COVID-19 and ecology, environment & sustainable development in Manipur

Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh *

COVID 19, SARS, Swine Flu etc. has thrown challenges to the present development models where (1) strategy is not effecting sufficiently towards the protection of environment to maintain sustainable development which leads to environment degradation and (2) sufficient emphasis is not given on making rural area self-sustaining and self-dependent result of which is a large scale out migration of rural population.

During the spread of the virus all sectors particularly the elderly and the health workers are more vulnerable to the virus, and shutdown of the economic and other activities are also more vulnerable to the poor particularly the daily wage earners and workers who are now jobless and are in need of money for their livelihood.

We are all fighting against the rapidly spreading COVID-19 all over the world. Media is reporting that the origin of the virus is from Wuhan of China focusing on the unhygienic trade of wildlife for eating. On the other hand some scientists are of the opinions that environmental degradation leads to the transferring the disease from animals to human beings.

People have started thinking on the factors and the causes of origin of the virus. But how the disease is originated is not fully known. There are reports that it is transmitted from bats to human beings. There are also other theories of the origin of the virus, but scientifically not yet explained and proved.

In this modern society it will be big question why and how such new diseases are inflecting on a large number of human beings from time to time. There are opinions that outcome of such disease should be focused on the increase of human pressure on Mother Nature.

With the increase in the rate of population growth without proper planning for accommodation and providing their basic needs there has been heavy pressure on structure and function of the ecosystem and environment of the mother nature neglecting due sense and maintenance of sustainable development which meant “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In the other words people think and work for development of human being by over utilization of resources without considering the other side of the ecology and environment and also without keeping a balance between the growth of population and utilisation natural resources.

Thus, we are discussing on conflict between wildlife and human being and mankind with Mother Nature without arriving any suitable solution while a large number of wild animals and wild species are found exiting and many of them endemic while depletion of the natural resources continues.

It is also a question whether such type of disease will appear again if such situation of the degradation of the Mother Nature in the present rate continues without mitigation to keep in a sustainable balance. It would be right time to think of future by learning lesson from the present crisis.

The people tend to think of the well being of them and pray gods for blessing for their social and individual benefit. Since, human beings are appeared to have been neglecting the relationship with the Mother Nature which is providing rich nature resources for human beings the degree of degradation of environment has already reached its limit.

Under the discussion it may think of the probable root cause of the outcome of the virus focusing on the result of the unwise use of the nature resources.

A veterinary scientist of Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. Canada in an article said that climate change allows insects and animals to exploit new habitats and as with SARS, COVID-19 it is believed to have arrived through wild animal species sold at market. Hence it is said that the COVID-19 outbreak shows how human, animal and environmental health requires a co-ordinated approach.

In another article, A Global Strategy for Preventing the Next Pandemic (Leah R Gerber, Arizona State University, USA, 10.4.2020), it is said that environmental degradation, and especially habitat destruction, is the underlying conditions favourable to zoonotic jumping. Wildlife trade is one symptom of this environmental degradation.

He predicts that if actions alleviating environment degradation are not enforced, pandemics will continue to aggravate and occur more frequently around the world. In Manipur we have seen live and dressed meats selling in the open areas and shops without any regulation and hygienic conditions. Now, is it not an opportune time to regulate the selling of meats?

The Executive Director of UN’s environment, Inger Andersen said that humanity was placing too many pressures on the natural world with damaging consequences, and warned that failing to take care of the planet meant not taking care of ourselves. Nature is sending us a message with the corona virus pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis.

On International Mother Earth Day (22.04-2020) UN/ Secretary acknowledged that all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic and said that we must act decisively to protect our planet from both the corona virus and the existential threat of climate disruption.

The President of the General Assembly also said that our experience with COVID-19 demonstrates that we, humanity, are not separate from the world around us and we must work together to protect our planet and ecosystems.

It is now imperative that the ongoing and incoming projects and other related works would be implemented in the perspective of the sustainable development. In the other sense the environmental protection, besides other aspects of ecological and social impacts is a essential component of all development process.

The United Nations (UN) launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to address an ongoing crisis: human pressure leading to unprecedented environmental degradation, climatic change, social inequality, and other negative planet-wide consequences.

In Manipur, at present there, is no patient with any probable symptom of the disease nor any person has been detected after the successful treatment and release of the two persons.

Now it is the right time to start measures to fully protect the state from the virus by proper screening the persons entering the state and state Government is appeared to have already initiated all the necessary steps. Fund and resources to meet such crisis would never be a constraint.

The present situation is providing human being opportunities to rethink of the new strategies and implement the programmes for keeping ecology and environment under a desirable and sustainable level.

Manipur is a place of rich biodiversity. The state is a junction of the two ecological hotspots - the North East India Hotspots and the Malayan Hotspots regions. As such, most of the flora and fauna of the Himalayan and Malayan regions are found in Manipur.

Besides, due to the presence of the hills, terrains, plains, swamps and other wetland there are diversity in climate. It is the responsibility of the state and people to protect such a rich biodiversity.

Our forefathers understood the basic relationship between the Mother Nature and human beings, and this is one of the reasons why they worshiped and prayed gods for blessing when the people encountered hardship from the Mother Nature. But this relation is now-a- days is being neglected or forgotten.

Our forefathers knew how to protect our trees and animals and also to keep rivers and drainages flow uninterruptedly by using the ancient belief and wisdom which now is known as traditional ecological knowledge and it is found in its culture, traditions, Puyas , myth, religion and oral stories.

It is a right time to give more emphasis on learning the relationship between Mother Nature and human beings in view spread of the COVID-19.

It would be interesting to think of a vision for conservation of ecology and environment in the perspective of sustainable development in the context of Manipur. There will be no problem to plant fruit bearing trees at the road sides of the state highways and the roads in urban and rural areas.

The government and concerned NGOs can start the road side plantation which are once started is likely to be followed in the adjoining road sides with the support of the local environmentalists, social workers and local associations. The maintenance of the trees for the first few years can be the responsibility of the local people with a minimum expenditure which could be collected from the local areas.

Let our children enjoy and play with tress and eat the fruits. It can be a reliable vision that within few years the whole valley area of the state will be appeared as a vast orchard with colourful flowers and then fruits, and also then a number of bird are expected to come and play on the branches of the tress, and we may also expect the coming back the birds like parrots which have not been seen for last 30 years.

This simple but effective socio-cultural approach of plantation and conservation of the trees would certainly helps to compensate the degradation of environment to a certain extent. A multi-disciplinary approach comprising of scientist, technocrat and social scientist along with the local people towards the preparation and implementation of the programme is expected to work effectively.

Development models and strategy to keep ecological system and environment fresh and lively to maintain sustainable development, and also to make rural communities self-dependent to be designed using traditional knowledge, local resources with necessary scientific interventions and the involvement people can help to mitigate such a crisis in future.

* Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is PhD. Scholar Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University
He can be contacted at yaiphabafff(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 26 2020.

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