent people of the of Arunachal Pradesh follow Buddhism in both Mahayana and Theravada form and some has come under Buddhist influence. Buddhism has played an unique role in Arunachal Pradesh, which is well reflected in conserving Biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh. Prior to the advent of modern education the Buddhist monasteries played an important role in imparting knowledge and basic social education. Lord Buddha's teachings are more relevant today than they were about 2500 years back dictating the direction of development of rampant environmental degradation and loss of biological diversity. The Monks encourage communities to protect the environment and even use their status to ensure protection for certain areas. Even Buddhist laypeople may play a role by performing environmentally friendly acts to gain merit.

Besides a number of formal protected areas in the region the state is very rich in Sacred groves (SGs) culture, a traditional way of biodiversity conservation. They are the repositories of economical, medicinal, rare, threatened and endemic species and can be regarded as the remnant of the primary forests left untouched/undisturbed by the local inhabitants and protected by local communities due to beliefs that the deities reside in these forests . In Arunachal Pradesh these sacred groves are particularly attached to the Buddhist monasteries, called Gompa Forest Areas (GFAs ), which are managed by the Buddhist community (Monpa and Sherdukpens) of Arunachal Pradesh. These monasteries are mainly found in the West Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Besides these Gompa forests, there are a good number of sacred groves in the Tawang and West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh related to the community culture and beliefs and play a vital role in the conservation of the significant biodiversity of the region. Malhotra et al. have given vivid description of 58 Gompa forest areas, managed by Lama and Monpa tribes of Tawang and West Kameng districts of the state whereas Barbhuiya et al. have presented details of 63 sacred groves in these two districts including the geographic information, physical and biological attributes and traditional myths associated with the sacred grove. The sacredness, religious culture, belief and taboos play a significant role in promoting conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity of this region ( Khan et al, 2008). The local Buddhist community also provides tourism services to the visitors (Barbhuiya et al;,2008). The tourism potential in relation to Sacred groves and cultural resources is great. Keeping all this in view the present study has been undertaken with an expectation of ever increasing demand of biodiversity conservation by changing the mindsets of people who are increasingly plagued by materialism and consumerism leading to environmental degradation or biodiversity loss in this unique planet earth .

Aims and Objectives of the study:

The main aim of the present study is to know the contribution of Buddhist teaching in conserving biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh and thereby convey message to the world to change the mindsets of people who are increasingly plagued by materialism and consumerism leading to environmental degradation or biodiversity loss in this planet earth. Accordingly the objectives of the present study are as follows: 1. To study the traditional way of biodiversity conservation in buddhist Sacred grooves.

2. To study the importance of biodiversity conservation for economic, social and sustainable development.

Hypothesis.

Buddhism has played an unique role in Arunachal Pradesh, which is well reflected in conserving Biodiversity of Arunachal Pradesh. The sacredness, religious culture , belief and taboos play a significant role in promoting conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity of this region.

Methodology of the study

The present study is a kind of library based exploratory study as well as field study. Socio-cultural and biological features associated with each sacred forest was collected through a questionnaire, followed by field visits and interactions with elderly people and prominent citizens. The species composition was studied in all the visited sacred forests through visual observations . The desk work primarily included the collection of literature/reference materials in the form of hard and soft copies. The hard copies included the books, reports, reprint of published research papers, leaflets etc whereas the soft copies included web pages, pdf files (e-reprints) downloaded from the internet. The literature so collected was referred and critically analyzed and the issues were understood from the perspectives of the objectives and hypothesis of the present study.

Observational findings and Discussion:

In Arunachal Pradesh, a few of the Sacred Groves managed by Lamas and the Mompa tribe, are attached to the Buddhist monasteries known as Gompa Forest Areas. 101 Sacred groves have been documented in the state of which 58 Gompa Forest Areas were reported from West Kameng and Tawang districts and they are under the control of monasteries and conserved by religious faith. These groves in the area have been conserved from spiritual point of view or by fear of specific deities and according to their belief that these forest patches are the property of Spirits/ Gods/Deities and must therefore, not be damaged in any way. The Gompa Forest Areas are dedicated to deities such as Buddha, 14th D' Lama, Mera Lama & 5th Dalai Lama , Lama Langa etc. as shown in the table. However, the Secred Groves play an important role in ecosystem services such as clean environment i.e., air, Soil and water conservation, flora and fauna conservation, carbon sequestration, temperature control and conservation of traditional knowledge. Outcome of religious beliefs, traditional values, taboos, and socio-cultural practices provide ecological value of Sacred Groves which maintains ecological balance, conservation of biodiversity and supply of resources or economic support as shown in the figure.

