By M. Asnikumar Singh
Every year the 5th of June is observed as World Environment Day in 143 nations all across the globe.It was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. Two years later, in 1974 the First World Environment Day was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. The World Environment Day is the United Nation’s principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment. It has been a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.
Each year the World Environment Day has a specific theme that major corporations, NGOs,governments, celebrities worldwide adopt to advocate environmental causes.
This year’s theme is “ beat plastic pollution”. We plant some trees, have some programmes with themes on environmental preservation but we never indulge in follow up acts. Merely planting some trees just to show that we are environmentally “ conscious” citizens is just a farce. Environmentally conscious actions or behaviour has to be year round, not just on the 5th of June. Highlighting this year’s theme i.e. “ beat plastic pollution” one has to introspect their contributions in this rapidly emerging pollution dimension which forecasts a gloom future for all of us humans. The amount of plastic wastes dispersed into the Nambul river mainly from the city spells doom for the Loktak lake, which all of us Manipur is take pride in calling one of our own jewels. If we look further this cycle of pollution can have harmful effects on the ecological balance of the areas surrounding the lake and inevitably the Sangai, our state animal.What we need to look into is that plastic pollution in our state stands on the brink of destroying our pride symbols – the lake, the river, the animal.The commission of Loktak hydro power project in 1993 and the subsequent construction of dam at Ithai along the Manipur river adversely affects the ecological balance of the Loktak lake, inevitably affecting the Sangai. Since the commencement of the project, various environmental conservationists have continuously expressed skepticism about its negative environmental affects and have strongly advocated for decommissioning the project. The project has also endangered various species of flora and fauna in the lake. Some indigenous fish species like pengba, Ngaton,khabak are rarely encountered today. Plant species like yenna, yelli, kambong have almost disappeared. It has also affected the traditional fishing culture of the fishermen community who depend on the lake for their livelihood. The fishermen community living in the vicinity of the lake face serious health hazards from the rapidly deleting water quality of the lake. All the major rivers of the state are in dire need of treatment plants especially the Nambul river which needs to be treated before it reaches the lake. The lake is also considered a cradle the state’s cultural diversity.
The advantage we have on our side to deal with such possibly damaging phenomenon is that we are a small community; cohesion won’t be a problem if one looks further into the problem we gave today and in the future. Community based initiatives to create plastic waste free environment will go a long way in dealing with such problems. Moreover shifting/ jhum cultivation, distraction of foothills in the valley area, deforestation in the state, earth filling in wetlands, natural ponds in the state to meet construction, expansion purposes might seem productive today but one day the fallout of such methods will be so huge that a layman won’t be able to grasp it. The increasing number of private vehicles in the state also raises concern as carbon emissions will invariably increase, contributing significantly in global warming. These days we require air conditioners in the summer months when temperatures reach north of 30 degrees. This was never the case earlier in our state. Minimising private transport and utilising public transport whenever possible is always beneficial both environmentally and economically for all parties involved.
One needs to consider giving more emphasis on environment education in the curriculums of schools and colleges. Instilling environmental awareness right from childhood will definitely help in creating environmental conscious behaviour, attitude among students.
I would like to make a sincere appeal to the state government to frame a comprehensive and strong policy for the protection and conservation of forests, wildlife and wetlands of Manipur with short term and long term planning in consultation with environmental experts and and stakeholders. The Loktak Development Authority ought to be reviewed with due consideration to the ecological parameters.
If we look carefully, these measures are simple yet necessary and productive in these changing times.
Kennedy said,”Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country?”. In these changing times we need to ask ourselves-” what can we do for our Mother Earth, who has nurtured us humans since centuries ?”. The same Kennedy also said,” Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.” Our world is changing, the concept of development has taken massive strides but this also shows us a vague image of our future if we do not act now. The force of nature should never be trifled with. It will treat us the way we treat it. The future will either be green or not at all.