Earth Day and Manipur
IFP Editorial: Asking the hill people to do away with the practice of jhum cultivation is like asking them to give up their traditional lifestyle and culture.
Earth Day is observed on April 22 every year. Earth Day gains significance with each passing year as the global climate crisis worsens. Earth Day brings millions of people together as it gives an opportunity for all stakeholders to create awareness and work together on critical issues like global warming, pollution and the vanishing forest cover among others. This year, the earthday.org calls on everyone to “be a part of the change”. In 1990, Earth Day became an environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet.
The Earth Day 2021 theme is Restore Our Earth. The theme focuses on natural processes and emerging green technologies that can restore the world’s ecosystems. In this way, the theme rejects the notion that mitigation or adaptation are the only way to address climate change.
This Earth Day, we would like to begin by complimenting the efforts of the newly upgraded state Directorate of Environment and Climate Change towards bringing awareness to the general public with regard to various aspects of environmental degradation and climate change in the state.
One of the most important challenges in the movement for environment and climate action is the level of awareness among the general public directly impacted by it and their role in turning the tide. In this, the state Directorate has become a leader in the country by instituting fellowships and capacity building tours for journalists to report on climate change and various environmental issues. We have seen ground reports from journalists who had participated in the recent campaign ‘Know your sanctuaries and wetlands’ in recent days and it served as an eye-opener to the degrading wetlands and sanctuaries. Another commendable effort of the Directorate is of cleaning the River Nambul which flows through Imphal with an objective towards a cleaner Loktak Lake. A project called ‘Rejuvenation and Conservation of Nambul River’ which aims at controlling pollution of the Nambul river by intercepting and treating urban waste originating in the stretch between Iroisemba and Heirangoithong through use of the water treatment plant at Mongsangei and Samushang was recently launched in March by the Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
This Earth Day, we would like call attention to the loss of forest cover generated by excessive commercial activity, population pressure and agricultural needs. Commercial activity in timber needs to be checked through inter-agency cooperation. The issue of deforestation due to jhum cultivation has been debated enough. While government ministers and experts shout from the mountain-top that the practice of jhum is leading to land degradation and soil erosion, nothing much have been done on the ground to convince the hill villagers from giving up the practice or to introduce sustainable methods in this traditional practice. On the other hand, asking the hill people to do away with the practice of jhum cultivation is like asking them to give up their traditional lifestyle and culture. Yet, one must understand that the present land holding pattern in the hill areas is one important factor impeding the growth of sustainable practices of agriculture and horticulture activities.
One worrying factor is the mushrooming growth of new villages in the hills mostly in the Kuki dominated areas. Population pressure is there definitely, but it does not necessarily require establishment of new villages while it leads to land degradation and diminishing forest cover. The time has come for advocating a change in the land holding pattern in the hills and making it more democratic.