1) Approach towards Eco-retreats

The devastating impact of pollution, supplemented by deforestation can only be restored by green lung area of the Sacred groves which, besides providing numerous tangible products remains the storehouse of the life gas–oxygen. If these storehouses are not properly managed and conserved, the future generation will definitely be deprived off this valuable asset (Anthwal et al. 2006). Banyan, Pipal, Ashoka, Bela and Harada are among the most commonly found plant species in the Sacred groves that play a vital role in ecosystem services. Three of the worth mentioning Buddhist Sacred Groves of Arunachal Pradesh are discussed shortly in the following.

1.1) Mechuka Gompa sacred grove

The Gompa at Mechuka is one of the oldest monasteries called Samten Yongcha of Mahayana sect located at a hilltop in the western most part of Mechuka, a place of tourist interest in the district of West Siang. This Gompa as per oral history of Membas is a contemporary of the great Tawang monastery. The vegetation of the Sacred Grove in and around the Gompa consists of evergreen and everlasting fir and spruce forests. A number of larger animals are supported by fir and spruce forests, such as moose, deer, , birds, snowshoe hares, and other small mammals. Some species of Rhododendrons are also available in this sacred grove.

1.2) Kyong Teravada Buddhist Gompa forest

The sacred grove lies in an around the Kyong Teravada Buddhist ,Gompa, Vivek Vihar, Itanagar. Gompa is being maintained by Hinayana sect of Buddhists.The Khamti, Shingpho and Tangsa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are the believers and worshipers of the sect of Buddhist. The sacred grove of the Gompa is about 0.5 hectares. It lies at an altitude of 274 m above mean sea level. It is about 300 m from the main road of Vivek Vihar connecting through Arunodaya Higher Secondary School, Itanagar. The vegetation within the sacred grove comprises of Pinus kesiya, Mangifera indica, Polyalthia longifolia, Delonix regia, Ficus religosa and Lagerstromeia indica..

1.3) Sidhartha Vihar Gompa grove

The sacred grove lies in and around the Buddhist Gompa at Sidhartha Vihar, Bank Tinali, Itanagar . The Gompa is being maintained by Mahayana sect of Buddhists. The Monpas of Tawang, Bomdilla, Dirang, Rupa, Lumla and Sherdukpen tribes are the main believers and worshipers of this sect. The sacred grove of the Gompa is about 1.2 hac in area. It lies at an altitude of 274 m above mean sea level. The vegetation within the sacred grove comprises of Pinus kesiya, Macaranga denticulata, Callicarpa arborea, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Bambusa pallida, Trema orientalis, Ficus religiosa etc.

Table : List of some Buddhist Sacred groves in the different districts of Arunachal Pradesh modified from Dr. M. L. Khan, Dr. A. Arunachalam and Dr. A. R. Barbhuiya, 2007, “Web-GIS Digital Atlas of the Sacred Groves of the North-East India’’.

Sl. No.

Name of the sacred grove

Location

Deity (s)

Area(Sq. Km)

