By Amar Yumnam
What is happening at this moment to the weather in Nagpur, Delhi and overall North India? It is all scorching heat in all these places. Delhi attracts people and attention because of the political importance and the historical investment which have been made over there. Despite this the place does not display the presence and impact of a policy regime oriented towards meeting the fundamental needs of the people. The very unfriendly weather makes the offices and the people who can afford go for air-conditioners and air-coolers but there are no signs of the existence of a programmed and strategic response to this so as to make the city liveable for the poor incapable of affording any of these. If we ask a welfare theorist, she would say that the policy regime in this capital of the country violates the Rawlsian principle for attending to the needs of the most downtrodden of the downtrodden while adopting any programme and policy. The Union Territory needs a structured and welfare approach to respond to the inherited climate. In fact, it is just puzzling why she does not yet have one.
Compared to this, the weather which is being experienced in Manipur right now is as good as the best air-conditioned spaces in Delhi but hygienically much superior. When it comes to this, we have been saying for so long that there is nothing like the climate of this place. I am reminded of a friend from the Indian army who commented appreciating the climate of Manipur that “It is immaterial whether AFSPA is removed or not, but I should be forever posted here”. It is something which the people of this place have known for long.
However, we need to appreciate the significance of the wonderful climate of Manipur much beyond the shared appreciation of the enjoyableness. The time has come for us to see our climate as an economic asset and a very valuable one at that. This asset has value stretching across borders. This is where we need our strategy to capitalise on our climate and strategize the marketing of the value of our climate for long term ends of Manipur.
We can make the people around the globe aware of the wonderful quality of our climate. Without waiting for the industrialisation to take roots here and locally produced products hitting the market, we should market our environment as such. So Manipur should be marketed as something to experience for the climate itself. Once this is done and buyers start arriving, many other ancillary activities would automatically emerge.
The historical moment of concern for climate change and more worriedly called global warming is such that the time is now for the climate of Manipur as something to be aggressively marketed. Here let us recall Chapter 13 of the Agenda 21 of Rio Summit of 1992. A summarised version of this resolution of the convention of the United Nationsreads as “Mountains are important sources of water, energy, minerals, forest and agriculturalproducts and areas of recreation. They are storehouses of biologicaldiversity, home to endangered species and an essential part of the globalecosystem. From the Andes to the Himalayas, and from Southeast Asia to Eastand Central Africa, there is serious ecological deterioration. Most mountain areas are experiencing environmental degradation.To begin with there is the global acceptance of the value of mountains”.This was followed by the International Year of the Mountains in 2002. So there is already a global context in which Manipur can strategically think of dovetailing her policies and programmes for capitalising on the presence of mountains and a climate unique here. Though not reflected in Indian policy world and hardly given recognition in this part of the world, there is already a global commitment of experts, funding and policy for evolution and adoption of policies for sustainable development of mountains and their lowland areas. What Manipur requires today is to feed into this global framework.
This effort should also be accompanied by another massive one to understand the mountains and the mountain people of Manipur. The imperative and urgency of this is evident from many recent studies emerging from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) leave little room to relax but lots to worry. In these reports, there are evidences of a warming trend in the Eastern Himalayan Region. We should without delay build evidence on the social, economic and climate dynamics prevailing among the mountains and mountain people of Manipur. This should be followed by designing and implementation of policies to protect the prevailing strength of the environment and control any further deterioration happening there. Further, the policies for the climate and mountains should be closely linked with the livelihood and advancement opportunities of the mountain people. (The country is already pressing at the country level for a livelihood policy which expects every province to evolve relevant policy at the regional level).
In fine, time is now for Manipur to capitalise on the prevailing climate as an economic asset and attract investment on the basis of the strength of this. This would entail for Manipur to evolve a policy for the mountains and the mountain population of Manipur. We cannot allow the present politicization process of elites capturing economic benefits to continue. This is costing us dearly in the environment front as well. While the wonderful climate is still abundant, this would not be for so long if the present trend of absence of a policy regime continues. The trouble then would be long to repair.
(Amar Yumnam is the Director of Center for Manipur Studies and Prof. of Department of Economics, Manipur University)