The first community forest reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, the Eko Dhumbing Community Forestry Reserve, was created utilizing a new clause in the Indian National Forestry Act. The size of Rhode Island, these legendary tribal lands are now managed for biodiversity and for the good of the people.
In his book, Deep Economy, writer Bill McKibben was on site for the initial planning of this protected area. He describes: "One man, Onyok Sitang, who'd been the best hunter in town, talked about how he'd given up the gun; instead, he used a video camera that the Future Generations team had left behind on their last visit."
Building on Future Generations environmental research and advocacy, people who had been poachers were trained to do conservation studies, monitor biodiversity, practice sustainable forestry, and implement a range of self-help projects.
Situated along the Siang (Brahmaputra) River, the community forestry reserve is also well placed to take advantage of future opportunities in eco-tourism being planned with support from Travel+Leisure magazine.
Other major initiatives include community-based conservation projects in the Tsangyang Gyatso World Peace Park, Dihang Dibang Biosphere Reserve, and Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. These are part of the growing network of wildlife sanctuaries across the state (see www.wildarunachal.org).
The Tsangyang Gyatso and Dihang Dibang biosphere reserves include people in the protection of nature. Within the boundaries of the 2,172km2Tsangyang Gyatso World Peace Park, 23,615 people live in 60 villages; and within the larger, 5,111km2, but more sparsely populated Dihang Dibang region, 11,715 people make a living in 21 villages.
As envisioned by the UNESCO Man in the Biosphere Program, biosphere reserves are protected areas in which the local population is a partner in the protection of nature.
The Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, featured in the 2000 National Geographic article, In Search of the Clouded Leopard, connects to a larger management plan that Future Generations Arunachal is developing for the adjacent Apatani plateau.
This work builds on the indigenous knowledge of the Apatanis, the major tribal group inhabiting the villages that surround the wildlife sanctuary. Support for this work is made possible by a grant from the United Nations Development Program's Global Environment Facilities' Small Grants Program (UNDP GEF).