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Majuli set to become India’s first ‘carbon neutral’ district

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GUWAHATI, Dec 15: The world famous river island and seat of Vaishnavite culture Majuli district will soon become the first ever ‘carbon neutral’ district in India. The Assam government has initiated a project in this regard.

To achieve this goal, the State Environment & Forest department has already launched a project ‘Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli’ ( SACReD, Majuli) in the river island.

In a meeting held on Wednesday at the conference hall of the Deputy Commissioner’s office, Majuli, AK Johari, IFS, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity & Climate) and Member Secretary of the Assam State Biodiversity Board, announced the launching of the project for achieving carbon neutrality in the river island.

The project has been initiated to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is part of the French Development Agency assisted Assam Project on Forest and Biodiversity Conservation (APFBC) being implemented by the State Forest department.

Majuli district deputy commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha highlighted the importance of climate-based decision making, and the need for low emission strategy for the river island to ensure its sustainable development. Johari provided a background context to the project, citing recent international development on climate change and India’s efforts and commitments towards its mitigation.

The SACReD project presents a vision and roadmap for a carbon neutral Majuli. Mitigation through forestry activities and biodiversity conservation will be the starting points for the carbon neutral agenda, followed by other interventions over the next three years.

Discussions were held on the background of Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS), steps involved in developing an effective LEDS in Majuli such as development of emission baseline and prioritizing focal areas for interventions. Discussions also were held on afforestation and forest enhancement/bio-engineering as means to curb incessant erosion of land in the island district — which also acts as a sink of carbon and offsetting GHG emissions happening elsewhere in the district.

The SACReD carbon neutrality roadmap for emissions reductions analysis and interventions is being developed by IORA Ecological Solutions, which is assisting the Forest department in developing the design of the project. The technical sessions of the meeting were led by Swapan Mehra, Dr Sumana Bhattacharya and Chhaya Bhanti, experts from IORA Ecological Solutions (IORA).

This project will be designed and implemented in partnership with other departments of the district, for which a district level committee under the chairmanship of DC has been constituted. This will enable landscape planning for reducing emissions and improving forest health of Majuli, improved productivity of other lands and enhanced benefits for the communities.

All these activities will lead to Majuli becoming a carbon neutral district by 2020. With the successful implementation of the project in the island district, the activities would be scaled up to other districts of the State so as to reduce carbon emissions in Assam.

The meeting was attended by heads of all departments in Majuli and representatives of the Mising Autonomous Council.

Majuli is the biggest river island in the world and also the first island district of the country. The island had a total area of 1,250 square kilometers at the beginning of the 20th century, but has lost a major chunk of its land due to relentless erosion by the Brahmaputra.