Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
The Apatani heartland can be accessed easily, simply because there is a road leading right up to it -- quite unlike regions inhabited by other Arunachal communities where people have to trek long through mountains of thick evergreen forests to reach a village. Yet, it has taken me a while to reach Ziro. Having decided to report on the unique wet-rice system of the people of the valley, my first halt is a workshop in Guwahati, Assam.
Organised by P S Ramakrishnan, professor at the School of Environmental Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, the meet intends to persuade unesco into declaring the Apatani valley as a World Heritage Site. I attend the gathering hoping to get acquainted with a large trove of knowledge on the Apatani systems. But my hopes are soon belied: apart from Ramakrishnan, who studied Apatani ecology in detail a few years ago, no other participant has worked in the region. My disappointment continues. I am told that there is barely any work on Apatani ecology -- in stark contrast to the huge repositories on tribal systems in India, west of West Bengal. I was hoping for a heap of knowledge, as against the uncertainties of the area I was venturing into. Now, I find myself unguarded, and panic even as the conference enters its second day.
Then Ramakrishnan offers hope: he directs me to a young man sitting across on the conference table. He's making a documentary on the Apatani people, I am told. I have to befriend Moji Riba, this documentary maker from Itanagar at any cost, I conclude in a second. I pray he is an Apatani. But I am in for another panic attack soon: Moji announces with an insouciant smile that he doesn't understand ecology; I also realise he is not an Apatani but is from the Gallo tribe.
It matters because I need an interpreter -- an interpreter of cultures and not a mere translator of languages. I trail Moji to Itanagar. Over the next ten days, a bio-data runs through my mind, whenever I meet a probable candidate: should be adept at Apatani language and English/Hindi, should have access to the people in the region and be accepted by them, should understand Apatani cultural practices, should know a bit of their ecology and must be well-conversant with Apatani agricultural practices. Above all, my interpreter should be able to translate any one of these idioms into another with ease. Idioms? Yes, Moji makes me realise soon that scientific interpretation of agriculture or the cultural interpretation of forestry practices are nothing but idioms. Whether I understand Apatani agricultural fields in terms of the gradient of their finely laid out irrigation channels or in terms of traditional tribal beliefs, I am merely interpreting facts into a form that a particular world understands. My world, I know, needs well-grounded science.
I cannot find the ideal interpreter in one person. But I do find two friends who live an idiom each of Apatani life: Rubu Bukur, schoolteacher who has decided to stay back in Lempia village to document Apatani cultural and ecological traditions, and Mihing Dollo, an ecologist at the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Itanagar. They are childhood friends. Having met Dollo in Itanagar, I travel a bit assured that his friend in the valley shall be the guide I so desperately need. Over the next ten days, as Bukur takes me around the Apatani valley, the world of the community opens up to me -- just as warmly as the interpreter's friendship.