Climate change & erred solution in Manipur

Jajo Themson *

The writer is neither Environmental Science student nor an expert but an activist who propagates for protection and promotion of environment in line to sustainability which becomes one of the biggest challenges of the world today. The presentation in this article is based on experiences and observation from different areas particularly mega developmental projects like Hydro Electric Projects, Infrastructural projects such as Highway & Railway construction, extractive industry like mining, oil exploration and other factors in the state of Manipur.

"Any developmental initiative which gives dimensional devastation of forest, land and river that deteriorate eco-system and jeopardized the entire environment as well as curtailing animal habitat and living creatures including human being coupled with threat of survival defines environmental injustice". Thus, any kind of such initiatives reflect questions of environmental justice and sustainability.

It's a proven fact that big developmental projects brutally molest our mother nature. And devastation of land, forest and rivers are the main factors to shattering eco-system that usually resulted to deteriorate environmental conditions.

The world we live in has been inflicted with multiple issues such as epidemics, water and sanitation problems, hunger, poverty, homelessness, terrorism, power race, nuclear threat, environmental crisis etc. Climate Change as impacts of environmental injustice is one of the most serious issue which calls for worldwide concern. The impacts of arising climate change become a menace across the globe today.

Causes of environmental problem in the State: There have been numerous factors that affect our environment and eco-system. Practice of jhum cultivation in the tribal hill areas was considered one of the main factors of loss of forest and resulting environmental worsening in the past however, jhuming practice is now a days in a landmark descending trend.

Excessive cutting down of forest trees for commercial purpose is yet another reason of forest loss but are monitored by the concerned Govt. department. Natural occurrence of soil erosion, mud and land sliding and devastation by flood water are still other factors that aggravate environmental problem in the state. Besides this, broad based devastation of forest and environment are mostly caused out of mega developmental interventions. Thus, project developers happen to be the key agents to environmental injustice in the state that virtually boosted up the menace of climate change.

It is noteworthy that, in most of the cases the state project developers failed to conduct Holistic Impacts Assessments (HIA) in the past and current mega developmental projects where damages of forest, land and river have been rampant. Moreover, the HIA should also be along with necessary remedial measures which are mostly ignored and remained fraught.

Absence of Forest & Environment Clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest Climate Change (MoEFCC) which is a mandatory under section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 and Forest Right (Recognition of Scheduled tribe and other traditional Forest Dwellers Rights) Act (FRA), 2006 is another flagrant reason. Age-old usual practice of undermining the traditional laws of the indigenous/tribal communities on regulation and management of forest, wild animal and environment are yet another violation which actually are more effective on protection of environment.

Loss of forest are recorded in Manipur from Highway Road projects like ADB sponsored 47 Thoubal to Kasom Khullen, Langbram, Tamei, Rengpang to Taudaijang in Tamenglong, loss of forest and spoiling wet fields and contaminating the entire river range falling under the Trans-Asian Railway construction.

Past and ongoing dam projects such as Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Hydro Electric Project, Singda dam, Khugadam and ongoing Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose project are worth mentioning where wide spread forest, wet land, animal grazing grounds and river are damaged indiscriminately beyond repair without proper and holistic impacts assessments and remedial measures therewith.

A specific clear instance of adverse negative impacts on environment and eco-system could be seen from the Ithai Barrage of the 105 MW Loktak Hydro Electric Project which inundated land areas of 80,000 hectares. The indigenous people who had been living in the Loktak Lake area lost their habitation site and livelihood sources are disrupted.

Ecosystem and environment of the entire Loktak Lake area had been shattered. Indigenous fishes and other water species are extinct. The people of Manipur have been inflicted with frequent flood as impact of this project and there is fast trend of shallow up of the Loktak lake due to massive siltation.

The Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak HEP is one of the most unscrupulous and unaccountable kind of developmental project in the state where there are neither Forest & Environment Clearances nor holistic impacts assessments and doesn't even have MOU with the affected indigenous community people.

Still another developmental project which gives havoc to environment and eco-system is the Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose project. Impoundment of the dam water reservoir had caused submergence of more than 2000 has. of prime agricultural land, river areas, low-lying forest and animal grazing field. The principal livelihood source of the affected communities is deprived.

Serious cases of massive drowning of birds and bees have been recorded in November last year, indigenous fishes & other aquatic species are no more seen, death of herd of cattle occurred in the post dam era in mystery, temperature in Mapithel area has been increased tremendously.

The Mapithel dam water reservoir is polluted since October 2017 causing different kinds of skin and water borne diseases in both the upstream and downstream portions. Forest loss for this project due to diversion is 595 hectares, thousands of forest trees have been felled to the extent of at least 8 hectares at Chadong and about 150 hectares of Riha village. Moreover, at least forest trees of about 40 km range have been devastated due to Road cutting as component of the Mapithel dam project.

Conclusion: Besides creating much of such multi-angled negative impacts to the environment by the past and present mega developmenta lprojects, state Govt. is planning to take up about 20 dam projects under Manipur Hydro-Electric Power Project Policy (MHEPPP) 2012. Among them, 67 MW Khongnem Chakha, 66MW Loktak Downstream HEP,1500 MW Tipaimukh HEP, 60 MW Irang HEP,190 MW Pabram HEP, etc. are the major targeted dams. Further, Infrastructure projects such as, Trans-Asian Railway and ADB sponsored Highway projects are undergoing and still 39 MOUs have been recently signed for extraction of chromium, limestone and other minerals.

There is every possibility of aggravating the environmental problem in the state with the up-coming multiple mega dams and other infrastructural and extractive projects.It is high time we citizens take right and conscious decision towards curing the infirmities in our environment today.

Much more, the Project developers should strictly adhere to the National and states Green acts, comply the mandatory Clearances, conduct holistic impacts Assessment couple with replenishing measures, steps taken not to cordon the impacts on customary laws and rights of the tribal/indigenous communities.

It is a compelling situation that there should be rectification, finding alternative means or better strategies to undo the past and present wrong solutions in curbing the issues of environmental injustice in the state in the interest of global environmental solidarity and sustainable development. Repetition of the past and current manner of developmental approach would definitely maximize the existing environmental crisis of our mother earth which will only manifest our apprehension of climate change menace, a ridiculous.

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on 23 January , 2018 .

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