In the backdrop of the global climate and water crisis that we face today, is an alarming statistic; about one-fourth of the global population(2.2 billion people to be precise) still lack access to safe water. By 2050, global water needs are projected to increase by more than 50 per cent. It is common knowledge that forests, wetlands, grasslands provide valuable ecosystem services for water. They act as a natural protector, filter source of water, regulate water flows and most importantly, protect communities from water-related disasters. But the sad thing is that these ecosystems are under severe threat:420 million hectares of forest have been deforested globally since 1990 and 87 per cent of wetlands have been lost since 1700. Such fear-inducing figures are a clear indication that we have reached a point where little to no action will certainly result in disaster for all mankind.
This year’s World Water Day with its theme ‘Valuing Water’ throws light on the pivotal role played by healthy ecosystems in maintaining water supplies around the globe. In many parts of the world, indigenous and local communities are leading the way in implementing nature-based solutions to solve the triple water, biodiversity and climate crises.
In the context of Manipur, we ought to find it baffling that a state like ours with abundant rainfall and forest cover has been facing water-related problems since the last decade. This development can be attributed to a lot of factors but the most visible and obvious one is the mismanagement of the state’s water resources; a sort of ‘irresponsible water governance’ for more than a decade by the past government. Our state’s water security status has seen a drastic fall due to deforestation, ‘jhum’ cultivation as well as destruction due to development activities. The situation has reached an alarming point now. The culture of filling up water bodies in the name of development activities is something that ought to be ceased once and for all. Our Hon’ble CM himself is a vocal critic of landfilling of water bodies for development activities.
Our ‘People’s CM’ is someone who has always had genuine concern and a deep understanding of the state’s pressing environmental issues. Right from his early days in public life, he was someone who was always willing to listen to suggestions from any source, provided that the suggestions were concerned with solutions/improvement of the state’s environmental issues. I remember when our present Hon’ble CM was the then IFCD minister, he initiated numerous meaningful initiatives like long term river conservation project, steps to formulate a long term water policy for our state, concrete measures to carry out plantations in catchment areas of the state with the direct involvement of local communities. Sadly, however, the then CM dismissed these ideas
However, Shri N Biren Singh managed to initiate and carry out some other meaningful projects like the Nambul and Imphal river flooding prevention and protection projects, cleaning of Nambul river. He also reached out to many villages in the hill districts for involvement in afforestation initiatives. Sadly, without the support of the then leadership hierarchy, such visions remained half fulfilled.
Now, we can realistically hope for an improved, redefined long term water management policy and thorough follow up action with an environmentally conscious Chief Minister at the helm.
But one person can only make a difference up to a certain point, regardless of how powerful/influential he/she is. The majority of the success of a vision depends upon how much it induces others to act on it. This is where we, the people of this beautiful state come into the picture. God has blessed us abundantly with every possible natural resource one could ask for but if we do not respect or appreciate these resources (through our attitude and actions), at some point in the near future, we and our future generations are bound to pay a price, which might end up becoming too big a price to pay. Keeping this year’s World Water Day theme ‘Valuing Water’ in mind, it is high time that we start acting as responsible and spirited citizens of a place that is truly blessed profusely by the nature gods.