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Disaster, Rats and Lessons To Be Learnt: Manipur Scene of Floods

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Disaster, Rats and Lessons To Be Learnt: Manipur Scene of Floods

By – Amar Yumnam
Imphal, June 3 :

Manipur has been under an unprecedented social depression due to Inter-Ethnic killings for more than a year. This has been consequent upon the anti-historical and anti-logic (Economic and Social) demands of a separate territorial administrative unit by an ethnic group with incomplete property rights regime. Unfortunately, this has been coupled by the poverty of governance effectiveness; ad-hoc public statements having no application of mind have been the norm rather than exception of this governance.
It is in this socio-politico-economic context that Manipur has experienced within a month two devastating disasters. The month of May 2024 gave Manipur an unexpected and unprecedented scale and intensity of highly damaging hailstorms and rainstorms in the beginning. This month has ended again with an unprecedented rainfall deep in both scale and intensity to cause huge floods. Given this scenario, there is a need – unavoidable need – to critically examine how, why and what have happened to Manipur consequent upon these two disasters.
There can be no disagreement that, given the scale and depth within a very limited time, these have been disasters. These call for understanding of category, available technology and the issue of availability of information. Disasters can be Natural or Man-made. They can be Historical or Periodic. Further, the issue of availability of prior information is a critical one. Still further, the understanding of Contextual Geography is important.
Since the recent events have been related to rain, storms and floods, the general understanding would be to call these as Natural Disasters. But I would rather go along with the expression as Nature Expressing Anger. The disasters have happened in a context of deep and widespread destruction of the Forests in Manipur; the disappearance of the Forests has jeopardised the traditional and natural interdependence of the Geographic Components of Manipur and sustenance of a healthy relationship between humans and the environment. Thus, the disasters have not been pure Natural ones, but ones facilitated by negative human interventions into the domain of nature. It has not been that there were not winds and rains historically in Manipur, but the present environmental reality is one of heavy disturbances by the humans. The forests had played the role of temporary controlling mechanism or shock absorber for the potential damages of the manifestations of Nature, but they are not there now.
Further, as stated earlier, the presence or absence of prior information on a likely disaster is very important. This importance arises from the potential for preparedness for reducing the potential damages of the disaster; this is where the government has to prove her governance capability. Even ignoring the role of historical understanding, we cannot deny the scale of damages shown by the disaster in the beginning of May 2024; the Indian Meteorological Department did give prior information of the arrival of a huge storm. In the second case too, the IMD did give prior information of the arrival of heavy rains consequent upon storms over the nearby ocean.
The damages caused by the First Disaster should have been the First Lessons for responding to natural happenings of more or less similar scales. In the present case, there were both prior information and presence of fresh scope for learning lessons.
But what has happened in the case of Manipur? The unfolding consequences of the Second Disaster have been enough to display the absence of absorbing lessons from the First Disaster, Non-Attention to the Available Information and consequential governance unpreparedness. The study of disasters is not a fresh field and there is a continuity in this for the last half a century. The disasters are there as there could be a difficulty in evolving a definitive response. Klir & Yuan (1995) and Klir Folger (1998) have classified this indeterminateness into four types:
“• Non-specification (absence of information); • Uncertainty (absence of accuracy);• Dissonance (absence of arbitration); • Confusion (absence of comprehension).”
The Manipur case is one of the fourth one of Confusion as there was/is no sign of application of mind to the challenges. After the damages have already been caused by the Second Disaster, a junior Minister in the Council of Ministers came out with a theory of rats committing the destruction leading to the unprecedented highly-damaging floods. Now this has entertained the public so much that social media is now full of videos of Cats being put into service to hunt out the rats in Manipur. This has been followed by another person in authority – Chairman of The Loktak Development Authority – claiming full credit for the discovery of huge piles of garbage in the Waisel Maril. What was he doing before the full-scale damages were made to happen? What was he doing at least when the IMD put out the determinate information on the arrival of rain-carrying storms?
It would be of relevance to mention here that the World Bank has just come out with a study as detailed here: Zhang, Fan, and Christian-Borja-Vega, 2024,Water for Shared Prosperity. Manipur does need to evolve such a strategy as historically she is a high rainfall area. This is exactly where the Government should be applying her mind rather than someone or the other coming out with inadequate public statements; the public are not a bunch of fools. Manipur should be able to fit into what John Stuart Mill stated as back as in 1896: “what has so often excited wonder, the great rapidity with which countries recover from a state of devastation; the disappearance, in a short time, of all traces of the mischiefs done by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the ravages of war. An enemy lays waste a country by fire and sword, and destroys or carries away nearly all the moveable wealth existing in it: all the inhabitants are ruined, and yet in a few years after, everything is much as it was before.” There is a fundamentality to evolve a sustainable interaction framework between Humans and Environment in Manipur; this is not a joke.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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