The North-Eastern states of India comprising Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura, cover an area of about 260,000 square kilometers and are well-known for their abundance in natural resources, cultural diversity, flora, and fauna. Their location is also highly geopolitical with its proximity to international lands of Tibet, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. 

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Map of North-East India ©PikPng

An intimate connection with the environment and an understanding of nature is more visible in this part than in the rest of the country. North-East India has its own development of a vernacular architecture that has evolved through the ages and is sensitive to its local climate, inhabitants, and materials as the environment has been an integral part of their lifestyles. Sustainability and its development have always remained an issue of utmost importance. 

1. Conservation & Sustainable utilization of Bioresources

The main goal of the Department of Biotechnology in Imphal, Manipur is the scientific management of resources falling under the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. It studies and documents the vast and rich biodiversity of the location to develop mindful interventions for sustainable development. 

The Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainable Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has also developed an Entrepreneurship Development Programme for the younger unemployed population by conducting educational training on organic farming, seed production technology, fish hatchery, etc. 

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Bioresources of North-East India ©Milo Tasser

2. Conservation of Material Resources

The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research – NEIS program established in 1961 has been doing research and development in many fields. One of the fields is an effective use of material resources in the North-East region. They have taken up assessing the genetic diversity of medicinal and economic plants, technological interventions in combating malnutrition, etc. 

The institute has also undertaken to raise micro clones of Assam Teak Wood through many trial locations. 

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Teak Wood Cultivation ©KrishiJagran

3. Forest Preservation

The North-East region of India takes up about 25% of the total forest cover in the country and has been depleting due to land pressure, exploitation of timber, land pressure, and lack of forest management. Bans on deforestations have been imposed to restore the unique ecosystem in this region and scientific forest management has been implemented. 

The Department of Space & Department of Technology has established a program to develop a thorough database on geoinformation for the area. This would provide resource availability and utilization data. Though just the beginning, it creates a baseline for an evolved scientific forest management plan.  

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Forest Management ©Mongabay

4. Smart Cities

The rapid urbanization of North-Eastern India is one of the most impactful transformations of the region and has given rise to nine cities embracing a smart city development plan. An inclusive governance was established to transform these traditional cities into smart cities through infrastructure and services to all sections of the population. 

Enhancing economic growth through sustainable development such as the utilization of renewable energy, recycling systems, and effective waste management has been very successful for these smart cities. Aizawl, Guwahati, Shillong, Agartala, Imphal, Pasighat, Kohima, Itanagar, and Gangtok are being developed as smart cities with a sustainable focus on their economy, tourism, resource management, energy sources, biodiversity, and urban mobility. 

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Guwahati Smart City ©Business-standard.com

5. Bioclimatic Architecture

Bioclimatic Architecture, as the name suggests, integrates the microclimate of an area and building design to sustainable solutions. It enhances the harmony between economic development, environmental protection, and social inclusion. While most vernacular architecture prevalent in the North-East regions is sustainable with respect to climatic conditions, materiality, and energy sources, continuing to adopt these methods will greatly benefit the region. 

The basic principles of the sustainable building design are to maximize the use of renewable and natural resources, climate responsive design, minimizing artificial energy and water use, and having good building systems in place.

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Vernacular Architecture ©Sujan Badhopadhyay

6. Bamboo Conservation 

Bamboo is one of the most abundant and sustainable resources in the North-East region of India. The richest Indian state to cultivate bamboo is Manipur with 53 species, and Arunachal Pradesh with 50 species. Bamboo is mainly used for wood substitutes, industrial products, handicrafts, food products, and mainly for construction and structural purposes. There are various studies proving the importance of bamboo in preventing soil erosion, improving water retention capacity of soils, etc. 

Bamboo forests are also an important carbon source and carbon sink. Due to its rapid biomass accumulation and effective fixation of solar power, bamboo can isolate carbon quicker which helps with containing forest fires. Bamboo is an integral part of socio-cultural and economic life in the North-East Region.  

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Bamboo Conservation ©TheNorthEastWindow

The environment has traditionally been an important part of the lifestyle and culture of the North-Eastern Region of India. Environmental protection has been passively practiced here for over five thousand years in ancient India, and has continued to be practiced but there are still significant gaps in the existing knowledge of other areas of sustainability. 

The quest for development in underdeveloped areas has given rise to deforestation, quarrying, overharvesting, and pollution among other damaging factors to the environment. With proper sustainable management and education, resources can be used sustainably by involving all local communities and managing authorities. Together they can make the North Eastern Region a place to build a future for India. 

References

Asianet News Network Pvt Ltd. 2021. World Environment Day: Northeast India – How it follows traditional sustainable lifestyle. [online] Available at: <https://www.mynation.com/india-news/world-environment-day-northeast-india-how-it-follows-traditional-sustainable-lifestyle-qbg76g>.

Saio, Valrielyn & Upadhyay, V P. 2020. Sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in North-East India: A review Plant Science Research. 40. 56-66.

Singh M., Mahapatra S. & Atreya S. K. 2008. Sustainability through Bioclimatic Building Design in North-East India. Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

Author

Rashmi Nair is an architect, interior designer, and fashion illustrator who is an ardent lover of all things design. She strives to be sustainable in design and life and strongly believes in the ‘Less is More’ idealogy. She enjoys exploring museums, reading, making lists, and a hot cup of coffee

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