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Indigenous People, Nature, Water

Meghalaya Cabinet approves draft water policy

The Meghalaya Cabinet has approved a draft water policy to address water usages, issues of conservation and protection of water sources in the state.

Chaired by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, the cabinet on Friday discussed at length the various aspects of the policy before approving the draft policy, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said.

“All issues related to utilization of water and livelihood and how to preserve water bodies have been outlined in this policy including community participation in the implementation of this policy by constituting a water sanitation village council at the village level,” Tynsong said.

The policy was drafted by the state Water Resources department in consultation with experts in water conservation and protection of water bodies.

The deputy chief minister said that Meghalaya being a hilly state, receives a lot of rainfall but the same water cannot be retained and all water reach Bangladesh in no time.

Among the other issues discussed on the policy was the need to optimize usage and conservation of water, steps needed to protect water bodies and water sources including ground water and protection of catchment and springshed areas.

Recently, the state government has launched the Jal Shakti mission to address the problems related to water.

The state cabinet has also approved the proposal of the Finance department to hike the salary of chairman and members of the Meghalaya Public Service Commission based on the recommendations of the fifth Meghalaya Pay Commission.

Water Mission

The Water Resources Department is implementing one new initiative which is the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme (IWRMP) which covers the activities under the Water Mission under the aegis of the IBDLP through the Meghalaya Water Resources Development Agency (MeWDA). This Programme is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of the eco-system. Under this Programme, activities for management and maximum utilization of the available water resources through the implementation of water harvesting structures, Jalkunds and Multipurpose Reservoirs are being taken up. Further, other Programmes relating to water quality, capacity building and awareness, monitoring and evaluation of projects, policy and regulation have also been initiated.

Activities under the Mission

Briefly the present status of the different activities and Programme taken up under the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme is as follows:

Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs)

During March 2013, an amount of Rs. 29.15 crores was sanctioned under Special Plan Assistance for development of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs). Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) are water bodies created in a cascade that will cater to the different water needs of the community. It may be mentioned that the Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) will have the following components:

  1. Structural components having a combination of components for different uses such as Drinking & Domestic Water, Irrigation, Fisheries, Livestock, Micro hydel (< 100kw; where ever feasible) etc.
  2. Non-structural components like capacity building, institution building, Management Information System (MIS), monitoring & evaluation, entrepreneurial promotion, etc.
  3. Ancillary Components like water filtration, soil fertility testing, water testing kits, improvement of traditional sources, improvement of catchment areas, conveyance systems through canals and pipes, etc. Presently, the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs) have been instructed to identify feasible sites for which this Programme can be taken up shortly. The consultant engaged to support the Meghalaya Water Mission is also helping out to carry this work forward.

Jalkunds/Water Harvesting structures

A total amount of Rs. 28.00 crores has been sanctioned for the construction of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures for which the funding is as shown below:

  1. Under Special Plan Assistance – Rs. 15.00 crores
  2. Under Special Central Assistance – Rs. 10.00 crores
  3. Under the State Plan – Rs. 3.00 crores Total – Rs. 28.00 crores
  4. Out of this available fund, Rs. 7.99 crores has been allotted to the 164 schemes as proposed by the Water Resources Department, while Rs. 10.00 crores has been sanctioned for 385 schemes proposed by Soil & Water Conservation Department. The schemes are being implemented through the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs). In order to sensitize the public on the implementation of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures, capacity building Programme have been taken up in the 7 district head quarters. A separate Programme on this subject was also held at Mawkyrwat in collaboration with the Mawkyrwat Farmers’ Association. Officers from the MeWDA, the Water Resources Department and the Soil & Water Conservation Department were deputed as resource persons for the Programme. Further, it is also proposed to implement Roof Top Rain Water Harvesting projects in Government and School buildings, PHCs and CHCs and accordingly the District Water Resources Councils have been instructed to identify and submit proposals.

Capacity Building & Awareness Programme

MeWDA and Water Resources Department, in collaboration with Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi, has organized Awareness Programme on the topic “Save Water , Save Earth” in Khliehriat & Tura. The Programme at Khliehriat was held on 17th May 2013 and 200 students from different schools in the district had participated. In Tura, the Programme was held on 21st May 2013 with 250 students participated in the Programme. Competitions were held and prizes were distributed to the winners. Apart from competitions, presentations relating to water were made by the resource persons from Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi.

