IMPHAL, June 6: As usual, Samom Ningthemjao was watering newly planted tree saplings in his village. He has a strong passion for making his surroundings green and with this ardent force he has so far grown more than 600 trees in his locality.
As the 58 years old automobile mechanic from Lairenjam Sabal of Imphal West district has been continually planting tree saplings with great care in his surroundings, many of the roadsides, local ponds, premises of sylvan deities and paddy fields in the village are now adorned with varieties of trees.
Unlike many others who forget to water and take care after planting tree saplings, he has been taking great care of the tree saplings planted by him and it is his routine duty to regularly water, put fertilizers and erect fencing around the tree saplings until they are grown.
“Environment is what surrounds you and only the true feeling of love and care for the nature within you will be instrumental in conserving the same (environment). One does not always need to be very special or extraordinary in order to conserve the environment, what is most essential is making sincere efforts in his/her own capacity within one’s surroundings”, he said.
He continued that the mother Earth is being exploited irretrievably by mankind and added that human beings should now feel the wrath of nature and must strive together to protect the environment for the sake of future generations.
When asked how his venture of growing trees began, the man replied that he has taken up mass scale plantation of trees since 2016 although he has the habit of growing trees in his private residence since the time of his adolescence.
“Many in my locality including my own family members considered my initiative as something odd in the initial years. But now my family, specially my wife, is fully supporting me, In addition, many locals have started appreciating my efforts and they are even helping me in planting and watering trees whenever they have time”, he added.
Informing that a person from his locality recently gave him a second hand auto for ferrying/transporting tree saplings from one place to another, Ningthemjao said that he has started door to door tree plantation drive in private residences in his village with earnest request to all the families to look after the planted trees.
Asked whether he had received any support from the Government in his initiative, Ningthemjao denied receiving any such help other than a few people in the Forest Department presenting tree saplings in the past.
While conveying that he runs an automobile workshop, Ningthemjao asserted that he has been spending a substantial portion of his earnings in procuring tree saplings, fertilizers and fencing materials.
Saying that he has already agreed to donate his organs for the society after his death, the automobile mechanic maintained that his eternal peace lies in taking care of nature and surviving with nature.
Meanwhile, many environmentalists and experts have pointed out the impacts of deforestation in the State and called for urgent environmental protection.
As told by Dr Ngangbam Romeji, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, NIT, Manipur, the impacts of deforestation on climate, hydro-environment & water resources in the State which forms a part of Indian Himalayan Region are said to be considerably high.
Pointing out that the spatial distribution of water yield is directly related to the vegetation health, specially in the upstream reaches of rivers, he informed that deforestation has severely affected the climate hydro-dynamics and consequently the hydrological regime thereby causing drastic impacts on the water resources in the State.
He said that the Geospatial and Hydrological model-integrated studies at his institution by him and research scholars and project fellows revealed a distinctive different facet of the deforestation progression.
He also said that the derived LULC-Forest Cover map Climate Change Impacts on Hydrodynamics of Singda Reservoir Catchment, Manipur IHR for 2011 and 2019 show that there is marked loss of forest and vegetation cover in the hill districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Noney and Churachandpur.
“In the whole State, there is a marked decline of forest and vegetation cover from 16505.98 square kilometres in 2011 to 15890.24 square kilometres in 2019. Consequently there has been a huge loss of water bodies in the three major river basins to the tune of 224.48 square kilometres.”, he said while observing that the phenomena may be interpreted as the alarming fall of evapotranspiration rates during the period.
He further pointed out that the steady decline in forest areas and substantial increase of agricultural lands from 170 square kilometres to 450 square kilometres in the hill districts of Tamenglong, Noney and Churachandpur were detected adding it indicates that there has been mass clearance of forest areas for jhum cultivation.
Romeji went on to state that the consequence of such acts has resulted in rapid disappearance of water bodies which have shrunk from 106.13 square kilometres in 2001 to 27.49 square kilometres in 2001 in the same hill districts.
“The direct indicator or impact may be clearly deciphered from the alarming recession of water volumes in the various reservoirs, notably Singda Reservoir, which has been found”, he said.
The Professor continued that the Iril River which forms one of the major rivers with high flow discharge in the Manipur river basin has been found to have a progressive loss in water yield from about 167.24 mm ( in 2008) to 118.43 mm in 2017.
He maintained that Iril River has its upstream catchment area in the once thickly forested pockets of Ukhrul and Senapati districts and occupy 69.8% of the total catchment area.
“The studies outline that there is a dire and urgent need to protect and restore forest and vegetation in this environmentally-stressed State in the North Eastern frontier of the country to evolve with its high biodiversity and hydro-climatic regime.”, he said.
Noting that forest areas in the districts of Tamenglong and Churachandpur have declined from 95.97% of the total study area in 2001 to 90.73% in 2017, he observed that the accessibility of water for various purposes and other economic benefits causes expansion of settlement areas around water bodies and led to migration from other regions.
The professor then called for catchment and watershed protection in addition to the efficient reservoir planning and management for optimal performance of Singda Reservoir to address the domestic water scarcity in Imphal urban areas.
(This feature is written under Media Fellowship on Climate Change reporting of the Directorate of Environment & Climate Change, Manipur)