1

Regilling

Damnian Basti

Buddha

0.13

2

Urgilling

Urgelling Basti

Buddha

0.1

3

Tsangpu

Tsangpu village

Buddha

0.11

4

Bomdila Bazar Line

Bomdila Bazar

Buddha

0.01

5

Kyong Thervada

Vivek Bihar

Buddha

0.5

6

Siddhartha Vihar

Bank Tinali

Buddha

1.2

7

G. G. Rabgyeling

Bomdila Bazar

Buddha

0.5

8

G. G. Rabgyeling

Bomdila Bazar

Buddha

1.1

9

Upper Shera Basti

Shera Basti

Buddha

0.8

10

Lower Shera Basti

Lower Shera Basti

Buddha

1.6

11

New Bomdila

New Bomdila Basti

Buddha

0.03

12

Jyoti Nagar

Jyoti Nagar

Buddha

0.5

13

Kalchakra

Jyoti Nagar

Buddha

1.2

14

Khadun

Dirang Basti

Buddha

0.75

15

Manidungur

Yang Village

Buddha

0.3

16

Sangechulen

Youang Basti

Buddha

1.5

17

P. J. Dhargyelling

Lieung Basti

Buddha & 14th D'Lama

3

18

Rimpopha

Dirang Basti

Buddha

0.5

19

Gazangphrang

Dirang Basti

Buddha

0.4

20

Gomluk

Dirang Basti

Buddha

0.7

21

Dupphang

Dirang Basti

Buddha

0.25

22

Neharu

Neharu Colony

Buddha

0.2

23

Chambu

Chambu Village

Buddha

0.5

24

P. New Lebrang

New Lebrang Basti

Buddha

0.3

25

Yidgachoszin

Lebrang Basti

Buddha

0.5

26

Labrang

Lebrang Basti

Buddha/ 14th Dalai lama

0.7

27

Regilling

Urgelling Basti

14th Dalai lama

3

28

G. Naymgal Lhatse

Sheyo Basti

Mera Lama & 5th D’Lama

1.5

29

Khinmey

Khinmey Village

Buddha

0.5

30

Khartung

Khirmu Village

Lama Langa

11

31

Sharmang

Namet Basti

Lama Tsangpa

0.3

32

Thongmen

Khirmu Village

Lama Gorpu

0.4

33

Brakar

Lhou Village

Lama Phurpa Dorjee

0.3

34

Arkidung

Lhou Village

Lama Phurpa Tashi

0.25

35

Dungarmani

Namazing Basti

Buddha

0.5

36

Dungirmoon

New Kharsa Basti

Buddha

0.3

37

Jung Zero Point

Jung Zero Point

Buddha

1.2

38

Namsai Pariyatti Sasana Buddhist Bihar

Namsai

Buddha

0.35

39

Juna-I

Juna village

Buddha

0.02

40

Juna-IV

Juna village Pt-IV

Buddha

0.05

41

Lathow

Lathou Village

Buddha

0.01

42

Naya Lathow

Naya Lathow

Buddha

0.02

43

Solongtu

Solongtu Village

Buddha

0.02

44

Manmow

Manmow Village

Buddha

0.05

45

Chongkham Buddha Vihara

Chongkham Village

Buddha

0.55

46

Chongkham Pagoda

Chongkham vill.

Buddha

1.15

47

Momong

Momong Village

Buddha

0.15

48

Nalung

Nalung Village

Buddha

0.3

49

Dosup

Dosup Village

Buddha

0.11

50

Manna Intem

Manna Intem Village

Buddha

0.01

51

Manfai Sing

Manfai Sing Village

Buddha

0.02

52

Manhofai

Manhofai Village

Buddha

0.01

Figure : Relationships between ecological values, religious beliefs and traditional values, and causes of degradation of sacred groves (modified from Khumbongmayum et al.; 2004).

2.Conservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants through local belief:

The Sacred Groves are believed to be a treasure house of medicinal and aromatic plants. Though most of the indigenous people residing near the groves are illiterate, they have scrupulously nurtured their traditional customs, rituals, ceremonies and a way of forest life through folk beliefs with great vigour. Thus, medicinal plant conservation is an integral part of sustainable living by these people with the nature. Till now medicinal plants like mint (Mentha arvensis), coriander (Coriandrum sativum) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are planted as an important component of SGs and preserving Himalayan ecosystem.

3) Approach towards Animal conservation

The dense forests and big trees are looked upon as ancestral souls and hornbill hunting is banned during the breeding season. The tiger is sacred as it is the ‘brother of Tani’, the first humans on earth’. Certain animals like tiger, toad and wagtail are believed to be ancestral brothers and well wishers of human beings and are avoided from killing .

4) Belief and myth towards soil and water conservation

Sacred groves play an important role in soil and water conservation. They improve the soil stability of the region and act as soil binder. Plants like vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) and Eucalyptus species are maintained to bind the soil thereby preventing soil erosion. These groves are often associated with stream or spring which help meet the water requirements of downstream and local people and take care of drinking water problem during drought.

5) Approach towards Carbon sequestration

Estimation of carbon stocks and stock changes in tree biomass are necessary for reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and which is required for Kyoto Protocol reporting also. The tree, Terminalia bellirica was found to be dominant of sequestrating 327.78 tonnes of carbon followed 221 tonnes by Ficus amplissima (Hangarge et al;, 2012). The species Gnidia glauca had lowest carbon sequestration potential i.e. 0.0808 tonnes. A Sacred Grove having thick vegetation possesses high carbon sequestration potential thereby contributing to reduced concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (Hangarge et al; ,2012).

6) Biodiversity conservation by Monpa tribes 

The Monpa tribe is one of the most populous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and is considered as one of the major tribal communities in the entire region. Monpas are the inhabitants of the high altitude Tawang district and the mountain passes of Bomdila in West Kameng district. Mera Lama of Tibet spread Buddhism in southern Tibet and converted these Monpas into Gelugpa faith of Tibetan Buddhism. Monpa tribe has developed their location specific indigenous strategy for sustainable biodiversity conservation and overall natural resource management at community level. They follow many practices for conserving the indigenous forest trees and thereby agro-biodiversity. Maize is a staple food crop, managed, produced and conserved with the natural dynamics of indigenous species of Paisang (Quercus griffithii, a species of Oak), Roinangsing as well as pine species, Pinus wallichiana A. B. Jacks. and Pinus roxburghii Sarg. The use of dry leaves of these trees as mulch and organic matter helps the farmers to increase the soil fertility, control soil erosion and conserve soil moisture, thereby, helpful in diversifying the local cropping systems (11 traditional cropping system of Monpa people) and reducing the risk. Paisang tree is the backbone of local people’s culture and the loss of this resource system may eventually precipitate a decline in Monpa tribe’s cultural diversity. An indigenous institution Choppa, regulates access to paisang leaves.

