Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome to Ziro!

One drives up either from Kimin or Itanagar to Ziro enjoying the roads meandering left and right. The journey is accompanied by magnificent sights of dense forests and the blue hills throughout.

One cannot but help enjoy nature at its best. The expectation about Ziro increases manyfold during the journey. Then, as one drives down to the last peg of the road to the Hapoli township, one is greeted by an unexpected welcome sign:

The same welcome sign greets even as one drives to Ziro from northern end from Daporijo:
Isn't it time we start thinking?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Water Wars

As usually happens in any agriculture-dominated areas, there has always been minor disputes over use of irrigation water among the Apatanis at Ziro. The owner of a field may have blocked the hurbu, denying sufficient water for the adjacent field downwards. Or, he may have opened it up, flooding the adjacent field. The fields located upstream of an irrigation channel (siigañ) may have used up too much water, so that those downstream are not getting sufficient water. Such disputes, however, have always been solved amicably as everybody own the bogo.

Any planning in the valley needs to take into account the situation here. It is easier to meet the short-term needs than the long-term ones. A case in point is the recently constructed Water Treatment Plant near the All India Radio. Since its commission, drinking water problem of Hapoli township has been solved to a large extent.

While this development is commendable, one needs to consider the long-term effect it will have too. The water in this treatment plant comes from the watersheds of the Seya Kiile, one of the most important sources of irrigation water in the Apatani valley. Due to lack of reliable data, one assumes that at least one-fourth volume of Seya Kille must be diverted for drinking water for Hapoli. While the short-term benefits are immediately visible, it will also have far reaching effects on the availability of irrigation water in the years to come.

It is important therefore, that agriculture department also steps into such plannings. That, essentially, means that inter-departmental coordination is important. More important, the leaders giving green signal to such projects need to think over minutely. Consultation with the concerned communities could be helpful.

One needs to discuss this issue now not with a view to 'undo' it, but to explore if better sources were available. We need to learn from what we do.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ziro at Crossroads

Long, long ago, when a group of people reached Supuñ Lemba, they decided that they have found the place they had been looking for. From the time they had started their journey from Kolyuñ Lemba centuries back, they had tried settling down in various places including Wiipyo Lemba, Nyime and Miido Lemba. As generations of them traveled, crossing the Nyime Pembu and along the banks of the mighty Kuru Yasi, they had seen no other place as enchanting and as fertile as this one. The Apatanis had reached Ziro.

It was not an easy life in the beginning, though. The valley was swampy and pestilential. Huge trees grew everywhere and ferocious animals ruled the roost. However, the Apatanis had already noticed the clear stream meandering through the length of the valley. This was to be their lifeline in the years to come. They settled down in various hamlets and planted the seeds of piisa, bije and giyañ that they had brought with them. As these initial settlements turned into villages, they cleared the surrounding areas, used the higher lands for millet and vegetable plantation and lower ones for cultivation of rice. Bije, lyapyo, aji, yorlu and balu were in place.

In order to ensure healthy growth of their crops, the Apatanis propitiated Chandii-Metii, Dree and Yapuñ. After the harvest of paddy, they constructed new houses or repaired the old ones. After that, individuals performed Muruñ and Subu. Myoko followed. Guests were entertained and relationships - with both God and man - were strengthened during the occasion. The cycle continued uninterrupted, year after year.

Every early visitor to the Apatani country was awed by the sustainable way of the tribe's life. The way they tended their bijes and sansuñs were examplary. Ajis and lyapyos got loving care throughout the year. Occasional hunting expeditions were carried out, but killing of certain animals, especially belonging to the cat families, was discouraged. Disputes were settled by bulyañs and goras. It looked like such idyllic life will continue for ever.

That, alas, was not to be. Grotesque electric power lines criss-cross the expanses of paddy fields today. Odd buildings are rapidly coming up in the midst of these cultivation areas. The forests in the hills surrounding the valley are indiscriminately being destroyed. Institutions are coming up in the headwaters of Tabyu Kiile, Tajang Kiile, Seya Kiile and Siikhe Kiile, threatening to dry up the valley. In addition, heaps of waste are clogging every stream. As one enters the valley, one is greeted with small hills of garbage by the roadside, accompanied by nauseating odor of burning plastic. A handful of concerned people passively look on, helpless. Ziro is dying. Our Ziro.

It is time we realize what we are doing. It is time we ask ourselves whether to remain passive onlookers or start a mission to save Ziro. We have to bequeath to our children as beautiful a Ziro as we inherited from our ancestors.