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Arunachal’s air gun surrender programme raises hopes for conservation

ITANAGAR: In Arunachal Pradesh, where hunting is 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 voluntarily surrendered since its March launch.

State Environment and Forests Minister Mama Natung, who spearheaded the initiative, stated that the programme is entirely voluntary and aims to gradually introduce people to the concept of conservation.

Minister Natung further said, “Arunachal Pradesh has an area of 83,743 square kilometres, with forests covering 80% of the land and harbouring 500 species of birds and animals, with possibly many more yet to be discovered. If we continue to kill them, our forests will vanish.We want to raise conservation awareness”

His team has been working with district administrations, forest department officials, NGOs, and Community-Based Organizations (CBO) on the ground to conduct awareness drives over the last few months.

The programme began on March 17 in Lumdung village in East Kameng district, with the surrender of 46 air guns.

In exchange, the individual received a certificate of appreciation.

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The minister also urged the governments of Assam and Nagaland to put a stop to the killing of birds and animals in their respective states, stating that conservation efforts in Arunachal would be futile if people in neighbouring states continued to kill wildlife.

Earlier, hunting was more of a seasonal activity, primarily used for tribal rituals, he explained.

“With the widespread availability of air guns and rifles in markets, hunting has increased dramatically in Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

“We are also working on compensation plans for those who surrender their firearms,” Natung added.

State Chief Minister Pema Khandu recently stated that in order for the campaign to be successful, it must emerge as a people’s movement, and he has asked all Community-Based Organizations to play an active role.

Khandu stated that if people do not pledge to “not eat wild meat,” the campaign will be a failure.

According to the CM Khandu, hunting during the festival is an ancient practise that cannot be stopped by any legal or government order, but must be considered by both elders and children.

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