Degrading environment vs anthropocentric activities

Indeed it is a matter of grave concern. Lamphelpat, once a home to a variety of flora and fauna is dying a painful death right under the nose of the Government. Lamphelpat located just beyond the periphery of Imphal city is closely intertwined with the history, culture and ethos of the State. Its roles and functions in maintaining healthy eco-system around Imphal city is simply immense, to say the least. What is causing more damage to Lamphelpat is not natural environmental changes but anthropocentric activities. Lamphelpat is now home to numerous Government/private offices, quarters, schools, colleges, hospitals, residential complexes. In short, a concrete jungle has replaced vast chunks of the wetland once covered with lush green vegetation. If conservation measures are not taken up at the right earnest with the required dose of political will and dedication, Lamphelpat would vanish sooner rather than later. Of course, mankind’s concerns for environmental protection have grown multiple times in the past decades. However, despite the much enhanced knowledge and concerns for environment and its preservation, all the human efforts are still not enough to preserve a sustainable environment. Polls conducted across the planet showed that the public attach great value to protecting the environment. Yet, environment is only degrading year after year. One primary reason is mankind’s economic concerns and prioritisation of economic agenda over environmental concerns by almost all the countries. The same is true in the context of Lamphelpat too as testified by the many Government projects and offices seen within its periphery. In spite of the ever rising temperature, the imminent threats of melting Arctic glaciers and subsequent rise of sea levels, all the international environmental summits including the latest one could not come up with any effective mechanism to counter environmental degradation. Very often, environmental concerns faded into oblivion during economic hard times, and it is a reflection of the fact that majority of the public and most of the leadership still believe that protecting the environment represents spending money rather than saving it. In other words, it represents consumption rather than investment.
Economic activity, both production and consumption, relates to the environment in two fundamental ways — we draw resources (both renewable and non-renewable) from the environment to produce goods and services, and we emit wastes into the environment in the process of both production and consumption. Too often we think and act as if we were not part of nature. Rather than thinking of ourselves as nested in nature and dependent upon it, we think of ourselves as sitting on top of it, managing it. We think there are the human world and the natural world, and we forget that we are ourselves, with all our technology, part of nature. So what is the reality?  As we look at our interest in the world, we think in sequence — individual, family, community, region, nation and world. A starving population will strip every twig and blade of grass to survive, and this unfortunately is the harsh reality in Manipur. We face the prospect of utterly destroying much of the natural world. Perhaps, forest resources are the single largest source of livelihood after agriculture for majority of the mass in Manipur. But the sad part is, we continue to see forest resources only as firewoods and tree trunks for obtaining timber. Ignorance, economic compulsion and in some part greed are behind unrestrained exploitation of forest resources. Our people must have certain idea about the roles of forest and for that matter wetlands like Lamphelpat in environmental protection viz; retention of underground water, absorption of harmful carbon emission, balancing seasonal rainfall, prevention of landslides, floods et al. But we doubt how many of our people have clear idea about total economic value of our forests. The carbon absorptive capacity of our forests has its economic value. But it is in human nature, immediate requirements always precede future security. What we are doing today is sacrificing the entire future generations for our immediate requirements.   The call of the hour is reviewing our policy priorities.