7) Biodiversity conservation by Tikhak tribes 

The Buddhist temples and Monasteries have become centres of religious, educational and cultural advancement of the Tikhak society of Theravada Buddhism . The people have got rid of expensive rituals, ceremonies and animal sacrifices. To obtain higher crop yield or to get rid of diseases, famine like situations and other problems , the Bhante recites sutras such as Ranta sutra, Mangal sutra,Jina sutra, Panjar Katha and Bhujang sutra. Due to the influence of Buddhism, people have stopped animal sacrifices and and consumption of alcohol, opium and meat has been reduced. A puja called Yami Jack is performed for securing success of crop season and also to obtain higher crop yield.

8) Protection for Special Purpose 

The traditional societies and the refugee settlers such as Chakmas who are the followers of Buddhism of the western periphery of Namdpha National Park have been protecting many plant species of different social and economic importance. The Chakmas protect Bombax ceiba, Terminalia myriocarpa, and Sterospermum chelonoides species as the honeybees prefer to take shelter and makes hives on these trees. Zalacca secunda is also valuable species as it is the only roofing material and Mesua ferrea is a sacred tree for the Chakma community who consider that the God generally inhabit this tree. The ‘Singphos’ also conserve Livistonia jenkinsiana as it is the roofing material for their houses.

Conclusion:

No environmental legislation irrespective of how effectively it is implemented will stop the ongoing assault on the environment under the pretext of development unless mindsets of people who are increasingly plagued by materialism and consumerism in this post-globalization era won’t be changed. It is high time that we should give-up our present lifestyle which could contribute degradation of our environment and biodiversity. The religious belief serves as an instrument of protection of rare forest species. There are many elements of Buddhist doctrine and practice which promote respect and conservation of nature. Buddhism tries to preserve life in different degrees for human needs and conserve animal and plant life forms. Therefore, it would appear that Buddhist ideology could be promoted as a positive force in Biodiversity conservation all over the world.

References :

  • Anthwal A, Sharma RC, Sharma A (2006) Sacred Groves: Traditional way of conserving plant diversity in Garhwal Himalaya, Uttranchal. The Journal of American Science 2: 35-43.
  • Barbhuiya AR, Khan ML, Arunachalam A, Prabhu SD, Chavan V (2008) Sacred Groves: Informal protected areas in the high altitudes of eastern Himalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India: Traditional beliefs, biodiversity and conservation. In: Angus O’ Reilly, Doron Murphy, National Parks: Biodiversity, conservation and tourism. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. US 131-146.
  • Borang A(2001)Traditional biodiversity conservation and management system of tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Forest News. 19: 212-216
  • Chaudhry P, Dollo M, Bagra K, Yakang B (2011) Traditional biodiversity conservation and natural resource management system of some tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, India. Interdisciplinary Environmental Review 12: 338-348.
  • Dollo M, Gopi GV, Teegalapalli K, Mazumdar K (2010) Conservation of the orange bellied Himalayan squirrel Dremomys lokriah using a traditional knowledge system: a case study from Arunachal Pradesh, India. ORYX 44: 573-576.
  • Hangarge LM, Kulkarni DK, Gaikwad VB, Mahajan DM, Chaudhari N: Carbon Sequestration potential of tree species in Somjaichi Rai (Sacred grove) at Nandghur village, in Bhor region of Pune District, Maharashtra State, India. Ann Biol Res 2012,3(7):3426–3429.Google Scholar.
  • King-Oliver I.E.D., Chitra V, Narasimha D: Sacred groves: traditional ecological heritage. Int J Ecol Environ Sci 1997, 23: 463–470.Google Scholar
  • Khan M.L., Devi A , Khumbongmayum and R.S. Tripathi R.S. The Sacred Groves and Their Significance in Conserving Biodiversity An Overview.International Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences 34 (3): 277-291, 2008.
  • Malhotra KC, Gokhale Y, Chatterjee S, Srivastava S (2001) Culture and Ecological dimensions of Sacred groves in India, INSA, New Delhi, India


Power Point