At present just 10 Monpa tribals make the traditional acid-free paper, an art handed down for thousands of years, from the bark of daphne cannabina, in remote Mukto area in Tawang district, bordering China.

The paper-making tradition is on the verge of extinction since no aid is forthcoming from either the state government or the Centre to promote its production, said Genden Pema, an artisan at Mukto.

The Centre had once provided Rs 22 lakh and a machine to produce the paper with UNDP funds at Mukto, Pema Yangcheng, a resident, who has been producing the paper for many years, said.
    
"Call it sheer carelessness of management or lack of accountability, the machine stopped working within a few months," he said.

A condensed operator course was given to a few of the artisans at Kumarrapa National Handmade Paper Institute in Jaipur in 1998, but that too failed, he said.

"Though it is tough to produce such paper, its commercial viability cannot be undermined. Monsug paper has an edge over traditional paper as no toxic material is used to make it," Sange Dorjee, who has been making the paper for the last 10 years, said.

Monsug paper absorbs ink without blotting which makes it preferred over other papers in the market. The paper making involves a week-long process from finding the plant and removing the bark followed by drying and boiling it in filtered ash water.

It is then left to decay followed by beating, mixing and laying on a wooden frame screen and drying again. The process takes a week longer if the weather is unfavourable.

Sange Drema, Rinchin Khandu, Sange and Sonam Wangchu were among the artisans at Mukto who used only traditional equipment like 'sukh borma' (a blender made of bamboo), 'sukh samba'(a basket made of bamboo) and tongkor (wooden pestle and mortar), for making the Monsug paper.
    
"Lack of proper marketing, publicity and government aid are affecting the art of making Monsug paper. On top of that, unwillingness of the younger generation in maintaining the art is of concern," lamented artisan, Thupten Tsering said.

(Agencies)

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