Itanagar, Sep 6: In Arunachal Pradesh, where hunting has been a community practice steeped in history and culture, the 'Air gun Surrender Abhiyan' is spinning a new hope for conservation with over 2,000 weapons given up voluntarily since its launch in March.
State Environment and Forests Minister Mama Natung, who masterminded the initiative, said the programme is completely voluntary, aimed at gradually easing the people into the concept of conservation.
"We want to raise awareness about conservation. Arunachal covers an area of 83,743 sq km, out of which 80 per cent is covered with forests, where we have some 500 species of birds and animals, perhaps many more undiscovered. If we keep killing them, our forests will disappear," Natung told PTI on Monday.
Over the last few months, his team has collaborated with the district administrations, forest department officials, NGOs and Community-Based Organisations (CBO) on the ground to conduct awareness drives.
The programme was launched on March 17 at Lumdung village in East Kameng district where 46 air guns were surrendered. In return, the person got a certificate of appreciation.
The minister also appealed to the governments of Assam and Nagaland to check killing of birds and animals in their states, noting that conservation efforts would be a futile exercise in Arunachal if people in the neighbouring states continue to kill wildlife.
"There is no geographical boundary for birds and wildlife. They move freely from one state to another. Our efforts for conservation will go in vain if people in our neighbouring states continue to kill wildlife and birds indiscriminately," Natung said.
Earlier hunting was more of a seasonal activity, limited primarily to tribal rituals, he said.
"With the proliferation of air guns and rifles, found freely in markets, hunting has increased manifold in Arunachal Pradesh," he said.
"We are also working on plans to compensate those who surrender their guns," Natung added.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu recently said that for the campaign to be successful, it has to emerge as a people's movement, requesting all Community-Based Organisations to play an active role.
Khandu stated that the campaign would be far from successful if people do not pledge 'not to eat wild meat'.
The chief minister said that hunting during the festival is an ancient practice and cannot be stopped by any legal or government order but has to be pondered upon by elders and youngsters alike.