The biodiversity rich Lura village in East Jaiñtia Hills has been chosen as the site for a scheme of the Central Silk Board, the ‘In-situ Conservation of Muga Silkworm’ project, which is to be implemented by the Department of Textiles under the North Eastern Region Textiles Promotion Scheme.
Lura, so far largely unknown to the outside world, is now one of the most important places on the world map of silk, one of the costliest and most sought after materials on Earth.
Lura, one of the 97 villages in Saipung block, has a population of 431 spread among 73 households, according to the 2011 census.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the village heads and government representatives yesterday.
A team of scientists who have been studying the area said that it has huge potential for its conservation and the flora resources are readily available for utilization. Under this scheme the people of the area will receive special training in silkworm rearing, the art of weaving and get extraordinary focus for advancing in the sector.
The local dorbar, under the leadership of the Waheh Chnong, Lalpuireng Ngamlai, were delighted to be part of the important project. Ngamlai said that the village folk would greatly benefit from this initiative. Also present was Zosiama Thanglai, President of the Synjuk Ki Rangbah Shnong Saipung Circle.
Lura was chosen for this prestigious pilot scheme because the village and surrounding areas have an abundant growth of wild Muga food plants, such as persea bombycina (som plant) and litsaea monopetela (soulu plant). Also found in the area are the secondary food plants of the Muga silkworm, such as litsaea salicifolio (digloti plant) and litsaea cubeba (mijankari plant). However, though the area has been a treasure trove of wild Muga food plants, the local people do not traditionally rear and weave silk. They are just beginning to do this under a project recently implemented there.
A press release from the Silk Board said that with the Muga silkworm being endemic to the North East, this project will help in extending Muga flora in the region and the country as a whole, which will benefit sericulture farmers and provide sustainable employment to rural people.
This project will, for now, run in only two other states – Assam and Nagaland. It will be supervised by the Central Muga Eri Research and Training Institute along with the office of the West Jaintia Hills District Sericulture Officer.
The team of experts that were instrumental in identifying the wild Muga food plants in the area were BN Choudhury, CZ Renthlei, G Subramanyam and Rihiamlang Synjri.
The scientists told Highland Post that “the conservation will maintain recovering populations (Muga worm) in the surrounding areas where they will develop their distinctive properties. Secondly, this strategy of conservation will help to ensure the ongoing process of evolution and adaptation within Muga fauna. Due to climatic changes and deforestation, Muga silkworms and other beneficial silkworms are endangered and their survival had been affected at a tremendous rate.”
They emphasized that “if conservation of this Muga silkworm is not done immediately, they are likely to become extinct, affecting not only the livelihood of the farmers but also acting as great loss to the biodiversity heritage.”
They said that this project is thus very important and is the latest strategy to promote conservation and the sustainable utilization of natural resources with the objective of contributing to rural tribal socioeconomic and cultural heritage.