By N. Munal Meitei, Environmentalist
The whole world is celebrating the planets biggest environmental event, the World Environment Day on 5th June with this year’s theme of: Only One Earth with Sweden as the global host. This is the repetition of the first theme of World Environment Day during 1974 held in the city of Spokane in the USA.
The planet is our only home and humanity must safeguard its finite resources. People who have seen Earth from space felt the awe and responsibility to save the earth. It serves as the people’s day for doing something positive for the mother earth. WED also remind the reverence and care for our environmental pristine.
Healthier the environment, richer is the biodiversity and greater will be the yield benefits. Planting trees is the easiest way to battle the current environmental problems to soak up the excess CO2 from the air. Trees and forests are the critical part of the solution to the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse. In 2019, a paper published in Science, created a furor that if the 900 million hectare land available on earth are reforested, it would help to store 205 gigatonnes of carbon, which will be our most effective climate change solution till date.
Intuitively, planting trees makes sense, especially when high degrees of forest are loss around the world. Even in 2021, when we are in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world lost about 6 million hectares of forests according to data published by Global Forest Watch.
Now, environment should be put in the category of national security. To defend our natural resources is equally important as to defence from neighbours. Protecting our environment is everyone’s responsibility.
Our blue planet is the only place in the universe inhabitable by the living beings. Yet, our so called home is visibly losing its vitality and pristineness due to the reckless policies and ruinous acts of the wise human beings. Its resources are being exhausted and the safe livelihood of mankind is gravely endangered. Alarming environmental challenges, disasters, unprecedented and unheard of before, occur at a greater rate. Climate change with ensuing water scarcity, desertification, melting of ice, sea level rise, soil and vegetation degradation lead not only to depletion of natural resources, but threaten the social and economic development of the entire world.
The oceans absorb almost 25% of all human CO2 emissions. The gas then combines with other elements forms carbolic acid. Over the last 250 years, surface acidity of the ocean has increased by 30%. The acidity is expected to increase by 150% in 2100. With such over acidification, all the sea creatures more importantly, the plankton which produces 65% of all the earth’s oxygen is in the brink of extinction.
The clearing of forests continue at an alarming rate of 20 football grounds per minute. Trees are cut around 4-7 billion globally per year but annual afforestation and natural germination together accounts 1% only. A tree can store 1 ton CO2 in its life and can produce O2 for 10 persons a year. Hence its really miserable.
In India in 2018, Churu in Rajasthan, the temperature shoots up to 50.8°C. It is really a horrible for the infants and elderly to live in. But if we do not care of our environment today, it is inevitable to face an extreme heat in the coming years. On the other hand, due to lack of annual rainfall, the whole country is facing from acute water crisis but facing from frequent thunderstorms like Yaas, Helen, Phalin, Hudhud, Fani and Asani etc. India saw the warmest March this year since IMD began keeping records 122 years ago and the whole country is expected to face the hottest year this time.
Population explosion is at the root cause for all environmental issues facing by the planet today. Population will surely make the environmental meltdown and mankind will required 2 Earths by 2030. India with 2.8% of the global geographical area will be the most populous country by 2030 surpassing China with 1.51 billion presenting 21% of world population i.e. 1 every five people in the world are Indian. We also support 20% earth’s cattle population, but luckily the country owned 7.8% of the global Biodiversity in the four Mega Hot Spots.
To meet the sufficient food, water and livelihood, the country’s daily requirement will be almost double at that time. Unluckily, annual precipitations are likely to reduce tremendously thereby decreasing the food production giving a huge gap between the demand and supply. The rainfall type on those days will be very haphazardus with dry places may get more rainfall and the rest with almost nil to negligible thereby leading to severe drought and famine to all over the country. The rainfalls will be for a shorter period accompanied by cloudburst and downpour thereby making floods, landslides everywhere leading to huge loss of lives and properties.
The pollution level both in air, water and soil may shoot up to three times of the present condition and temperature will rise around 55°C in almost all the parts of the country. Hence people will force to concentrate their settlement in the colder regions and that will be a huge social and political problem. Heat waves mixed with drought conditions can trigger intense wildfires that cause high levels of air pollution accompanied by heavy cyclones and storms. Due to these multifarious environmental issues, the country will be in turmoil both in politics, Law & Order and governance.
