In ghost villages, a potential to restructure hill ecosystem,

The ghost villages of Uttarakhand have the potential to re-structure the ecosystem in the hills, with a little human push, and allow Mother Nature to reclaim what was truly hers, a professor from Princeton University, USA, said Tuesday.

Prof David Wilcove, department of ecology and evolutionary sciences, Princeton said a policy should be created to utilise the land emptied out due to rural migration for conservation purposes.

“Rural migration provides opportunities for conservation. What happens to the land, which is deserted? It lies there defunct. So why not work on it and create new forests,” asked Wilcove.

This could be done by re-planting the desolate patches of land vacated by the people and re-structure the ecosystem there for growth of wild animals and plants.

The Princeton University intends to take up research on migration and land use impact on Himalayan ecosystem in the country. The target states would be Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, North West Bengal, and Arunachal Pradesh.

In this regard the first meeting was held in Dehradun on Tuesday. The meeting was the first step towards the collaborative effort of the 270-year-old university, Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and National Centre for Biological Sciences, a part of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research under the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, on conserving Himalayas.

Wilcove’s two main thrust areas in the research work that would be carried out over a period of 3-5 years in the listed states ranges from the change in land use and its impact on ecology and also how migration impacts the flora and the fauna.

“The land use has been changing due to developmental activities in India. We should be able to understand how this change is affecting the behaviour, habitat, and other details of wild species in Himalayan ecosystem,” Wilcove said.

The WII would be providing the insight and technical support for the research work that will be funded by the university.

The other most crucial aspect of the research would be rural migration. Wilcove is of view that if people are migrating for better life and employment opportunities then their land should be utilised for conservation purposes.

Wilcove has asked for the baseline data of migration and abandoned villages from the states so that the research on the possible environmental impact on wild species could be conducted. Such research, as per Wilcove, could provide an insight to the central government to work on better policies and also upgrading the forest cover, which has hardly increased by 1% in last two years, as per the latest report of Forest Survey of India.

K Ramesh, scientist at WII and the nodal officer of the collaboration, said that India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change has eight main missions of which WII was collaborating on one — National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem.

STRAP: Princeton University likely to take up research on impact of change in land use on wild species and rural migration