Govt and Environment

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No prizes for guessing. Much before the globalisation of the world economy, globalisation has never been evitable in another field – ecology. Ecological degradation in any part of the world affects climate patterns the world over. And nobody will doubt today that the climate everywhere is changing and is becoming significantly unpredictable. The devastating floods in Pakistan, the nightmarish mudslides in parts of China and India this year are just some examples. Even in Manipur, the changes have been not just visible, but radical. Winters are harsher and so are summers much hotter. Two decades ago, even using a fan during the day in summer was seen as extravagant except on certain “extraordinarily” hot days when the mercury rises close to 30 degrees Celsius. At other times, it was not really necessary. Today, it is becoming necessary to leave ceiling fans on even at night to make sleep comfortable. Similarly air-conditioning offices and offices would have been considered an opulent exercise, but today it is becoming more and more a necessary accessory for comfortable living. It is not winter yet and memories of past winters would have faded considerably, however even vague recalls would make nobody dispute that winter too are becoming all the more biting. Especially for the poor, winters are increasingly a glimpse into what hell might actually feel like, much more than summers.

This brings us to the point that everybody, even those of us in tiny Manipur, must take our immediate ecology seriously. As in the Union cabinet, we would have appreciated if the state too were to have a cabinet ranked ministry for environment. The fact Manipur still does not, probably is a reflection of the government’s lack on seriousness in being part of the global ecological campaign. Hence, maybe not on paper, but definitely in reality, logging still continues in a big way. Not only are the saw mills everywhere in the state proofs, but those who travel along the national highways leading out of the state would still encounter truckloads of timber making their way out, despite a Supreme Court ruling banning logging. The usual excuse is, these timbers come from the Myanmarese side of the border and not from within Indian territory. Even if this were true, from the point of view of ecological preservation, it is still a lame argument. It does not matter where the deforestation is happening, climate change has no boundary. And Myanmar, is not anywhere on the globe. It is next door. It is true we still need timber for all our construction works, and until a viable replacement is found, some extraction will have to continue, but it is time the government started evolving a strategy to ensure this is not only regulated, but also to the extent possible, recycled effectively. Even if it is not equipped to handle this problem yet, it must nonetheless show earnestness to deal with what is today recognized as a global challenge. The environmental slogan, “think globally act locally”, must now be invoked and translated into action without any further delay. Disasters are visiting other parts of the world today, and God forbid it, tomorrow it could be landing on us too.

Disaster can take many visages. Among the most popular and terrifying predictions are, the sea level rising, either inundating coastal areas or salinating them to render them unfit for agriculture, in the process driving populations further inland, thus causing immense and lasting humanitarian crises. For the northeast region, which is already seeing an unprecedented demographic upset because of unmitigated economic migrations from impoverished Bangladesh, this can have alarming consequences. Disaster can also be in the shape of natural inland catastrophes, such as flooding in river basins and massive landslips in the mountains, as is being reported from China, Pakistan and indeed Ladhak in India. Manipur, in particular the valley, can be very prone flooding. The hills too can see worse landslides than is already accustomed to. The valley was believed to be once underwater, and evidences of this are there in the numerous wetlands through the length and breadth of the valley. Excessive rain in any year, say double of what it normally receives, can again easily inundate large areas of it, and the trapped water would not easily clear, for rivers draining water away from the valley are limited. But much more profoundly, an ecological upset can cause the disappearances (through migration or extermination) of seemingly insignificant insects which are agents for pollination of important cash and food crops. Can the government and the people then remain unconcerned?

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