TODAY -

Impacts of Mapithel dam on forest & climate

Jajo Themson *

 Protest against Mapithel Dam by Chadong villagers  with various civil societies :: 20 June 2015
Protest against Mapithel Dam by Chadong villagers on 20 June 2015 :: Pix - Ibomcha Yumnam



Introduction

Cutting down of few trees or plants is not the principal issue but destruction of forest really does matter for it risks quality of life. Teasing with local weather and climate threatens pleasant human survival and existence of species that undermined the invaluable services rendered by the biological diversity.

It is remarkable that loss of around 1000 hectares of forest portions in the Mapithel dam area is a matter of serious concern. It can be recalled that submergence of moveable and immoveable assets in the construction of Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose project in Manipur has led to
loss of land, forest & river,
marginalize them,
livelihood disruptive,
degraded economy,
downward living standard of the affected communities,
breaking the chain of customary relationship of tribal villagers with the river,
loss of traditional agricultural practices and
subsequent end of cultural significance.

Sadly, the effects of the above areas gave direct penalty to remaining forest. The same implicated climatic menace in the region. Among all the different impacts of the dam,indiscriminate devastation of forest trees is one of the grave concerns which is virtually aiding to Climate Change in the global perspective.

Here I would like to discuss about such loss of forest as direct and counter-impacts of the Mapithel dam project underlining climate change.

Trend of forest loss

Like mentioned earlier, altogether about 1000 hectares of forest land have been devastated since the Mapithel dam project was conceived. History of the first phase of forest destruction in the Mapithel area had taken place in 1980ís when construction of the project was incepted.

The second chapter was submergence of 595 and more hectares of forest in the dam water ingression. The third stage was massive cutting of trees nearby the Thoubal River by villagers of Chadong, Ramrei, Riha and Thoyee due to apprehension of being submerged as the dam water rose in a rapid pace in 2015.

The fourth round was, massive felling of trees during left and right flank road cutting. The fifth generation was, dimensional forest trees felling happened at Riha and other affected villages@ about 100 hectares in the post dam and the sixth batch is losing of forest trees bit by bit in the current increased jhum cultivation around the Mapithel dam project.

Being the convention always of living of the affected tribal villagers are drastically changed due to dam water, the new situation compelled them venturing out alternative livelihood means which is a driving force for their survival. Exploiting forest and its resources becomes the sole source for their sustenance.

The most serious issue arising at this juncture is attacks on forest areas characterizing high tendency of losing all forest portions in and around the Mapithel valley region. There has been increased trend of more and more loss of forest on jhum cultivation as people realized shortage of foodstuff and impossibility of dependent on Govt. provision for all the populace for indefinite time in the wake of Corona Virus/Covid-19.

It is even highly suspected that the forest in Mt. Mapithel, the only virgin forest found nearest to Imphal city, is in big threat being the enhancement of deforestation in the Mapithel area has been a continuous and intensified process.

The rising new direction of the communities towards forest is an immediate factor for worsening local climate and a kind of good prophesy corresponding contribution to global issue of Climate Change.

Impacts of forest loss

It is a well known fact that, deforestation is the main contributor to Climate change. It removes vegetation and loss of trees and vegetation fuel up the menace of climatic Change. It is said that deforestation constitutes the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere after fossil fuels combustions.

Deforestation in general leads to desertification, soil erosion, less crops, flooding etc. which increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Cutting down of forest means less moisture evaporation transpired into the atmosphere resulting to formation of fewer rain clouds, decline rainfall, river flow recedes and hence smaller quantity of water reach for consumption.

Forest adds local humidity through transpiration and it sums up local rainfall. Losing of forest in and around the Mapithel dam shall not be underestimated because it enhances vulnerability to ecological system in the long run.

The Mapithel dam area has come to experience the jolt of above mentioned effects of deforestation such as drought, soil erosion, siltation, change of weather, extinction of innumerable indigenous plants, herbs, trees, mushrooms, lichens, loss of indigenous animals and fishes and other water species which have been existing in the natural river flow.

The erstwhile forest trees acting as sponge, soaking uprain water while enduring soil, release water at regular basis and interval feature of moderate climate had been drastically changed today. Villagers witnessed tremendous increase of temperature in the region.

Rainfall becomes comparatively scanty in the post dam period. The situation in the Mapithel area constitutes an element of threat substantiating the global crisis of Climate change in the larger perspectives.

Conclusion

It is our concern that, sustainability of dam projects can be a challenge in the light of the forest &climatic impacts. Considering all such unfolding dimensional scale of forest devastation and still further counter impacts vis-a-vis climate change in the Mapithel dam area,it is high time the project developers relook such unsustainable projects with serious consideration.

It can be suggested that, for instance, even if the dam project like Mapithel should be operationalized, be it maintained in a water level reductive capacity so as to prevent from the compulsive vicious heavy pressure on forest areas to the affected communities.

Overlooking the rising situation in the Mapithel dam area would be a blunder mistake. Itís a crucial matter to think over, if loss of livelihood is a factor of threat to forest and climate,Ēwhy donít the affected people be provided either adequate alternative livelihood or let them enjoy cultivating their own land as before?Ē

Our intuition is to safeguard our Mother Nature and environment, protect ecological balance and to maintain riverís own natural eco-system. Severe impacting on forest, climate and environment integrity on the one hand and, human livelihood impairment on the other,shall never be termed as a sustainable development.

Therefore, dismantling the past unfruitful non-forest development activities like dams and hydropower projects that degenerate forest,and seriously review the ongoing such projects with necessary viable steps will be rationale and a strategic solution in the larger interest of protecting the highly fragile global environment as well as sustainable development.


* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 23, 2020.



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