Sunday, September 21, 2008

Water Management

A few days back, I met an avid traveler who had just been to Ziro and enthusiastically telling me how beautiful the place is. He had all praise for the agricultural system of the Apatanis. I was happy to meet one more person who appreciates the tribe and its customs. Then he started speaking about the ‘Keley’ river and remarked that the water there should be used for irrigation purpose!

“It is the water of that river which irrigates 90% of the rice paddy you saw,” I told him.

“How can that be?” he was incredulous. “That river bed is lower than the paddy fields.”

I then understood that he just had a glance at the paddy fields and the river, but not really looked at the irrigation system of the Apatanis. It also made me realize how really expert the Apatanis are in maximally utilizing the water resource in the area. The traditional irrigation channels (siigangs) are diverted from the main river at the traditional irrigation projects called bogos made of bamboo and wood.

Moreover, the perfect gradient of the irrigation channels – the siigangs – are something to be given a thought. Neither does the water in any of the siigangs flow too fast to cause damage, nor does it flow too slow to remain stagnant anywhere in its course.

Apart from irrigation, there are other areas of water management that is often not noticed. One is the traditional way of erosion protection using bamboo and wood. This was a laborious affair, as it had to be repaired every year, but it was quite effective. That is the reason the course of the ‘Keley’ river had not changed over all these years.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Heritage Lapang

Lapang and babo are the hallmark of the Apatanis. That made the Myoko festival very special. It is during the Myoko anyangs, which comes every three years, that the babos and lapangs are renewed.

In the days gone by, the lapangs were made out of huge trees. The remains of fallen trees on the ground made best lapangs. Bigger the tree, bigger could the lapangs be made. And prouder were the people of that clan.

Lapang is significant in many ways. One is the tuli - the posts. Each tuli represented a male child. If I have two male children, I would contribute at least three tulis - two for my children and one for myself. It was indeed a brilliant idea to involve everybody in the community works.

In the face of changing village scenario these days, there is one lapang which still retains its original form. The Hibu Lapang in Hong village. Other lapangs today have conrete supporting structures, sawn timber replacing the manually sculptured lapang, or overhead roof to protect the lapang from rain and sun. All these changes have been necessitated by dwindling manpower and decreasing values attached to the traditional institutions.

In this context, therefore, retaining a lapang in its original form speaks a lot. That is why the Hibu Lapang has been declared a Heritage Lapang.

What is still not clear, however, is what exactly a "Heritage Lapang" would mean. Just declaring a structure as having heritage value has little meaning. The Hibu clan who constructs and maintains the lapang need support. The lapangs needs to be promoted and given significance.

Any confusion does not make the significance of Hibu Lapang any less. If you were wondering how an original lapang looks like, visit Hong village.