By - N. Munal Meitei
The 24th October is the United Nations Day which was formed on this day in 1945. United Nations is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law.
After its formation, the major tensions so called wars between the nations have been fairly reduced except for some minor conflicts and the cold wars. The consisted roll of UN with observers for monitoring, reporting and confidence-building between the nations have bound up significant trust and peace in the 193 member countries worldwide today.
Now for maintaining peace and security, our most challenging task has become to take the climate action. In this vast universe, the earth is the only planet where living beings can survive. If we do not take action to fight the climate change right now, then the beautiful hills, lakes, fields, meadows, forests and all living beings on the earth will be perished. Therefore, the celebration of International Day for Climate action on this UN day i.e. the 24th October itself has the greatest meaning. But the ugly part comes when the major greenhouse emitting countries tried them to escape from these global common goals.
Caring for the planet is the moral issue. Countries have recognized that climate change presents an ever growing threat to development, poverty and the welfare of the citizens. The impacts of climate change are already being felt by every country on the glove. We have felt the increase in temperature and of the extreme climates like flood, drought, cyclone, earthquakes etc. as compare to the previous years. But we felt its seriousness when the farmers are not allowed to plant and harvesting of crops due to scanty rainfall which was not happened as frequently as in Manipur today.
I always used to talk to the cultivators of Kakching. Some years back; this place was the sugar bowl of Manipur. All the foot hills in and around this mini town were with full of sugar cane plantations. But now almost 95% of the sugar cane plantations have been reduced. While I asked some of the cultivators who are well-trained in this field, told me that scanty rainfall has forced them to stop the sugar cane plantation. As we know, sugar cane contains 90% water and hence its cultivation needs a lot of water. Earlier, they could get about 70-80 tins of condensed sugar juice, Chuhi from one acre of land but now-a-days with their maximum effort, they get only about 30-35 tins. Thus, they have stopped the sugar cane plantation. While asked to go for other alternative crops also, they told that nothing is left except for the good rainfall. Such environment impacts have changed their entire livelihood and societal set up. Now some of them are forced to pull back their school going children and put them to other income earning jobs to help the family.
Such is the similar condition in many parts of Manipur. In Thanga and Karang, earlier each family could catch as much fish as to earn a manageable amount to run their families and for studying their children. But now, it is impossible for them to catch the fishes to earn their livelihood although they invest much more labour and equipment. Thus, the climate change is impacting the whole aspects of the human and natural ecosystems.
The Loktak Lake being the largest fresh water lake in North-east has all the qualities of inscribing in the lists of World Heritage sites. The lake has its own cultural legacy. The great epic of Khamba-Thoibi still echoed in the wave of the Loktak Lake. This is not the poetic of Shri Hijam Anganghal but it really nestled deep in our culture. Everything that a Manipuri has seems to be embedded deep inside the Lake. But now, to due the environmental degradation and climate change, everything seems to be emerging in the cloud.
Manipur has lost almost 18 important species of fishes from its Lakes. Huge volumes of plastics are carried down by the Nambul River into the Loktak Lake thereby polluting the lake beyond tolerance. Due to indiscriminate felling of trees in the catchments, huge siltation is going on in the lake. The lake is now swallowing with an unexpected speed that we may not be able to see the present Loktak Lake in the next 20 years. The same is for the other wetlands also. To meet the demands for the over flooding population, all the important wetlands have been encroached upon for cultivation and fish-farming. But we should never forget that wetlands are the cradle for living beings.
The Loktak Hydel Power Project has changed the Phumdi eco-system of the Loktak Lake by disturbing the annual cycle of the black vegetative mass. The decaying of phumdi is synonymous with the extinction of our lovely Sangai, the state animal. The recently concluded Siroy festival, in Ukhrul has also many environmental callings. The habitat of the Siroy lily is much constricted and threatened with the intensive tourist activities during the blossoming period of the lily, May last to June first. The dumping of waste, plastic, plucking of flowers and uprooting has threatened the sustenance of the endemic species. The species is also endangered by the invasion of Machun which is kind of miniature bamboo species growing profusely in Siroy’s habitat. Therefore immediate attention is called for from all sections of the society to save our state animal and the flower.
Forests provide benefits to life. As a natural green capital, forest assets are important in all aspects of mankind and other living beings, ranging from providing subsistence to mitigating the impacts of climate change. In Manipur, the rate of deforestation is overwhelming. Maximum felling of trees are meant for fire-wood production and mass poppy plantation. This is a serious issue in almost all the hill districts of Manipur. If the Govt. does not find out an alternative solution for the livelihood of these cultivators as an immediate measure by providing some other alternative income generation activities, then it will be not only a huge menace to diminish all our forest but a deadly drug war for the state also. Selling of firewood becomes a major business to supply to all the mushrooming brick kilns in the state. These kilns should not be allowed to use fire-wood but due to easy availability and cheaper in cost between firewood and lignite or coal, these kilns are using large quantities of fire-wood. Most of the small scale industries in the state such as blacksmith, goldsmith, hotels, dhobi and many households are also using large quantities of charcoals that are produced by uprooting the trees mostly of coppicing species. Thus, a total area of about 400 sq.km forest is lost annually in the state.
As predicted, the climate change will affect the human security as the conflicts brew over competition for water, food, and land. The question of climate refugees such as Rohingyas migrating across borders is a much concern for many governments provoking in civil wars.
The United Nations under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, the global temperature is proposed to cap at 1.5°C to 2°C by 2100. But as per IPCC WGI Fourth Assessment Report, the climate change predictions are not encouraging; the further increase in temperatures may be 1.8°C to 5.8°C by 2100. This is really our most dreaded challenge.
Ocean plants including the coral reefs produced 85% of the oxygen we breathe in the air. Due to climate change, the coral reefs are exposed to bleaching events - possibly leading to their mass extinction. Once the ocean plants and coral reefs are extinct, the whole Biodiversity of the planet will be collapsed. Amazon forest which we called lungs of earth is also damaged, cleared and brunt extensively on second to second basis and nobody including the United Nations is taking action and the depletion of large area of rain forest are continuing without an interruption. This is another horrible issue for the planet. Climate change also affect the terrestrial biodiversity by species shifting ranges, changes in the timing of biological cycles, migration of pests and invasive species, among other phenomena.
Climate change will also have tremendous impact on social and cultural aspects, with communities changing the way they live, work, settlement and landscapes, possibly leading to migration and the abandonment of their original homes altogether.
It is an undisputed fact that climate change is always interconnected with all environmental issues affecting the whole living beings on the earth. Therefore, we now have to take a firm stand to fight the climate change to save our environment and the beautiful planet for the sake of our future generations.