At that time 80% of the Himalayan glaciers might be melting away which may result abrupt changes in the climatic condition of the sub-continent and also submerging of many parts of the low laying coastal areas. At that time, most of our snow fed rivers might be dried up.
The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us from our natural heritage and pushing the whole species toward extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies, fuelling organized crime and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe. Illegal trade in wildlife is the largest trade in the world ahead of drugs and arms. The loss of Biodiversity are to the tunes of 1 species per 20 minutes and thus most of species may wipe out by 2100.
Enabling people for a decent living and at the same time ensuring the conservation and safety of wetlands is our primary objectives. The country has recorded 757,000 wetlands and 37 Ramsar sites with 15.3 million ha which is 4.7% of total geographical area. Our wetlands support 23% reptiles, 13% amphibians, 23% fishes, 65% birds and 26% mammalian species. But we have lost 30% of our wetlands, the cradles for our biodiversity due to urbanization, land use change and pollution.
Plastics is the biggest menace for world today. Plastics we dispose of, affects the lives of everyone on the earth, the marine animals, pollution of soil, air, water, blockage of channels, rivers, streams, landscape disfigurement, the nature including the future generations. This is because plastic takes too many years to decompose and it release toxic substances like dioxins, furans, mercury and BPAs into the environment.
This year the world will consume 5 trillion plastic bags – that’s 20 lakhs a minute. Its again 75 kg per person annually. If these plastics are put one after another they would go around the earth 7 times every hour and can cover half of India. Covid-19 has also compelled us to use masks which are made up of polypropyline, that take about 450 years to decompose.
Environmental crisis of Manipur will be turmoil. The main source of air pollution in the state has been identified as auto exhaust emissions of the fast growing number of automobiles, dust-fall due to bad road management and other miscellaneous commercial earth moving activities. The source for the pollution of the river stretches in Manipur are sewage and plastics. The district with the worst air pollution in Manipur is Thoubal, where PM 2.5 is forecasted to be 7.6 µg/m3. As per a report from the State transport Department, the number of vehicles registered in the state during 2020-21 were around 36000 vehicles. We know that when one litre of petrol burns, three kilo moles of CO2 are emitted. Such increase in number of transport vehicles have also caused a huge challenge to our climatic condition of this land-log state.
In Manipur there are 155 lakes and 2 ox-bow lakes. But more than 64% of our wetlands have disappeared during the last eight decades. Wetlands constitute about 2.37% of the geographical area of the state. The numbers of wetlands floral species so far identified are 86 species but counted 110 species of amphibians and reptile among 580 species so far found in India. Though we lost 18 species of fishes, we have counted 120 species while the country is having 1700 fish species. Such a faunal richness of our wetland represents 10.80% of whole country though the state constitutes only 0.7% of the country’s geographical area.
Manipur with 77.12 % forests has lost 449 sq. km and 249 sq. km of forests during 2017-2019 and 2019-2021 respectively due to large scale poppy plantation, jhoom cultivation and the indiscriminate felling along with 4000 sq. km lost of bamboo brakes.
The present status of wildlife in Manipur is also very pitiful. In hill districts, today also there is the tradition of hunting. Meats for many scheduled animals are sold without restrictions. Authorities are still issuing gun licenses which are mainly meant for hunting. Thus, the wild animals that were once found abundantly have now become almost extinct and the few remaining also have started to enter the human habitations.
Nature is sending mankind a message, specifically that mankind is on the verge of a breakdown. It is time to wake up. It is time to take notice. It is time to reformulate man’s relationship with Nature. It is time to restore equilibrium between man and mother nature.
Therefore with the celebration of World Environment Day, 2022, we urge every individual to come forward and act together to find for a long term solution for a green and beautiful planet right now because tomorrow may be too late. Personal participation and planting trees in all available barrens will the best option for taking part the World Environment Day this year for the sack of the mother earth and our future generation.