It has been over two weeks since Imphal Free Press broke the news of the Public Works Department (PWD) flattening the Mantha hillock near Nambol area without obtaining any clearance from the forest department. This is done all in the name of constructing a community development block. The exclusive story had clearly mentioned that the execution of the work by PWD is said to be in direct violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 even as the hillock is registered as an un-classed forest.
The hillock is located about 4 kilometres away from Maibam Lotpa Ching on the eastern side of the Asian Highway-1 and locally known as Mantha Ching and comes under the Isok Block, Nambol, Bishnupur district. It has been reported that earth movers have been deployed by the contractor executing the work of earth excavation and the sides of the hillock have been severely defaced as huge quantity of earth has been excavated and a flat surface has been made for the purported construction of the block.
Despite the efforts to infuse a sense of perspective by the Divisional Forest Officer of Bishnupur forest division, no stakeholders seem to be keen on taking the matter seriously. If at all the report is true, the discussion that had taken place to settle the issue by the district and state authorities have been rendered futile so far.
It has been reported that the PWD executive engineer had been officially intimated on October 26, 2019. However, the PWD seems to think that not taking forest clearance is not a serious matter at all.
It has been stated that the proposed work without getting mandatory clearance under the relevant rules amounts to violation of the provisions under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, Manipur Forest Rules 1971 and sections related to Forest department rule number 55/12/8 passed on 31 May, 1994.
Despite an order passed by the DFO to halt all the ongoing works at the hillock until the matter has been settled, no authorities seemed to be rattled or even mollified by the surrounding silence. Now, it is left to the wisdom of the honourable lawmakers to take a call on the long-run benefits of either building the infrastructure in the name of development or save the precious environment for posterity.
If the report is proved correct, then the government is taking the long silence of all for wisdom and the writing on the wall as ignorance. However, one should not make a mistake in taking nature’s kindness as an act of calm acceptance.