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E-Pao! EI - Consumption patterns in Ushob-Mela: Time to change

Consumption patterns in Ushob-Mela: Time to change

By: Irabanta Oinam *



I had never finished a meal without leaving at least 20% of it. But today when I see people throw away perfectly good food it makes me very angry said a friend sitting next to me when I join a Swasti Puja feast at Tera.

Earlier we had limited population which were easily fed by the resources available in the State but today our number is far beyond the capacity to meet the requirement by the State resources. It forces us to change our consumption pattern in the name of religion or custom where a huge amount of resources were wasted without consideration for future use.

According to 1901, the population of Manipur was only 2,84,465. In those days we had enough resources to feed the population. Today our number becomes 24 lakhs which is far exceeding to be feed by the present state food resources. Laws and custom are never static. They are dynamic and have to change with the socio-economic needs of the people.

Think! this proves we are food wasters on a scale not yet imagined when we organize various food feast.

Generally, we do not think enough about where our food comes from. If we are to consider the processes and journey that food takes in order to arrive in our kitchen I think we all would be shocked. It's not just wasted food that's a problem.

It causes even waste to the number of miles it travels (by air, road etc) by being routed around the market distribution centres before reaching us. Food is too expensive to waste. We have to be aware of what we are doing. If there is a severe food shortage, we would be fighting each other just to get a single meal.

As we know land is static and we need resources to sustain us. Our numbers continue to expand, but the State resources do not - which may become a threat to our food security and force us to use our resources wisely in the form of sustainable ways.

According to the UN Planet Consumption Report, if everyone in the world were to adopt the current consumption patterns of the rich nations, an extra three planets like earth would be required to support us. This is clearly an untenable and unsustainable situation. Chapter 4 of agenda 21 points out, the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.

Land and water are the most important resources. Moreover our resources of land are occupied by the fast increasing population and converted into human settlement. Land management techniques influence the whole environment. With limited resources, we often are aspiring to copy the developed world.

We face the stress of modern life but often do not have the facilities for good living. The present food consumption pattern such as grand feast (Mangani Chakouba, Ushop for Nahutpa, Lugul-thangba, Swasti-puja, Phiroi, etc) where a large number of people enjoy food served at a time when all the food items are distributed equally by the cooks/Brahmin.

Many people are not consuming all the food items distributed by the cooks and it goes as garbage. In that way we lose lot of perfectly good food items without considering for tomorrow.

On the other hand, the price of everyday essential food items increase day by day and many people do not have enough money to buy it. Even in this situation we are not changing the consumption pattern of large scale food loses in the state.

Moreover the service system is not hygienic with the present environmental condition and it is very difficult to serve food safe for health and hygiene. We are not aware that the state is not economically sound and wasted valuable foods in the name of religion or custom which is not economically viable at present.

There are two main types of expenditure considered to have an impact on the environment. These expenditures and related revenues are divided into two accounts - "Environmental protection and natural resource management".

In the State, losses of food sector are large. About 40 per cent of our people live below the poverty line. They face problems of day-to-day existence, with not enough money to buy simple food items, often not even for the next meal.

It will be a happy day when our poor people have enough to eat so that reduction of food wastage will really be a blessing for the hungers of world today. Otherwise we will continue to depend on imports to provide food for our people.

By continuing this situation, outsiders may use this issue politically to derive many trade and political advantages. We have to bear in mind that application of science & technology may not have any major impact on food security if we continue to lose our cultivable land and food as waste.

Generally we aim for bigger things, but not caring small thing that is not impossible. The pattern of food consumption we use at present especially in the Ushop-Mela need to be changed for a better health and food management. Our rich people are very greedy when they go and shop.

Their eyes are bigger than their stomach and as such they throw away so much foods. We need to tackle the problem from 'both ends'- production as well as at the consumer stage. While we are driving up the standard of food for human consumption, we equally need to be doing it in a way which minimises waste during consumption. In the affluent societies, food wastage is a crime that if exported, it could easily feed many of the hunger of the world.

Lastly, Ushob-Melas are good as a means of social gathering but the pattern of serving food needs to be changed to check the wastage. Minimising food waste would also go a long way toward reducing serious environmental problems.

Reducing food waste could reduce adverse environmental impacts through reduced landfill use, soil depletion and applications of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.


Irabanta Oinam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 16th, 2006



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