TODAY -

COVID-19 and water resources of Manipur

Dr Rajkumari Sunita Devi *

 Dr Rajkumari Sunita Devi with  Chief Minister of Manipur , N Biren Singh
Dr Rajkumari Sunita Devi with Chief Minister of Manipur , N Biren Singh



Water is one of the most indispensable natural resources for sustaining life and its development and management play a vital role in agriculture and horticulture production.

Integrated water management is vital for poverty reduction, environmental sustenance, and sustainable economic development. In view of the present pandemic and rapid change in the economy, the demand for water for meeting various requirements will increased double fold. The State will face numerous challenges in the water sector.

Rapid increased in urbanisation and rise in population has already initiated the challenge for water demand and have resulted in reducing per capita water availability.

The quality of surface water and groundwater is also deteriorating because of increasing pollutant loads from various sources. Climate change is also adversely affecting the availability and distribution of water resources with erratic rainfall.

In order to meet the challenges of overall water scarcity scenario in the state, various measures can be taken, such as the construction of water harvesting structures, mass awareness among citizen for water conservation, construction of new water storage structures, interlinking of rivers, renovation, and repair/rejuvanation of existing water bodies etc.

Water budgeting and planning the cropping patterns for the oncoming agricultural season(s), the strategy for avoiding water-intensive crops to the extent in consultation with the relevant expert departments are also crucial for checking such situation.

Micro-irrigation (sprinkler and drip) should be adopted to achieve more crops per drop (C.P.Kumar, NIH, Roorkee). With cost-intensive dam-based large projects unlikely to expand irrigation any further, the shift in focus in Government program like ‘har khet ko pani’ (water for every field) through in situ water conservation under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is a step in the right direction.

Along with water resources management, the focus alos lies in watershed management of water bodies like rivers, streams, lakes, ponds etc. As such the watershed component of the PMKSY programme becomes pivotal. Water conservation and cutting down on wastage holds the key to bringing irrigation facilities to every farm in the state.

This makes the introduction of sustainable water preservation practices and optimization of water resources just as important as the introduction of new irrigation facilities. Methods to treat and re-use municipal water are also required to augment irrigation water supply.

A paradigm shift is required in agriculture by efficient water use via micro-irrigation alongside more investment in research on hybrid and high-yielding seeds, technology, and mechanization. Research is needed for climate-smart agriculture technologies for raising productivity and ensuring food security as the specter of climate change looms large.

With the Watershed projects of the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India coming to an end, it is really crucial for small states like Manipur to think and rethink how to conserve every drop of water available.

Manipur, beside having the two biggest river basin of Barak and the Manipur River, the state still faces drought like problem due to poor water resources management. The Barak River, though a perennial source of water flows amidst the mountains Senapati and Tamenglong, and drains to the Brahmaputra in Assam. As such, the river could not act as a perennial source of water for the people on Manipur.

The Manipur River with its tributaries flowing more inside the valley covering about three valley districts, still could not sustain the ever increasing population of the valley districts due to lack of proper management system.

The pandemic has already created a big void in the economy of the state and our only resources to cope up after the event will be our natural resources and its product like agriculture and horticulture produce which will again depend on the availability of water resources.

The Watershed Management project of Manipur (PMKSY) have created a number of farmponds and other water harvesting structures which can help in mitigating the aftermath of the pandemic.

Besides, our traditional ponds and water bodies beside the everlasting source of water, the Loktak Lake and its adjoining wetlands, Pumlen, Ikop etc. Now Manipur will know how these wetlands will be the blessing in real sense but it will be upon how the state will manage these resources.

Right now along with the vigilance for the Corona Virus (Covid-19), there should be parallel frontliners for water security and watershed management.

The Hon’ble CM of Manipur, as a person, has been a frontliner in matter related to Natural Resources Managements.

The State Level Nodal Agency for Watershed, Manipur has already drafted the first “Watershed Management Plan of Manipur” in which all management aspect of micro to macro level watershed management have been drafted out. It is an interdisciplinary plan wherein from scientific level planning to livelihood alternative have been drafted.

It was indeed a proud moment for Manipur, if not for the pandemic, that the Hon’ble CM of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh was invited to Cornell University to deliver a seminar on the Watershed Management Plan of Manipur, “Confronting Water Challenges for Agriculture” on April 17, 2020.

Therefore, it is above every department of the state dealing with water resources, horticulture and agriculture, to play it right and come out with the best management practice to fight the aftermath of the virus. The plan should have both short term and long term planning, and very stakeholder of the state should give full co-operation to fulfil these plans.

The citizen in rural Manipur, both hill and valley, will be the frontliners of these plan and extra care should be given that there are enough budget that will focus on livelihood aspects.

The vast hills of Manipur will be our only resources and this is the right time to join hands with no hills valleys divided and the government should also accommodate NGOs, CSOs, small committees like the Watershed Committees, Springshed Committees to fight the next challenge.


* Dr Rajkumari Sunita Devi wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Scientist & GIS Expert at SLNA Watershed Manipur and a Hubert Humphrey Fellow 08-09 from Cornell University, NY, USA
This article was webcasted on April 21 2020.



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