Investigation, Planning & Preparation of Water Resources Projects

MeWDA has procured 2 (two) nos. of Light weight reflectorless Total Stations for the Soil & Water Conservation Department, one each for the Garo Hills and Khasi-Jaintia Hills Circle amounting to Rs. 9.2 Lakhs. These instruments will help the Department to take up more survey & investigation works and also help in preparing Detailed Project Reports (DPRs).

Monitoring & Evaluation of projects

MeWDA through the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme has funded an amount of Rs. 13.77 Lakhs for engaging an agency for third party monitoring of projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), implemented by the Water Resources Department and Soil & Water Conservation Department. The work is under progress.


Others MeWDA with the assistance of the engaged consultants are in the process of preparing two proposals for funding by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the creation of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) in the State.

Chandan Kumar Duarah

Indigenous People

Japan recognises indigenous Ainu people for the first time

Japan is a country which often touts its ethnic homogeneity. That narrative, however, erases the country’s Ainu indigenous people, who have inhabited the north of the country long before the arrival of the Japanese.

For the first time ever, the government will officially recognize the Ainu people of Hokkaido as an indigenous people of Japan following the approval of a bill by the cabinet last week. The bill, which now has to go before Japan’s lawmakers, also includes provisions to make the country a more inclusive society for the Ainu, including measures to promote their culture and and extend economic support to their homeland.

According to the Hokkaido government’s “Survey on the Ainu Living Conditions” conducted in 2013, there are about 17,000 Ainu living in Japan, although the Ainu Association of Hokkaido estimates the number to be larger than that as that survey was not conducted nationwide, and the survey only counts those who self-identify as Ainu.

The origins of the Ainu people are unclear, but according to Richard Siddle, a professor at Hokkaido University who researches the indigenous group, a distinct Ainu culture emerged in northern Japan around the 13th century, as contact between the inhabitants of Hokkaido and Japan’s main island of Honshu started to increase, mostly in the form of trade. At the time, the Ainu population extended as far into present day Sakhalin in the Russian Far East.

As the ethnic Japanese of the southern islands, known as Wajingradually increased their economic influence around Hokkaido, conflict arose. The Ainu and Japanese fought a series of wars between the 15th and 18th centuries, such that by the 19th century, the northern island came under Japanese control, with its name changed formally from Ezo to Hokkaido.  Mass migration of Japanese to “settle” Hokkaido also began.

The relationship between the Ainu and the Japanese then followed one that is familiar to indigenous peoples all around the world. Seen as an uncivilized and primitive people who were doomed to die out, the Japanese government in the late 19th century—which was in the midst of a revolution to modernize and Westernize the country—instituted the Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act. This was a bid to force the Ainu to assimilate, for example, by granting them small plots of land to get them to farm instead of carrying on with the fishing and hunting that they were long used to. They were also prohibited from speaking the Ainu language and had to speak Japanese instead. Over a century of discrimination of Ainu people ensured, with one recent survey for example finding the percentage of Ainu who go to university far lower than the Hokkaido average.

There has been a revival in Ainu culture in the last two decades, thanks in part to the Ainu Culture Promotion and Dissemination of Information Concerning Ainu Traditions Act passed in 1997, together with the abolishment of the 1899 law. Teruki Tsunemoto, the director of Hokkaido University’s Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, said the act helped bring about a change in people’s attitudes toward Ainu culture and encouraged people to proactively express their heritage, for example through language. The Ainu language—which is linguistically isolated from any other—is designated by UNESCO as an endangered tongue. Historically passed down only in oral form, the number of people who speak Ainu could be as low as a dozen, though more and more people with Ainu heritage are trying to keep the language alive.

new national museum and other facilities about the Ainu is also scheduled to open in 2020 in Hokkaido—in time for the tourist boom that is expected to accompany the Olympics in Tokyo. And local governments around Hokkaido have in recent years been trying to tap (paywall) the ballooning number of foreign visitors to Japan by promoting the island’s indigenous culture and the unspoiled environment associated with Ainu culture. Indeed, many of the names of Hokkaido’s best known tourist spots, such as ski resorts Niseko and Rusutsu, as well as the prefectural capital Sapporo, are Ainu in origin.

In addition to the Ainu, Japan has also long been home to a Korean minority, while many people of the southern Okinawan islands also consider themselves a distinct ethnic group. Meanwhile, an ethnically Japanese, social minority of outcasts known as the burakumincontinue to fight for equality (paywall), while increasing immigration into the country will continue to chip away at the myth of a homogeneous Japan.