A little over a week Paul and I were on our way to Guwahati airport to catch our flight to Delhi and from there fly back to Amsterdam…
Looking out of the car windows, we saw all the places we got familiar with the past 1,5 year passing by. Thinking back on all the people we got to meet, and the places we got to see, fills my mind with gratitude. I’m truly leaving this place with a suitcase full of cherished memories.
I’d like to thank all the people from WTI we got to work with, and (even though they don’t have internet connection) all the communities that welcomed us in their houses and helped us in telling our stories. I wish both WTI as well as the local communities strength and prosperity in their struggle to maintain the environment for both men and animal.
I’m going to miss the Garo Hills, which has become my second home, and I can only hope that when I return in a couple of years it will not have lost its natural beauty.
Splinder Areng, the Nokma (village head) of Daribokgre, was killed on his doorstep February 14th. Splinder was shot in the back by a a member of a local militant group.
In recent years the Garo Hills has had to deal with several armed separatist groups. These groups strive towards a Greater Garoland, a Garo state separate from Meghalaya. As a result of their guerilla tactics, violent clashes with the armed police occur frequently. Daribokgre is located deep inside the Garo jungle, where such violent clashes between militants and army usually take place. As a result, most communities in this area are forced to deal with the demands of both militants and the army on a daily basis.
According to local media, Splinder was killed because the militants claimed he was “a police informant”. Whether he was or not, it doesn’t justify what was done to him and his family.
We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Splinder fairly well over the past 1,5 years. He was a warm, joyful man who always had the best interest of his community at heart.
A former hunter himself, he had developed a keen sense of the importance of nature and has been a pioneer for conservation in the region.
In this interview Splinder explains about permanent terrace farming in his community. Six families of his community recently converted their land into terraces, rendering slash and burn cultivation (Jhumming) unnecessary.
These are the last images we have of Splinder.
It was an honor to have known Splinder and we will cherish the memories of the evenings we spent in his company sharing stories at his house. Our sympathies go out to Splinder’s wife and five children, who we wish well in coping with this great loss.
During earlier visits to Aretika, the villagers explained they cannot live off of fishery anymore. Due to the polluting effects of coal mining they were catching less and less fish and were forced to look into other jobs to make a living.
Nowadays the ex-fishermen (and their wives) filter the coal debris from the river they used to fish in, and sell the collected coal to coal dealers.
For their school project in the Netherlands, Mette and Sietske asked us to find out more about deforestation in India.
In this video local people, government officials and conservationist experts answer Mette and Sietske’s questions by describing the various factors of deforestation in the Garo Hills.
Lastly a note for Mette and Sietske:
Good luck with the rest of your project and hope our video’s are a helpful addition to your ‘profielwerkstuk’!!
The past months it was monsoon season. For us (the WIWC reporters) there was less work to film, as many of WTI’s activities here in the Garo Hills were stopped due to the heavy rainfall.
- In this VIDEO STORY you can check out the monsoon rains in the Garo Hills.
Unlike us, our WTI colleagues in Assam had MORE work to do the past months. Since the flood in 2004, this year has been the most devastating in Kaziranga. At the worst point 80% of the national park was flooded and many animals were disoriented or even drowned. Others were fleeing the national park in search for the higher grounds of the Karbi Anglong Hills. To reach there they have to cross the region’s main highway, which lead to an increase of car hits. To make things worse poachers have been taking advantage of the situation by killing Rhino’s and Tigers while they were outside protected park borders.
Together with the Assam Forest Department the WTI-IFAW rescue team tried to save as many animals as possible. The team helped save over a 100 animals during the month long floods in Kaziranga National Park.
Our colleagues in Assam:
Pictures: WTI staff Assam