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International Mountain Day, 2018

By-N.Munal Meitei

This year, there was a big incident of mysterious killing of domestic animals by some unknown animals. Whatever the predator it may be but it relates to the degradation of our environments and ecology thereby losing their natural habitats. With the ongoing episode, a lot of social impacts were created and among them, it has caused a big mental harassment among the women and children and more particularly to the school going children. Now, children hardly want to read upto the late night and also do not want to go outside after the dark. Shops are closed early in the evening due to want of costumers and also fear psychosis. Due to such psycho-fear, if peoples do not work regularly, then our economy have to be hampered. As a fear-psycho, now people started to be apart from rearing the domestic animals thinking that to attack the animals they may also be attacked. But we can’t ignore that a large number of unemployed youths are benefitted with these business. If the scenario continued, a huge problem may arise in our society. We are afraid to think that such events may invite the peoples to lessen their love and care for wild animals and that may lead a huge problem while protecting and conserving the wildlife and migratory birds in future. If any of the wild animals are found in the residential areas, people presumed that they the predator and started killing them. This may lead to the extinction of many our important wild animals from our soil.
Manipur being occupy about 89% of its geographical area with hills, has the most significance meaning with the celebration of the International Day of Mountains on the 11 December every year since 2003. Mountains and hills are some of the most beautiful of nature’s structures, stolid and regal they stand against the sky, of such a size that they can catch entire countryside’s in their shadow, and turn back the ravages of storms against their unflinching sides. They are called the home for the origin of our entire flora and fauna. They are the source of recreation and resources, with streams providing the lives of slopes to enthusiasts, and minerals in abundance to those brave enough to delve into their greenly sides. The increasing importance of mountains and hills led to the celebration of International Day of Mountains day every year. The day was designated to encourage the international community to organize events to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain and hill development. “Mountains Matter” is the theme for this year. Considering the crucial role they play in providing key ecosystem goods and services to the planet and their vulnerability in the face of climate change, we need for maximum attention to mountains and hills.
Mountains and hills are the world’s ‘water towers’, providing between 60 to 80% of freshwater resource for our planet. In Manipur, almost all the rivers in the state originate from the hills. However, due to rampart felling of trees in the hills, water supplies in our state are much affecting which is relied on by thousands of people living downstream. Fresh water from hills are fundamental for achieving our food security, as it is used by farmers to irrigate crops in many lowland agricultural regions. Almost all the towns in Manipur, are dependent for freshwater on mountains & hills.
Half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are concentrated in mountains & hills and they support approximately one-quarter of all the terrestrial biodiversity. Mountains & hills are home to rare animals as well as strikingly beautiful plants such as orchids and lobelias. Many mountain & hill ecosystems are host to higher species richness and levels of endemism. Mountains and hills at lower altitudes can support exceptional biodiversity, due to compression of a wide range of ecosystems into a relatively short distance. Mountains and hills also often provide islands of suitable habitat, isolated from unfavourable surroundings.
Endemism levels are often very high on hills. For some taxa, hills have acted as refuges from environmental change or competing species, and they often represent sites of in situ speciation. Mountain and hill species with narrow habitat tolerance, particularly higher elevation forms and those with low dispersal capacity, are at high risk from the environmental effects of climate change. Slope dynamics and livestock grazing are significant drivers of diversity in many hill regions. Flower-rich highland meadows such as our Seroi Kangkhui hills are an important cultural heritages.
Almost 32% of Manipur’s population live in hilly regions, and maximum of our population depends on hills for water, food and clean energy. Yet hills are under threat from climate change, land degradation, and over exploitation, with potentially far-reaching and devastating consequences, both for hill communities and the rest of the populations in the state.
Mountains & hills are places of tourism and cultural trails. Mountain & hills tourism accounts for about 15–20 percent the global tourism industry. Here lies the hope for Manipur to solve the large number of educated unemployed youths in the state. This dream will come true only when our hills are dressed with green cover. Indigenous and local populations in hills also have the unique and valuable local knowledge, traditions and cultural practices that can contribute to effective social and land development strategies.
Hills have a key role to play in providing renewable energy, especially through hydropower, solar power, wind power and biogas. Habitat degradation caused by unsustainable clearing of hill slopes results in erosion of fertile soil and increases the threat of landslides and flooding. With this change in habitat, rare species of plants and animals are facing from extinction.
Mountains and hills contribute to food and nutrition security by providing land for crops, grazing for livestock, watercourses for inland fisheries, and non-wood forest products such as berries, mushrooms and honey etc. Of the 20 plant species that supply 80 percent of the world’s food, six are originated and have been diversified in hills: maize, rice, potatoes, barley, sorghum and apples.
Now, climate change, climate variability and climate-induced disasters, combined with political, economic and social marginalization, increase the vulnerability of mountain and hill peoples to food shortages and extreme poverty. As the vulnerability of hill populations grows, migration increases both to valley and other urban centers. Out-migration from hill areas will also result in an inestimable loss in terms of provision of ecosystem services and preservation of cultural and agro-biodiversity.
Therefore with the celebration of International Day of Mountains, 2018, Manipur to identify for the new and sustainable opportunities that can bring benefits to both for hill and valley communities and to help to eradicate poverty without contributing to the degradation of the fragile hill ecosystem. To respond to such challenges and threats, holistic, participatory and integrated approaches that address all aspects of sustainability are required. The specific needs and inter-linkages of different aspects of sustainable development, such as water, biodiversity, tourism and infrastructure, must be taken into account. To achieve it, all concerned stakeholders must be invited, involved and good awareness is raised amongst them at the earliest. Let’s take care of our mountains and hills by today itself and otherwise tomorrow may be too late for us for the future generations.

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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