By: Samuel Nehminthang Haokip
The United Nation General Assembly, UNGA on March 1, 2019 declared 2021-2030 as the decade on Ecosystem Restoration which will be fundamental in achieving sustainable development goals. Ecosystem supports all the various types of life forms on earth. The UN Decade aimed at restoring any degraded ecosystem including cities, agricultural and forest cover areas, protected wildlife reserves, savannah, wetlands, fisheries, coastal areas and many other biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem for improvement through restoration. It will also combat climate changes, water supply and scarcity, food security and safeguard biodiversity at large.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. The gift of nature is assume to be as perpetual consequently leading to the extensive commercialization of nature beyond human needs and desires. Calculating the price tag of a timber for instance has become uncomplicated than discovering its life cycle to achieved its mature state. The big question is how long can we commercialize it while the factors that has the tendency to arise are clearly evident.
Manipur has a forest covered area of 16,846.90 sq km which is 75.46% of the state’s geographical area. The Indian State of Forest Report (IFSR) published by the FSI has reported Manipur loss a significant area of 499.10 sq km forest cover in the state particularly in the Hills districts within October 2017 to February 2018. Of the total area lost, 491 sq km in hill districts and the other 8 sq km in the valley. Jhum cultivation, poppy cultivation, forest fire and encroachment of forest covered areas for livelihood facilitates the depletion of forest cover area in the state.
Taking into account the contribution of rivers and lakes, Loktak for instance, the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India which is famous for its phumdis floating over it and the source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake helps in providing livelihood for the people in and around and act as a feeding ground for many migratory birds. However, humans activity has led to severe effects on the lake ecosystem. It is imperative to remember the depletion and pollution of our nature and rivers is tantamount as exploiting the state’s dynamic ecological system, plants, animals, fishes, environment, culture, tourism, various water flows, natural resources, socio-economic value, etc.
According to Aldo Leopold, an American ecologist, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. It is evident that nature has provided us more than our needs. The present scenario of the shortage of oxygen across the country in fighting the pandemic is a nudge to preserve and protect our environment all the more.
The growth of our scientific and technical knowledge in setting up of dams, hydro electric projects, TMC’s should not be a disaster rather a blessing for both man and the environment. It is also imperative to remember both rural and urban plays the same and equal important responsibility in preserving the state’s ecosystem. The responsibility of afforestation programmes, highlighting the land ethics and the importance in safeguarding all the ecosystems is a gift back to our nature.
Nevertheless, despite the differences in various creeds and belief systems, religion has found its common ground in preserving nature and environment. The Vedic traditions of Hinduism offer imagery that values the power of the natural world. Hindu scriptures attest to the belief that the creation maintenance and annihilation of the cosmos is completely up to the Supreme will. Further Hindus believes in the cycle of samsara because of which they not only respect, other species but also reverence. This reverence finds expression in the doctrine of ahimsa, non violence against other species and human being alike. Ecology unity is also seen in the Hindu mythologies. In the Atharvaveda an entire hymn, the prthivi Sukta, has been devoted to praise of mother earth. The Hindu view of Sarva Bhuta Hita the welfare of all beings, universal common good includes not only human but all being creation.
Islam on the other hand beliefs, the Earth as a sanctuary in which mankind was made to dwell in comfort. Further, God compels Muslims in the Quran to respect and revere environment when He says, “Greater indeed than the creation of man is the creation of heavens and earth.”(4:57) Even Prophet Muhammad told his followers they would be rewarded by God for taking care of the Earth. He said, if any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal’s eats of it, he will be rewarded as he had given that much in charity. The Quran and the Hadith are rich in Proverbs and precepts that speak of the Almighty design for creation and humanity’s responsibility for preserving it. Allah gives order to human: “O Children of Adam! Beautify yourselves for every act of worship and eat and drink freely but do not waste: verily, He does not love the wasteful.
Similarly, according to Yahwistic and Priestly account of the Christians, human being are put incharge (stewardship) of creation, they are supposed “to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15) and “have dominion…over every living thing” (Genesis 1:28). Often the “dominion” aspect has been understood as domination and exploitation to others biomes by human act. However, there is no license for humans to do so as God treats all living beings with compassion and respect (Genesis 2:1ff). According to R. J. Raja, he mentioned that ecology in the book of Psalm (Psalm 8:1) images God and presents a glimpse of God since each creature is His personal handiwork (8:3). From the perspective of ecological concerns, the book of Revelation presents overabundant use of created realities to symbolize eschatological realities. There are animals like serpents, frogs, lamb, lion, horses etc.; birds like eagles; things belongs to the vegetative kingdom like leaves, fruits, grass etc; a biotic components like stone, gold, mountains, etc.; heavenly bodies such as stars, hail, the rainbow snow, etc.; and everything under the earth and the water under the earth. All these creatures are used as symbols to portray the active, universal and sovereign will of God over all the created realities. Therefore, destroying the ecology make this concept hard to understand.
A successful ecosystem restoration therefore requires a collective effort from all segments of a society from governments and development agencies to businesses, organizations, communities and individuals. According to Philip Hefner, systematic theologian, “Human beings are God’s created co-creators whose purpose is to be the agency acting in freedom, to birth the future that is most wholesome for the nature that has birthed us-the nature that is not only our own genetic heritage, but also the entire human community and evolutionary and ecological reality in which and to which we belong”. It is therefore the utmost responsibility of the today’s generation to care for a better environment to live in and for future generations. The threatened ecosystem of the state viz. the Koubru range, Loktak lake, the beauty of the nature, the urban ecosystem, etc is a matter of question in coming years. Therefore, it is imperative to remind our role as a steward in making a healthier productive nature and environment. The UN Decade on “Ecosystem Restoration” is a wakeup call to retrospect and introspect our responsibility to use wisely and prudently in restoring our land and water resources in a more sustainable condition for our future generations. Nature is our greatest ally- if we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.
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