TODAY -

Kongba River losing battle against climate change, pollution
Source: Chronicle News Service / Ngangom Suraj

Imphal, December 01 2023: It is no exaggeration to quote that the benefits the rivers provide to mankind is boundless.

From maintaining the temperature of a region to origin of civilizations, the importance of rivers to both humans and the environment has proven not only by science but also history.

Yet large scale deforestation, continuous anthropogenic activities and ever-changing climate have led to the gradual decaying or drying up of many rivers in the state including the Kongba River.

With a total catchment area of 114.594 square kilometres, Kongba River originates from the hill ranges of Senam Kom and Mapao Keithelmanbi in Sadar Hills (East) Block (Senapati district) and joins Imphal River at Kyamgei Bashikhong Irong confluence in Imphal East district.

Due to large scale deforestation in the river's catchment areas resulting in drying up of natural springs, on one hand, and rainfall deficit and dumping of untreated waste, both solid and liquid directly into the river, on the other hand, the health of the once thriving river has been greatly impacted.

This could also cause health hazards to all life forms including human beings.

Besides becoming narrower and shallower following accumulation of silt and solid waste materials, many portions of the river have been clogged.

From its present state, it is clearly evident that authorities concerned have long neglected from doing what is necessary to conserve the river.

In a recent survey conducted by Manipur Pollution Control Board on the quality of water of Kongba River at Irong and Iranpham stretch, it was found that the turbidity (the measure of relative clarity of a liquid) has reached 96 to 106 mg/l, which is substantially very high compared to the normal standard for safe drinking water which is only 5 mg/L While total coliform level reached 245 to 400 mg/1, way much more than the prescribed safety level for drinking of 0 mg/1, indicating high level concentration of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.

The pH and alkalinity levels stand at 7.2 and 75 to 95 respectively.

Even though the water has completely turned black in colour and smell fetid, its dissolved oxygen content is surprisingly high at 7.2 to 7.3 mg/1.While the rate of biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids were recorded 3.4, 9.8 to 10.4 and 564 mg/l respectively.

On the other hand, the Indian State of Forest Report for the year 2017, 2019 and 2021 have reported loss of forest cover area in Senapati district (including Kangpokpi district) which is where Kongba River originates from its hill ranges.

According to the report, Senapati district had a total of 2184 square kilometre of total forest cover in 2017 but reduced to 2136.58 sq.km in 2019, a reduction of about 47.42 sq.km.

The forest cover of the district further declined by another 44.79 sq.km in 2021 leaving only 2091.79 sq.km of forest area.

As per the ICAR data, the state received 745.4 mm of rainfall during the monsoon season (June-September) this year against the normal rainfall of 851.3 mm (64 years mean).

In 2017, the state received 1295.1 mm of rainfall during monsoon, 789.1 mm in 2018, 700.6 in 2019, 1013.8 mm in 2020, 905.5 in 2021 and 628 mm in 2022 .

When contacted, an official of the Forest Department said that the department has conducted several campaigns and implemented various schemes to protect and conserve the state's forest.

In order to reduce dependency on forest, the department had provided alternative source of livelihood to the locals by way of providing piglets, chickens, LPG connection, etc., and organised many afforestation programmes.

But most of the efforts remain futile as locals failed to follow the guidelines prescribed by the department and most importantly armed insurgent groups often intervene in project works of the department thereby hindering the conservation process, the official disclosed.

On the current condition of Kongba River, Directorate of Environment and Climate Change director Th Brajakumar pointed out that the inability to retain water in river is mainly due to large scale deforestation in the catchment areas and drying up of springs which are also a factor for climate change.

He said that when catchment areas have lesser vegetation, the ability to absorb rain water by the soil decreases thereby discharging the rainwater directly into the river as soon as the rainfall occurs which could otherwise be absorbed and released naturally in a controlled manner.

"When catchment areas are unable to control the frequency of the flow of water in river it becomes easier for the silt and garbage/waste materials to deposit in the river's bed.

This allow the organic matters to decompose rapidly thus emitting methane gas which again is a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

This process will also disrupt the natural ecosystem, leaving the native species on the brink of extinction," the director cautioned.

He suggested that afforestation programmes in the catchment areas, construction of check dams at specific portions of a river and proper waste management along with awareness campaign and formulating long term policies could only help conserve rivers.

It is high time for all sections of the society including stakeholders and authorities concerned to joint hands in conserving Kongba River in order to bring back to its once magnificent state for the common good of all.

(The report has been filed under the 4th Media Fellowship Programme on Climate Change Reporting under the sponsorship of Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Government of Manipur) .


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