KANGPOKPI, April 23: In what is becoming an annual event, increasingly frequent and more intense, fires are sweeping through the forest particularly in the hill districts of the state during the initial stage of jhum cultivation.
Jhum cultivation is in fact an annual practice by the hill people mainly for their livelihood keeping aside the dangerous outcome of the practice.
During the initial stage of the jhum cultivation, a vast area of the forest is burnt down for agriculture and plantation of varieties of crops apart from other purposes by the poor farmers.
Burning of forests is of concern for many reasons, the most often cited being loss of habitat for rare plants and animals and an increase in global carbon dioxide (CO2) leading to “Global Warming” which the poor farmers have little knowledge and awareness of.
The poor farmers who survive with the help of jhum cultivation give much more importance to their annual profession/practice rather than the dangerous outcome of their profession (burning forest for jhum cultivation).
The burning of the forest mainly for jhum cultivation definitely affects the ecosystems because it is part of the global ecosystem.
In many cases this annual practice by the poor farmers add to the deforestation process and it takes many more years for the forest to grow back again.
The air around the entire district of Sadar Hills Senapati in Manipur has been drastically polluted compared to the past and the mercury level continues to go higher.
Global warming, if it continues and does not turn back, will cause huge changes in the ecosystems. But unfortunately no one knows for sure how warm it will get and how fast it will get there so lots of people particularly the poor farmers still argue over whether there really is global warming.
One local jhum cultivator innocently claims, “What I have done is the most suitable and sustainable job for the survival of my family. I don`t think my job is a threat to anything and I don`t believed in Global Warming,” terming it as a ploy to end the main source of livelihood of the poor farmers ie Jhuming.
Another jhum cultivator asserted that there is no other options for us rather than adopting to this occupation to sustain our livelihood because other occupation needs high amount of capital to begin with which we are unaffordable for us(the poor farmers/cultivators).
In the meantime, there is daily report of water scarcity both in the valley as well as in all the hill districts of the state which is probably the most interesting outcome among many others of the cutting down of trees and burning of forest mainly for jhum cultivation by the poor farmers which they (the poor farmers) interestingly have no knowledge about.
All the major rivers in the state have dried up resulting in tremendous scarcity of water which has directly affected the general public and compelled the public health engineering department to cut down on supply of potable water.
The continuous rising of mercury with the temperature hovering around 35.6 degrees celsius on April 21, recorded as the hottest day in the state in 15 years is the direct effect of global warming which is another significant account of jhum cultivation.
Now the big question is can this annual practice of the poor farmers particularly in the urban and hilly region of the state and the country be stopped?
The suitable answer to this rests with us. It is this generation at the eleventh hour who have the knowledge and ability to act. If we leave it to the next generation it will simply be too late and the forest won`t be there to save and the global warming to prevent.
There are many different groups that will have to work together to achieve an end to this annual practice while considering the livelihood of the poor farmers too- environmentalists, conservationists, government as well as those who actually work in the forest-the poor farmers.
It is the vital role of the governments of initiate suitable measures in bringing out the most suitable solution which is the need of the hour.