Jhum cultivation & green Manipur: A perfect antithesis

Chief Minister’s Green Manipur Mission sounds quite fascinating as well as promising. After Go to Hills, Go to Village, School Fagathanshi  etc, etc missions, Chief Minister N Biren launched another mission yesterday, this time with the noble objective of checking environmental degradation. Of course, all the objectives of all the missions launched so far by the State Government are noble and warmhearted. Yet, how far each single objective of the many missions launched simultaneously or one after another has been achieved is not known to the people as well as media. The Government may have a report card of its own but Government reports or data are not always reliable. Having said this, we have no moral right to undermine the Government’s efforts to bridge hill-valley gap, reach out to rural and remote areas and check environmental degradation. On the contrary, all these missions deserve appreciation and citizens ought to be willing partners. At the same time, setting noble objectives and achieving them are two different things. If any mission has been envisaged and launched, the same must be pursued with sheer will, commitment and vigour. Launching a mission and abandoning it midway is as good as not launching the mission at all.  Now the Chief Minister’s Green Manipur Mission has been launched. Everyone including the Government, its many agencies, the public, NGOs and all stake holders must focus on accomplishing the mission. If we are talking about environmental degradation or climate change, we must admit that modernization minus industrial or economic growth, primitive methods of agriculture, lack of awareness and myopic state policies are the principal factors responsible for the fast depleting natural resources and the unprecedented scale of ecological imbalance in Manipur.
The utter insensitivity of the successive Government towards environmental concerns is proven beyond doubt by the continued practice of slash-and-burn agriculture by a sizeable section of the hill people. Despite the devastating effect on environment and ecology, the State never bothers to transfer the shifting cultivators to another source of livelihood or replace it with other income generating occupations. The Government deems unnecessary to devise a regulatory mechanism to control unchecked quarrying on river beds, hill slopes and catchment areas although these activities have noticeably aggravated cases of breaching river banks and landslides during rainy season and also siltation in Loktak Lake. It was only in 2009 that some din was made about environment protection in the State Assembly when the soaring temperature and drought situation pricked the conscience of our legislators. Had the State been not so myopic in their outlook, the present generation could have avoided the blame of robbing future generations off a sustainable environment. If the state had the least concern for the degrading environment, it could have made arrangements within its power to replace shifting cultivation with terraced cultivation. This could have been done decades back.  By doing so environmental degradation and ecological imbalance could have been mitigated to a considerable extent. The reality is, the supportive capacity of our environment has already been stretched beyond its limits and the cost is heavy.  Let’s hope the CM’s Green Manipur Mission marks a paradigm shift. We are not sure if the quite promising mission has any provision to replace jhum cultivation with environment friendly occupations but one thing is certain. As long as the jhum cultivation continues, a green Manipur can never be achieved. In another word, jhum cultivation is one major challenge to any mission aimed at achieving a greener Manipur.