Climate Change & Agricultural hurdles in Manipur

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

 A Paddy field at Patsoi as seen on 28th October 2018
A Paddy field at Patsoi as seen on 28th October 2018 :: Pix - RK Kriti

Manipur is one of the mega biodiversity hotspots in the World and has a treasure trove of various flora and fauna. Manipur has abundant natural resources viz, soil, water, forest etc. The environmental sustainability Index (ESI) is very high and was ranked 2nd in India during 2011.Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in N-E India is located in Manipur.

There are four major river basins namely, Barak river basin( 9041 catchment area) in the west, the Yu river basin in the east, the Manipur river basin( 6332 Sq. km catchment area) in the center part and a portion of Linyi river basin in north. The total water body in the state covers approximately 56.46 thousand hectares.

However the hydrological system has been altered due to climate change and human pressure. An area of 1699.40 thousands hectares is under forest cover with seven types of forest class viz; tropical; semi evergreen; moist deciduous; east Himalayan wet temperature; Sub-Alpine; Grassy Blanks; bamboo brakes & cane brakes forest.

However, the state is vulnerable to soil erosion due to its undulating topography, steep slope and high rainfall. Approximately 2190 thousand hectares have been classified as eroded area. Deforestation and practices of Jhum cultivation accelerated erosion. It was reported that about 1189 thousand hectares of the state comes under different soil loss classes under water erosion, 2232 thousand hectares area come under degraded and wasteland category and 1597 thousand hectares is affected by soil acidity.

Manipur, one of the eight sisters of north –eastern region of India, is a hill grit state situated at the lower tip of the sub-Himalayan range. Resembling most of the northern states of India, the economy of the state primarily depends on agriculture and allied sector.

Though the total land under agriculture is only 6.74% of the total geographical area, it provides livelihood of more than 52% of the total population of the state. Rice being the staple foodcrop, accounts about 95% of the total food grains production and covers about 72% of the total cropped area of the state.

Besides rice other cereals such as maize, wheat etc. and pulses along with various kind of fruits and vegetables are also grown in both valley and hilly regions. It is to be noted that permanent cultivation is practiced in all the districts of valley regions whereas terrace cultivation is followed in some parts of hill districts but Jhumming or shifting cultivation is widely adopted in most of the hill districts.

Agriculture in Manipur is characterized by rugged terrain, wide variation in slopes and altitudes, community land system and conventional cultivation practices. Agricultural production is mostly rain-fed, monocrop and at subsistence level. Use of local varieties, limited use of agro-chemicals, low moisture retention capacity of upland soil and lack of irrigation facilities along with traditional management practices have resulted in low crop productivity and low cropping intensity.

As agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the state, sufficient growth in this primary sector is inevitable to boost economic development. Growth in overall economy depends on development of the agricultural sector. So it can be assumed that the growth in farm sector is a necessary pre-condition for economic development.

Growth in the agricultural sector could be catalyst for national output growth via its effect on rural incomes and provisions of resources for transformation into Industrial economy.

Manipur has been affected by the changing climate. Trend analysis of weather variables in Imphal under National Innovation on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) revealed that the mean annual maximum temperature (1954-2014) has been increasing ( 0.10C per decade).

The mean annual minimum temperature has also increased significantly (0.30C per decade). The total annual rainfall recorded during 1954 to 2014 also increased (23.5mm per decade); however a decreasing trend was observed in February, June, July and November rainfall (-10.8 to -0.1 mm per decade).

The mean annual rainy days (1954-2013) showed an increasing trend. Decreasing trend in total monthly rainy days was observed in January, February, and April, June and July. The mean annual maximum Relative Humidity(RH) increased significantly ( 3.8 % per decade) from 1985 to 2013, whereas the mean minimum RH ( 1985 -2013) showed a decreasing trend( -1.6% per decade).

The mean monthly maximum RH, increased significantly (3.0 to 5.6 per decade) throughout the year. Similarly decreasing trend was observed in mean monthly minimum RH (- 3.2% to -0.6% per decade) for all month except May (1% per decade).The temperature is projected to rise by 1.70C by the end of 21st century. The southern districts are expected to experienced higher temperature than that of northern districts.

Total annual precipitation is expected to increase throughout the state. Extreme precipitation events will cause crop yield variation. Increase in pest and disease incidence as well as erosion and degradation of soil is also expected. Projected increase in evaporation and runoff will decrease the soil moisture recharge. Fresh drinking water could also become scarce.

With rise in surface temperature the plant species are expected to move upward. Decrease in microbial population is projected with increase in altitudes. Loss of vegetation could cause top soil erosion. Loss of Bio-diversity and extinction of rare or threatening flora and fauna are also projected.

Food grain production and requirement of the state have been estimated to be 77105 and 79323 thousands tones by 2050. Hence Manipur will be in deficit of 2218 thousands tones food grains by 2050.

However, agriculture sector in Manipur is now facing the consequences of climate change which is a reality and an increasing trend in temperature, precipitation and emission of greenhouse gasses has been observed in Manipur. A subsistence level farming is coupled with prevalent shifting cultivation, the small and marginal farmers will be most affected due to this climate change.

Hence there is an urgent need for devising climate proof plan and climate ready policy for climate compatible agricultural development in Manipur. Location-specific, climate smart technology basket need to be devised or introduced and should be demonstrated through participatory approach for ensuring a climate resilient production systemand a climate resilient ecosystem.

The interaction between the system’s adaptation strategies and mitigation potential should also be given due importance in the action plan for combating climate change.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a Faculty at NIELIT, Imphal, Akampat and can be contacted at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 06 2019.

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