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Plan to restore border landscapes


GUWAHATI, Oct 16 - Floating a new concept christened �Rural Futures�, the Balipara Foundation has firmed up plans to restore the Indo-Bhutan and Assam-Arunachal landscapes by planting over seven million trees.

Simultaneously, it also plans to build social delivery assets for the local communities and create a circular economy in which natural assets and their propagation provide a constant and sustainable source of revenue.

�The framework of Rural Futures reinforces the principles of habitat restoration, livelihood generation, empowerment, the movement towards a clean environment along with value and respect for the ecosystems. We ought to build on our nature assets or forest assets so as to provide a stable source of income and basic amenities for the fringe communities and localities,� Ranjit Barthakur, founder trustee of the Balipara Foundation told The Assam Tribune.

�The northeastern region of India can be represented with lush green landscapes and grassland, making the terrain more diverse in nature. The approach is going to be bottom-up in nature; therefore, the concept of building a holistic plan for developing rural idea is not only to enhance their capital but also to bridge the gap between the urban and the rural in the most environmentally viable way possible,� he added.

The foundation had begun its work for restoration of the Khalingduar-Bhairabkunda belt in Udalguri district in collaboration with the Bhairabkunda JFMC. Some three lakh trees have been planted so far and it has generated over Rs 30 lakh revenue for the local communities.

�We have also identified access to water as a prime issue in that zone and designed human-centric and local solutions to fix it,� explained Saurav Malhotra of the foundation.

Habitat restoration project in the Balipara reserve forest area has also begun. There, the foundation plans to plant one million trees in six years.

Malhotra said the regeneration of lost habitat includes multilateral dimensions. It not only benefits the flora and fauna but human beings as well. The idea is to reverse the process of environmental fragmentation, degradation or shrinking, he said.

Barthakur said the forest fringe communities in rural India need to increase their purchasing power. �More than capitalizing on industries, we must capitalize on the resources available in our rural grounds and forests. Therefore, the circulation of our resources from the environment has to be circular in nature and the economy must adhere to this concept,� he said.

He said there is a constant need for the communities to create assets which are going to comply with the current situation in a sustainable manner. Therefore, the need of the hour is to develop nature capital which in turn shall act as a driving force towards socioeconomic mobility of the communities.

�The thrust towards habitat restoration must also be equivalent to aspirations of the people in the communities. Every individual inevitably paints a picture in their mind which is proportionate to the exposure that is provided to them, thus building on their aspirations. But if the aspirations are not met, then the disregard for an ideal life and reality are not in congruence. With this analogy presented, the role of facilitators in the field of habitat restoration and rural futures would be to highlight the importance of livelihood generation through biodiversity conservation as a sustainable, viable and profitable way of living,� Barthakur added.

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