Lamphelpat: A victim of unplanned urbanisation
Rapid urbanisation and other anthropocentric activities have been wreaking havoc to almost every single natural body of this planet and Manipur is no exception. The extent of damages done to natural bodies can be mitigated to some extent if urbanisation is done with proper planning and the natural environment is duly taken into account. But what is seen in Manipur, particularly at Imphal is rather disappointing. The capital town has been undergoing rapid but unplanned urbanisation and no natural body has been left untouched. The juggernaut does not spare any natural body whether they are hills, hillocks, rivers, lakes, pastures, wetlands or wooded areas, and Lamphelpat is one of the worst affected victims. 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 are simply immense, to say the least. Lamphelpat is now home to numerous Government/private offices, quarters, schools, colleges, hospitals, residential complexes etc. 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 than later. It is not only Lamphelpat, many other wetlands are vanishing right in front of our eyes. It appears both the Government and the public are conveniently overlooking the fact that it would be impossible to retrieve or regenerate any of the wetlands which are closely associated with our world view and of course, livelihood, if they are once lost completely. The report that all wetlands of Manipur except Loktak and Pumlenpat have virtually vanished is a wakeup call for the Government, NGOs, the civil society and the general public to do something significant to save these dying wetlands.
One major factor which has been contributing immensely to the destruction of natural environment and disappearance of wetlands is patronisation of construction activities at ecologically sensitive areas. There are many Acts, laws and statutes enacted by the successive elected Governments of Manipur but one area where these elected Governments invariably fumbled or failed with regard to certain laws and Acts has been the implementation part. An Act may look quite comprehensive and impressive, and its contents may be very noble, ambitious, visionary and tailored to address many present day problems and imminent as well as remote future problems of human society but the same beautifully crafted Act is nothing more than a white elephant if the executive (sic Government) which is responsible for implementing it is ill-equipped or bereft of the necessary dose of will. A gazette notification on the enactment of the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act was published on September 2, 2014. The very act of enacting the Act testifies the fact that there is a growing need to conserve agricultural land and wetlands in the State as was acknowledged and championed by the incumbent Chief Minister. Unfortunately, almost all modernisation and urbanisation projects are directly executed or patronised by the State. Rapidly expanding human population, large scale changes in land use/land cover, multiple development projects and improper use of watersheds have caused serious impacts on wetlands. As such, it is these areas which the State, NGOs, the civil society and the general public must pay extra attention if the vanishing wetlands of the State must be saved. There are reports that the Water Resources Department has been planning to develop a water body covering 442 square Kms in Lamphelpat. But whether this initiative would be enough to conserve Lamphelpat is anybody’s guess.