Big Push Needed on Basic Services and Connectivity, Says First Arunachal Human Development Report

21 Apr 2008

Itanagar, 21 April - Arunachal Pradesh has a unique opportunity to map out a people-centred development path that is sustainable and ecologically sound. Community-based development planning in Arunachal Pradesh has lagged behind, resulting in slow progress on human developmentindicators in the state. The experience of Apatani valley in Arunachal Pradesh, where people have been involved as major stakeholders in the management of bio-resources, can be used to initiate programmes in other parts of the state to promote people, particularly women as partners in the development process. These are some of the messages of the first Arunachal Pradesh Human Development Report, that was released here today. The Report was released by the State Chief Minister, Mr. Gegong Apang in the presence of the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator, Dr. Maxine Olson, here today. The Report highlights the need to boost income opportunities and local livelihoods by promoting eco-tourism and establishment of small-scale industries based on bamboo and other minor forest produce. The conservation and sustainable utilization of medicinal plants and herbs through community participation is another area that deserves attention, the Report says. Located in the extreme north-eastern corner of India, Arunachal is the largest state in the region, with an area of nearly 84,000 sq kilometers, with an unparalleled concentration and diversity of tribal cultures. As many as 26 major tribes and 110 sub-tribes live in the state. Over 40 languages are spoken in the geographically isolated hill state.

In the first comprehensive analysis of progress on human development in the state since Independence, the Report calls attention to the need for a major scaling up of access to basic education and health services as well as income opportunities with a particular focus on women. Emphasizing the need to mainstream gender concerns in the overall policy making and implementation of various government-sponsored programmes, the Report warns that the effectiveness of such programmes will remain limited unless governance is transformed in a way that allows for greater inclusiveness and participation.

The districts of Arunachal show considerable variation in the levels of human development.East Siang has the first rank followed by Dibang valley. East Kameng district ranks the lowest.While the process of development in Arunachal is recent, progress has been encouraging though uneven. The rate of growth of income has been higher than the national average.The literacy rate has increased, although it remains lower than the national average. The health status of the people has improved in the state but improvements have not been able to keep pace with the spread of education or with the growth of income.

The literacy rate for women in the state in 2001 has gone up to 43.5 per cent as compared to 15 per cent in 1981. However, it is still 10 points lower than the national average of 54.03 percent. Stark gender inequality can be seen in the state in work participation,governance, asset holdings and access to health services.Acknowledging the government’s role as a facilitator in reviving the old community spirit and redefine the role of the private sector in the development process, the report notes, “Private entrepreneurship and community action are being encouraged in an attempt to regain asense of ownership which has always been a vital part of the tribal culture.”

To examine the relationship between infrastructure and human development at the district level, the Report includes, perhaps for the first time, a composite index of infrastructure for 2000-01, based on a number of indicators. These include length of roads/100 sq km, surfaced road as a percentage of total road length, percentage of gross irrigated area to total cropped area, percentage of electrified villages, number of banks per 10,000 population, number of schools/100 sq km, number of health centres/100 sq km and availability of several other services. Highlighting the wide gaps in road connectivity between rural and urban areas, the Report says that despite continuous efforts to extend the road network in the state, the road density was still very low. This has resulted in high transportation cost and the prices of all commodities are higher in Arunachal than elsewhere in the country.

The state has the potential to supply a third of the total hydroelectric potential of the country.Nevertheless, this potential has remained untapped and Arunachal is currently purchasing power and relying on diesel generating sets to meet its energy requirements.

The Report highlights the need for a comprehensive Biodiversity Action Plan as the first step towards the conservation and sustainable use of this priceless heritage of the State. This needs to be followed by development of appropriate technology and efforts at community participation in indigenous livelihood promotion, in a manner that is efficient and sustainable. For a state endowed with about a third of the 15,000 seed plants found in India,thousands of non-flowering plants, over a hundred species of mammals in the forests and a wide variety of medicinal plants (used by the people for centuries to cure diseases), much of the forest wealth is undocumented.

The Arunachal HDR, prepared by the Rajiv Gandhi University Itanagar, is a partnership project of the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, the Union Planning Commission and UNDP.Arunachal is the 16th state to release its HDR under this all-India initiative. The objective of theReport is to provide the State with a model of development that is suitable for its special requirements.