Thursday, August 9, 2012

Manipur needs environmental awakening

Manipur needs environmental awakening
by Khuraijam Jibankumar

Trapped in the socio-political troubles, our state is unable to explore the rich biodiversity and beautiful landscapes of the state. Situated at the juncture of three important landmasses, the Indian Peninsula, Tibetan Plateau and Myanmar, Manipur belongs to one of the biodiversity richest region in the world – the Indo-Myanmar Biodiversity Hotspot. The state has the highest diversity of orchids in the country with 500 species and home to many endemic and rare species. We have a rich tradition of conserving natural resources through centuries old culture of community based conservation, the Umang lais(sacred groves). This tradition is into practice even before the invent of the concept of National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. Loktak Lake situated at the southern part of the central valley is “heart” of the state. The lake is responsible for balancing the climatic condition of the state. Keeping the lake and its adjoining water bodies in good health should be the prime motive of the state government and people of the state to avoid drastic climatic change and other environmental problems.

Due to the negligence and lack of belongingness of the natural heritages among the people, the status of the environment and biodiversity of the state is deteriorating at a very fast rate. The state is already in an environmental crisis. Our lakes, rivers and forests are at very critical stage and if we don’t act now, we are going to face major environmental problems in very near future. Forest cover of the state has reduced significantly in the last ten years. The state has lost 190 sq km of forest cover, the highest among northeastern states. The decrease in the forest cover is mainly in three hill districts of Tamenglong, Senapati and Ukhrul. All the hills overlooking Imphal valley have lost primary forest cover. Shifting cultivation and collection of charcoal are one of the main reasons for the deforestation. Wildlife are mercilessly hunted down for meat.

In valley districts, due to the sudden increase of vehicles in the last 2-3 years, there is dramatic increase in air pollution. Rivers are choked with plastic bottles and garbage reducing the quality of the water unsuitable for aquatic lives. Langol, the only reserve forest near the city which is serving as the carbon sink is now under severe land transformation. The state is experiencing the maximum temperature of 35°C which clearly indicates the imbalance between the hill and valley ecosystems.

As the world over celebrates Environment Day today, the people of our state are still yet to understand the importance of environment and the value of natural resources. Manipur needs urgent environmental awakening to improve the environmental health of the state. We need to cultivate the thought of belongingness and care for the environment around us. We should avoid hunting of wildlife and should invent sustainable agricultural practice to replace the primitive shifting cultivation in the hill districts. This can be only achieved through the involvement of different governmental departments such as Rural Development, Social Welfare, Agriculture and Forest Department in creating alternative livelihoods to reduce the dependence of the people on forest products and wildlife. State government should encourage and support research and environmental education through Universities, Colleges and NGOs. Local self help groups, Meira paibis and youth clubs should be involved in the environmental awareness campaigns. Institutes like Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), Manipur University, Central Agriculture University, DM College and Imphal College should take up initiatives in co-ordination with other institutes and colleges to explore and conserve the rich biodiversity of the state. Students in schools and colleges should be involved in environmental related campaigns and the school authorities should be more “serious” in developing ECO CLUB to improve environmental knowledge.

Keibul Lamjao without Kei, Umang lai without Umang, should we wait for many such natural resources to vanish from our very eyes. Let’s save forests and wildlife for better and healthy environment of the state.