Biodiversity Conservation: Ukhrul and Kamjong

Satellite image of Ukhrul and Kamjong deforestation displaying tree cover loss of 30% canopy density; In 2010, Ukhrul had 380 Kha (Kilo hectare) of natural forest, extending over 86% of its land area. In 2020 alone, Ukhrul lost 2.89 Kha of natural forest, equivalent to 1.21 Mt of CO₂ of emissions.

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A judge of the painting competition holding up a water colour paint of Biodiversity on seminar- Know your Local Flora and Fauna) at Phalee. It is a representation of our younger generation outlook on Biodiversity. (Art by Thingreiso Raingam).

(Nature for future, how? Only if nurture now – Ngashikngam Khayi of Blesso EcoClub)

Biodiversity includes biotic and abiotic factors like temperature, food availability, species, etc. which are essential for human survival. It is recorded that there are about 8.1 billion species on earth with specific ecosystem, and another 1.4 million species with no distinct ecosystem. It is a whole set of life, and a term biodiversity is used to describe the numerous varieties of life on earth. It is more specifically the species in ecosystem. Our ecosystem has individual species that have been evolving over the years. In this framework the loss of species has a huge impact on the remaining ones.

Biodiversity maintains the terrestrial environment and ecosystem. It helps maintain the food chain, control environment pollution, sustain healthier land, provide necessities toward mankind, and also in the generation of income. It is socially, culturally and economically useful. However, it is known that there is uneven distribution of biodiversity from pole to equator due to change in altitude. India is one of the 15th nations to have rich heritage of biodiversity. As per the India Biodiversity Portal we have over 58.1K species with 7% of biodiversity over the world. In recent estimate by CBD & IBPES, it is speculated that around 20% of the world plant species will be lost by 2025 if the current rate of plant genetic erosion continues. Over 1/4th of the entire species on earth may go extinct in the next 30 years.

The protection, management, regeneration, and preservation of the genetic diversity, species and ecosystem is known as biodiversity conservation. Extinction is the law of nature where species evolve while other go extinct. However, this has come to an alarming rate due to human activities. Wide scale deforestation, forest fire, mining, construction, and climate change are the leading factors for loss of biodiversity. Overexploitation and illegal hunting lead to species loses. Over population leads to greater necessities which results in overuse of natural resources. Exploitation of resources and urbanisation are also another factor responsible for the loss of biodiversity. Currently, one of the main aim of institutions around the world is biodiversity conservation which is to save life, preserve species, maintain ecosystem, and a healthier environment for future generation. As per biodiversity conservation programme there are two types: in situ and ex situ conservation. The former is the species conservation in their natural habitats and the latter is a made environment condition to conserve species. In situ conservation is appropriate in our case based on our culture, human resources and financial position.

Forest plays a major part in maintaining the ecosystem. Climate of a place and species inhabitants is determined by forest ecosystem. Deforestation has to be reduced to avoid loss of habitat. The total area of the Ukhrul district is 4,544 square kilometres including Kamjong District as per Global Forest Watch tool analysis. In 2010, Ukhrul had 380 Kha (Kilo hectare) of natural forest, extending over 86% of its land area. In 2020 alone, Ukhrul lost 2.89 Kha of natural forest, equivalent to 1.21 Mt of CO₂ of emissions. From 2001 to 2020, It lost 37.9 Kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 10% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 16.0 Mt of CO₂ emissions. It adversely affects the water balance and reduces water retention capacity. With the loss of forest, water for the household also gets lost, consequently severe water scarcity in Ukhrul (Global Forest Watch).

image 1

Satellite image of Ukhrul and Kamjong deforestation displaying tree cover loss of 30% canopy density. Green colour indicates the primary forest and the purple indicates the deforestation. The black indicates the non- forest. The yellow line indicates the political boundary. The image is generated using near real-time Global Forest Watch monitoring web tool.

There is total of 77.2% of forest cover where 23.95% are protected forest and 9.42 are reserve forest in Manipur as per the state forest report. Such mapping of forest is crucial in our region which are mostly in non-protected areas to keep in check the forest. A controlled integration of protected and non-protected area is to be done to check our forest structure. Forests harboured living and non-living being natural resources and they have been a major source of food, wood, and a great variety of other products. Out of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in India, Manipur has two of it- Indo-Burma Biodiversity hotspot and the Himalaya hot spot. As per biodiversity documentation of Rainforest Biodiversity of PhaleeIndia Biodiversity Portal , the state is a home of many endanger species including Shirui lily (Lilium mackliniae), Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii), Blythe’s tragopan (Tragopan blythii), Assamese macaque, Hibbon, Rhododendron spp., Taxus spp., wuyawon (Caulokaempferia secunda), dwarf oak (Quercus semecarpifolia) , dwarf bamboo (Sinarundinaria rolloana), , Coelogyne spp., orchids, and many unidentified herbs.

In the recent years, we have seen crop failure from climate change, frequent forest fire, more occurrence of landslides, scarcity of water, flooding of river due to abrupt water burst. The current pandemic is one which is heavily link with the biodiversity loss. These problems are increasing in local villages. The government has taken steps to mitigate such problem and there have been some progress in some areas. For instance, the Kyoto protocols on Carbon emission reduction is a global Act which is effectively implementing in different regions of the world. There are few more Acts to conserve Biodiversity like Convention on Biological diversity 2002, India Forest Acts of 1972, etc. which emphasised on preservation, conservation, regeneration and management of nature resources and empowerment to the local community. The world is realising that local communities and their practises are crucial for the global climate mitigation. They give significance to a local based action with global significance.

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Tree cover loss in Ukhrul, Manipur estimated using Global Forest Watch. From 2001 to 2020, Ukhrul lost 37.9 kha of tree cover, equivalent to a 10% decrease in tree cover since 2000, and 16.0Mt of CO₂ emissions. Y-axis indicates the tree cover extend in thousand hectares, and X-axis indicates the year from 2001-2020. (These estimates do not take tree cover gain into account).

There is a need to conserve biodiversity, however it comes with a lot of challenge. Maintenance of ex situ biodiversity conservation is costly and need resources. There are lots of other species which are not identified making it difficult to keep track of everything. We are at an age where biodiversity loss is at its greatest rate fuelled by life style and greed mind set. In consideration of the immense value of biodiversity loss, numerous efforts are being made for its restoration. Humans are the main threats towards the problems and the only ones who can solve it. The amount of flora and fauna that is existing is always a marvel but judicious and sustainable methods should be the main while using these resources.

Lanshim Vashum & Rainforest Biodiversity of Phalee/phaleebmc@gmail.com

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