Ecological task force should be raised in Manipur
- Part 2 -

Thangjam Ranjit *

6. Present status of ETF in the country

Presently 9 (nine)Infantry Battalions (TA) comprising of 22 operational companies are carrying out afforestation in difficult and degraded areas in the states of Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Delhi, Assam and Maharastra. In India ETFs have been set up as Territorial Army Units.

The first ETF called 127 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) was approved in September, 1982 and become operational in January, 1983 in Uttar Pradesh. The 2nd one called the 128 ETF Bn. was raised in 1983 for Rajasthan, 129 ETF Bn. was raised in 1988 in Jammu and Kashmir, 134 and 135 ETF Bn. since May, 2008 in Assam and so on.

7. Achievement of ETF in the country

Till date Ecological Task Force Battalions (TA) have planted approximately 6.88 crore saplings and covered an area of 72,741 hectares of land with 75 – 80% survival rate. ETF Battalions have been given due recognition for their exemplary contribution in the field of ecology and have been bestowed with various national and state level awards.

In 1983,128 Infantry Bn in Rajasthan with its 668 –men created an oasis and 63 lakhs plants have been grown along a 50 km stretch area about 80 km off Bikaner. Again, the same battalion has created a green belt along Indira Gandhi Canal covering an area of about 35,000 hectares of land. Similarly in Shahjahnpur block near Dehradun, 127 ETF (TA) Bn with its243 –strong force planted trees in 2000 hectares.

The success of the ETF in India is the holding of International Conference on Global Warming and Ethnic Clashes on February 28th, 2008 at Ahmedabad in which many delegates from various countries of Asia, Europe, America and Arab countries attended the conference. A number of retired justices of Supreme Court of India and members of National and State Human Rights Commission, ST, SC and Minority Commissions were also delegates of the big international conference.

Shri R.S. Rajkumar, Hon’ble Member of Manipur Human Rights Commissions was also one of the resource persons in the conference. He received rich accolade from the audience of the Conference when he spoke on the success stories and excellent works of ETFs in Leh, Ladakh and Thar Desert, Rajasthan i.e rainfalls after plantation of a large number of trees by ETF(TA). After the conference he was invited to talk ,as an ambassador of green revolution, in different parts of the country, at Udaipur on 1st and 2ndMarch,2008 ; Calcutta, on 3rdMarch, Guwahati ,on 5th March and so on.

The need of Ecological Task Force for Manipur State

Manipur is a good example where ecological imbalance is taking place with clear cut climatic and environmental changes in the last few decades.

We have been seeing the indiscriminate cutting down of trees, deforestation for jhum cultivation of poppy, ganja, vegetables, cash crops ,paddy etc. of almost all the forest areas of the state by hill people.

We have experienced a number of draughts in the past but no flood, due to lack of green vegetation cover. Not only this we have experienced great mud flows in Gopibung (Keithelmanbi) in 2004 and recent one at Tujang vaichong in 2021 in the Kangpokpi District where massive land degradation are going on due to deforestation in the name of cultivation.

Geomorphologically, Manipur is a high land with Imphal as intermontane valley, like that of Tibet,at an altitude of 746 – 850 m from msl. The altitude of Imphal valley is higher than those of many of the mountains in the south and westof the state.

On account of its geomorphological and hydro-geological feature of this hilly state, there is high possibility of facing acute scarcity of water in the years to come if we cannot harvest yearly monsoon rains by plantingtrees for green cover in the 92% high land of the state, which has been left with little or no care by the Government so long but at the mercy of the people inhabiting the area.

Now, people in valley, particularly along the foothills have started experiencing the water scarcity with untimely drying of wells, ponds, rivers and streams for the last few decades and occurrence of natural flood is becoming a rare phenomenon.

The situation will be grimmer in the hill areas than that of the valley,if we do not offset the scene in our highland by greeneries. All these are warning signs of poor rainfall in the hill areas due to massive deforestation and lack of afforestation by the individuals, Government and NGOs .

If the ETF is established in the state and the afforestation work is taken up, Manipur will be back to its pristine beautiful green cover and will usher in many a benefits to the state and its people in the following ways :

(a) The ETF (TA) will be watch dog while progressing their afforestation/ plantation work in the region.
(b) They will stop deforestation while doing afforestation works.
(c) Migration and influx of foreigners and refugees in hill areas of the state will be reduced if not checked completely. Poaching of wild animals and felling of trees will be reduced.
(d) By planting economically useful trees, medicinal plants, etc. will change the economy of highlanders and will prevent from illegal plantation of poppy, ganja ,etc, the worst form of deforestation and soil erosion prevailing in the state since long time.
(e) If Ecological Task Force is raised in Manipur, at least few lakhs say 5 – 6 lakhs saplings will be planted (as compared to 7 lakhs in Assam in a year) in a year. Manipur will become a green state again with no fear of facing drought and flood of great magnitude. The hills will be adorned with greenery, wild animals and birds including migratory birds; soil erosion, landslidesand mud flows will also be gradually checked.

Territorial Army Eligibility Criteria - 2021

The establishment of Ecological Task Force in 1982 is probably the world’s first experiment in which Army took up ecological work on a regular basis. For this Territorial army are recruited on the following criteria.

(a) Citizenship-Candidates should be a citizen of India.
(b) Age limit-The candidates should be of the age between 19 – 42 years of age on the date of application.
(c) Educational qualification-The candidates should be a graduate or its equivalent.
(d) Salary-Similar to that of regular Army.
(e) Physical standard-(a) Height – 160cm
(f) Bodily strength-Mentally and physically sound


* Thangjam Ranjit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on November 12 2021.

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