TODAY -

Of ignorance, suffering and restoration of degrading environment

James Khangenbam *

 poppy cultivation
poppy cultivation :: Picture Courtesy : Brinda Thounaojam



It is quite a challenging task to restore an exploited environment of a region as it involves political will and collective efforts from the public. In the recently concluded 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly, Manipur Governor La Ganesan stated that the state government has destroyed 3,517 acres of illicit poppy plantations in different areas of the State in 2022.

Over the years illicit poppy cultivation in the State has drastically increased which indicates that the forest cover in the State is fast depleting. The war on drug launched by the Manipur government is also gaining pace with fruitful results seizing drugs and arresting individuals involved in drug trafficking and poppy cultivation. The government has also announced that tree plantation will be carried out in restoring the exploited forest.

Well poppy cultivation is not a sustainable business as large chunk of the profits goes to the drug barons. The villagers involved in the illicit poppy cultivation might be getting their labour amount and the authority of the land under cultivation might get few extra money but presumably the money might not be a big amount.

Without resources poppy cultivation would not have been carried out and Manipur being a neighbour to Myanmar where illegal poppy cultivation are rampant since decades back, the region became vulnerable. Influences in terms of expertise, market logistics and porous international border makes it all favourable for rampant poppy cultivation in the State.

The environmental degradation resulting from the Poppy cultivation is witnessed from the recent depletion of water level at Singda dam - a source of portable water supply to a large public in Imphal City. People are buying water from private water tankers. With no water supply for almost weeks the citizens are left with unsolved puzzles.

The government is trying to manage the water scarcity with less results. Manipur receive more than six months of rainfall annually but without trees on the ground there is no retention of water, consequently natural spring gets extinct and Dams get dried out. The pandora box is open and the devastation caused by a sweet flower plant is appearing grim.

According to the official data, approximately 77 percent of the total geographical area of Manipur is covered by the forest. Roughly 8 percent of the forest area comes under reserve forest area, 23 percent under protected forest and the remaining 70 percent are categorised as unprotected forest area.

But with news coming in and the discovery of new poppy cultivation zone, it is assumed that most of the hill areas earlier covered by forest are now barren. A helicopter survey by the State officials indicates that there are more barren hills than forest cover in some districts of the State.

Environmental degradation due to human ignorance is adding woes as in yet another development most of the wetland covers in Manipur are almost extinct. Recently, N Biren Singh, the Chief Minister of Manipur in a public event informed that according to a survey conducted by the Surveyor of India over 5 decades ago, Manipur had around 550 wetlands, most of which now have disappeared.

The disappearance of the wetlands has affected the ecology of the State which, in turn, has led to looming water scarcity in the State. Under a central project Lamphelpat, Waithoupat, Usoipokpi Pat are to be restored by digging up. While in the hills forest are depleting, in the valley wetlands are being filled up leading to water scarcity.

On an interesting note, Tamenglong district has abundant banana plantation and bamboo groves. Truckloads of Banana lands up at Imphal on a daily basis. Lots of bamboo are also exported to other states for paper industry via Barrak river.

It is a pleasant site to see the banana and bamboo cover forest while travelling the high-altitude National Highway under Tamenglong district. Banana and Bamboo, the two Bís does not take much time to fully mature and it creates sustainable economy for the people.


* James Khangenbam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jameskhangenbam7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 13 2023.



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