Winter Showers

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One of the most obvious indicators of the fact that a major part of the creative instinct of our people in general is withering away, is that our land which falls in the belt that receives one of the heaviest rainfall in the world, is also prone to droughts. Manipur is touched by the rain laden South East Monsoon winds as well as the less cloudy North West Monsoon winds, and hence receives very heavy rainfall during most of summer, and a good one month during winter as well. In the life cycles of the tropical vegetations of the place, the valley as well as the hills, both these wet seasons are very important. The summer rains are life sustaining, but the winter-end rains, also known as Wakchingi Nong (winter showers) has a touch of mystery and plenty of poetry about it. It seizes the winter temperature just as it begins showing signs of letting up, driving everybody home to the warmth of their family hearths, charcoal briars or electric heaters, as the case may be, but more than these obvious outcomes, it is also the time when elders with farming instincts have their antennas sticking out for signs to predict the next harvest. These rather brief but chilly showers must wet the soil but not to the extent of making it muddy. It must be just enough to be the wakeup call for tubers and seeds in their winter hibernation deep in the top soil that spring is round the corner, but not drown them in their somnolent states. With little or no major artificial irrigation facilities available, these signals from nature are very much still relied upon. But because the circumstances and contextual backgrounds have altered in these times of deforestation and concretization, they are proving increasingly inadequate, and this is where any functioning and imaginative government is expected to intervene and evolve methods to meet modern needs and contingencies. This is also sadly where Manipur has found itself most wanting in all these years.

Why irrigation water alone, even drinking water is in short supply in this land of the cloud king (one northeastern state is even referred to as Meghalaya). The irony is, almost to the point of reducing the plight of the place to a cruel comedy, even as the people prepare to shriek helplessly for assistance to overcome the annual drought, the monsoons would thunder down flooding their homes and crops, forcing them to change the tune of their wails, and seek flood relief instead. Fans of the increasing number of extremely well produced nature TV channels today will agree that life, not necessarily human life alone, is all about adapting, adjusting, controlling, harnessing`¦ the forces of nature. Our societies have been doing precisely this for aeons, but somewhere down the line in the modern times, just as our economies have seemingly received a dangerous and retarding impulse, we too have stopped any effort to be resilient to the elements. Rather than generate the ingenuity from within to meet the challenges thrown up by times, we have come to simply expect deliverance to come to us from without. This incidentally is the perfect definition of two terms most would hate and even dread `“ parasite and impotence.

Why for instance have not our irrigation and flood control department, IFCD, in all these years been able to come up with any project to effectively control floods and droughts. Our rivers aren`™t as awesome as China`™s sorrow Huang Ho or Assam`™s Brahmaputra. Even laymen would understand that flood water diversion through well thought out river linking, dykes and dams to regulate water flow etc, should be of help. We do believe well conceived dams and dykes can be catalysts in ushering prosperity and mitigating unnecessary hardships. Why also cannot our science and technology department device easy and inexpensive contraptions for domestic harvesting, filtration and storage of rainwater. That would be an achievement indeed, although maybe not as interesting as a lazy afternoon of ludo or wool knitting.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam

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