IMPHAL | Jan 4
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has clamped down Maniwood Children Park located at Cheiraoching, which falls under Langol reserved forest area. The order was passed by Justice SP Wangdi of NGT in November 2017 following a petition filed by an NGO, Indigenous Perspectives.
The state forest department, acting on the NGT directive, has closed down the Maniwood Children Club which is an activity of the Joint Forest Management (JFM) of the said reserved forest area.
It may be mentioned that the children park is a joint effort of the forest department and Sinam Leikai residents under Forest Development Committee and Joint Forest Management Committee initiative.
The NGT, which is a tribunal set up by the Supreme Court to deal with environment related issues and expedite cases, passed the order that the said land was used without obtaining clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. It mentions that clearance has not been obtained for use of the forest land for non-forest activity and that said ‘club’ should cease operations until further orders.
The club has to obtain clearance under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation ) Act, 1980 from the ministry of environment and forest(MoEF). This section points that the state authority has no right to use reserved forest area and the activities taken up should be related to forest conservation. Any form of non-forest activity which pertains to cultivation of tea, coffee, horticultural or medicinal plants and construction of houses, other structures which are not related with forest conservation is not allowed in reserved forest area.
At present there are 38 reserved forest areas in the state encompassing all districts except Ukhrul district. The Langol reserved forest and its extension stretches upto 22.25 square kilometers.
At present, there are about 1,144 buildings including religious structures encroaching on the reserved forest area such as Lamdeng, Irosemba, Tarung, Tharon etc. The area of land encroached as per forest department assessment in May 2017 is 93.5 hectares.
According to an official source, 32 families have already been evicted from the forest area last year.
It has been reported that certain business establishments and settlements have steadily been increasing in the past few years but many houses have dag-chitha, a document authorizing the land for habitation by the revenue department.
The Langol reserved forest is a main catchment area for Lamphelpat and provides ecological balance for Imphal. The arc shaped Langol reserved forest is the only immediate watershed for the main Imphal area. The other hills are a bit far away, and hence this forest has the primary role in maintaining the micro climate of the city. Saving Lamphel Pat will require saving this forest as it is the key watershed, according to environmentalists. High erosion from this hill range is a problem as it silts the Lamphel wetlands and causes frequent flood in Imphal areas like Uripok and this can be linked to quick runoff from the degraded Langol forest.
Given the importance of saving Langol reserved forest for its critical importance in maintaining the micro climate of Imphal and for preserving Lamphel Pat as it serves as the only catchment, the present government may take proactive action against all without forest clearances.