Home to some rare flora and fauna, the Garo Hills fall within the Indo-Myanmar biodiversity hotspot, one of the most threatened in the world.
The traditional slash-and-burn method of farming has been identified as one of the biggest causes for concern in conservation in this region. Rising population, increasing mining interests and urbanisation have pushed some species to the brink of extinction in the area.
The Body Shop project in India will be conducted in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which has existing ventures in the Garo Hills.
“The land (in Meghalaya) is mostly owned by tribals. Only about 8 per cent is with the government. That has both advantages and some challenges. It requires some nuance when you are dealing with the locals,” Mrinal Pande, Trustee at WTI, said explaining the challenges in working on conservation in the Garo Hills. “WTI’s work is two-fold — to secure the elephant corridors and to regrow the forest there.”
Elephant corridors are strips of land used by elephants to migrate from one habitat to the next.
“It is a delicate balance. If elephants go, the forests go; if forests go, the rivers go; and if rivers get disturbed, that affects people living outside the forest area as well,” Pande said.
The biobridge project will also work on conservation of the western hoolock gibbon, which is categorisd as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
WTI’s existing projects are also working with the community in conserving the forests by providing alternate sources of income, health, education and alternatives to their traditional methods of farming.