Article by Gokul GK
Arunachal Pradesh’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning writer, Mamang Dai, wrote in her poem, Floating Island:
The sloping mountain is trying to reach me
stretching down into the water.
Dear one, don’t go away.
Rest, rest on my shoulder.
Deep in my centre a woman is asleep
pressing her cheek on my pillow
vivid with dreams.
The birds of summer are nesting in her breast.
Arunachal. Land of dawn-lit mountains, green valleys and blue rivers, birds and orchids, and love and war. Situated on the northeastern tip of the country, the state of Arunachal Pradesh is a part of the Eastern Himalayan Ranges. It occupies the largest area in the northeastern region of India and consists of mountainous ranges sloping to the plains of Assam.
Sela Pass - Gateway to Tawang Credit: Zee News
Arunachal, like the other six sisters, is rich in biodiversity. According to the Department of Environment and Forests, the state has 20% species of the country’s fauna, 4,500 species of flowering plants, 400 species of pteridophytes, 23 species of conifers, 35 species of bamboos, 20 species of canes, 52 rhododendron species and more than 500 species of orchids, and is considered one of the 12 mega biodiversity hotspots in the world. There are eight Wildlife Sanctuaries, one Orchid Sanctuary and two National Parks in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, covering an area of 9,488.48 sq km.
Road leading up to Sela Pass Credit: Dreamtrails
Forests play a significant role in the life of the people of the state. Arunachal Pradesh has five major types of forests: tropical forests, subtropical forests, pine forests, temperate forests and alpine forests. In degraded forests, bamboo and other grasses are of common occurrence.
Ziro Valley, Lower Subansiri Credit: Chalohoppo
Elephants, tigers and leopards are quite common. The white-browed gibbon is found in Tirap and Lohit districts, and red pandas and musk deer in the higher ranges. Arunachal Pradesh is also the happy home of the great Indian hornbill – the bird with a large beak.
Ziro Valley, Lower Subansiri Credit: TrueHab
The state also boasts a rich aquatic biodiversity. An ichthyofaunal survey conducted along a 58-km stretch of the River Siang in Arunachal Pradesh alone revealed the presence of 82 species of fish belonging to 8 orders, 24 families and 53 genera.
Siang River Credit: The Hindu
Mithun, a large bovine, is the state animal of Arunachal. According to a report in National Geographic, it has a hybrid-breeding history, stemming from the wild gaur and domesticated cattle, possibly with its earliest roots 6,000 years ago. The animal, even today, has immense socio-cultural significance, especially among the Tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.
One cannot talk about Arunachal’s biodiversity without talking about its beautiful orchid population. White, red and purple orchids blooming against the backdrop of Tawang’s natural charm is a breathtaking frame.
Mithun - state animal of Arunachal Pradesh Credit: Outlook India
Out of 1,256 species of orchids found in India, nearly half – 612 – are found in Arunachal alone. However, there are speculations that the actual number can be more than this. These orchids bear exotic names such as Sita-Pushpa and Draupadi-Pushpa which were believed to have been worn by Sita and Draupadi for ornamentation.
Waterfall into Kameng river Credit: Outlook India
In January 2020, as The Indian Express reported, ‘a year-long project to assess the status of orchids in Arunachal Pradesh was initiated with the government signing a Memorandum of Understanding with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) India to create a Red Listing of orchids at the state level.’
Wild Alpines in Tawang Credit: Outlook India
The green hills, the snow-covered mountains, and a vast forest range make Arunachal home to many species of plants and animals. But the rising global temperature and climate change can eventually lead to a downfall of this rich biodiversity. It requires joint efforts from the governments, conservation NGOs and the common public to stop that from becoming a reality.