Climate change, land degradation & agricultural deceleration in Manipur
Combined action of Land Use Policy & Environment Policy: A pioneering strategy

Mohendro Nandeibam *

When the whole world is facing onslaught of aggressive climate change, Manipur cannot remain mere onlooker. The state is not sacrosanct. It has its own share of sorrow. The poor state has to suffer directly or indirectly, sooner or later. How many of us are aware of imminent danger of survival in the troubled age? How many of us think globally and act consciously? The uneasy culture of discounting future marks the beginning of the end.

The Risk-Multipliers (5) associated with climate change such as Reduced Agricultural Productivity, Heightened Water Insecurity, Increased exposure to extreme Weather Events, Collapse of Eco-system and Increased Health Risks are grim reminder of an endangered future.

How far the common people can be motivated for behavioural change by outcomes of academic workshops and conferences graced with the presence of eminent scientists and administrators? It is good but not enough. The general mass, particularly in Manipur, is still groping in the dark being heavily occupied by hand-to-mouth life. To them food is more important than environment. To them environment is a luxury. How can they think of a future of 50-100 years when they are unable to think of their daily livelihood?

They hardly listen, because it does not serve the purpose of poor people. They are in the trap of multiple deprivations. Their overriding consideration is immediate need, — not anticipated future. Remember, a hungry man knows no morality.

Humans pollute more than volcanoes; says a study conducted at University of Arkansas. How to educate people? This is not easy; — because Advice is not decision. Decision is not determination. Determination is not will power. How to tackle the stubborn mind? Prescription not followed by suitable action is as good as wishful thinking.

Much has been talked of Sustainable Development, which needs to be qualified more. With huge loss of natural capital, physical capital and health hazard, climate change would cost India 2.8% of Gross Domestic Product and diminish living standard of nearly half of country’s population in the next 3 decades. “The warming of 2 could result in 4-5 percent reduction in annual per capita income in Africa and South Asia” (WDR-2010).

It may be interesting to examine how far EKC (Environment Kuznet Curve) is true in Manipur. The rate of resource depletion, according to Prof. Kuznet, exceeds the rate of resource regeneration up to take off; and thereafter with the commencement of service industry with greater awareness and more knowledge of regulation, environmental degradation would gradually decline.

The inverted U-shaped relationship between economic growth and environmental quality means prolonged degradation of environment during early stage of traditional society and pre-take off, when people remain victim of poverty. After take-off, when the economy enters the phase of self-sustained growth, the per capita income becomes higher with sustainable livelihood. Now people will have breathing time to think of better environment and larger social stability.

In short, economic factor comes into the centre-stage of environmental protection, while social factor, financial factor, academic factor and administrative factor are not less important. In that case, Manipur has to accept the brunt of colossal loss of environmental assets as the economy is in the deep trap of fundamental backwardness.

It is not therefore a surprise that the running phenomenon of Increasing Rate of Diminishing Returns in agricultural sector remains age-old challenge. This sad scenario is largely brought about by highly degraded and wastelands. 79% of Total Geographical Area is reported to be accounted for by degraded lands (1768 thousand ha) in 2010 according to ICAR and NCAS, much higher than 42.6% in 2005 (Ministry of Agriculture, GOI). About 72% of the state is affected by soil acidity and 6.7% by water erosion.

The visible decrease in productivity of foodgrains from 2241 kg/ha in 2005-06 to 1468 kg/ha in 2015-16 may be traced to high percentage of degraded and wastelands. As a result, 40% of farmers are willing to change their occupation.

The rising trend of transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes; especially for “service industry” is not a surprise. Dispossession is on the rise. The regressive land market operates against the poor. The short fall of foodgrains was 1,58,000 tonnes in 2015-16 even after 65 years of economic planning. We are recklessly mismanaging our ecological interdependence and environmental capital.

The emerging sad scenario of increasing land degradation is bound to aggravate the crushing burden of cultivators whose per capita operated land is only 0.86 acre; much less than basic holding of 1 hectare. The holding is small. The land is also getting degraded.

The farmers cannot produce sufficient enough to meet their domestic requirement; forget “marketable surplus”. We cannot expect so-called agro-based industries in Manipur in the absence of elastic production of commercial crops when the farmers are in deep trap of “deficit”, a dismal sign of rural stagnation.

Now the Government of Manipur should act on a Package of Land-Use-Policy and Environment Policy. The failure to save Land Resources, the greatest asset of the state, — may be the breeding ground of agrarian unrest and social instability. When you save Land, you save both Man and Money.

Work of Department of Environment

The humble contribution, although fairly late, began, perhaps, with a volume on STATE OF ENVIRONMENT REPORT, MANIPUR, 2006, a commendable output of a team of resource person drawn from 6 (six) departments and universities including Dr. Y. Nabachandra Singh, present Director. The exceptional and outstanding service rendered by Late O. Irabanta Singh, Junior Scientific Officer deserves special appreciation. In fact, he was tireless and a rare asset.

The State of Environment Report, Manipur, prepared based on intensive and extensive research deals with Land, Water, Air, Waste, Health, Bio-diversity, Forest, Power and Pollution. The DPSIR (Driving forces, Pressure, State of Affairs, Impact and Response) was taken advantage of as general framework. The inspiration given by Sri Sachhuana, IAS, Addl. Chief Secretary was highly unique.

Now the Department is working hard to revise the 1st Manipur State Action on Climate Change (SAPCC), 2013 by accommodating hard facts of changes that have taken place and indicate the possible courses of event in immediate future. The findings could be a new Milestone in the process of planning for sustainable development.

The focused areas include contemporary problems such as Eco-system, Bio-diversity and Livelihood Sustainability, Water Resources, Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Health, Forest Resources Conservation, Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Urban Planning and Climate Change Strategic Knowledge & Information.

How to integrate Environmental Plan into Development Plan of the state? This is a great challenge. The inter-departmental co-ordinated action towards a common goal of bright future of Manipur is the need of the hour. The Political Will of the Government is sine-qua- non for the historic attempt. We have to “Act now, Act together and Act differently” (WDR-2010) to pave way to a “Climate-Smart-Manipur”. The combined action of Land-Use-Policy and Environment Policy could be pioneering strategy.

* Mohendro Nandeibam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer was Professor of Economics, Manipur University and Resource Coordinator, State of Environment Report, Manipur
This article was webcasted on October 25 2019.

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