Tokpa Kabui village located in Churachandpur district, Manipur, which had little green cover decades ago, today stands as a shining example with projects focusing on stream rejuvenation, afforestation and creation of self-sustaining local economy.
For over 20 years, villagers of Tokpa Kabui, along with Loktak Development Authority (LDA) have been striving to revive around 500 sq km of unique biodiverse area of the village, which lies about 27 km away from the district headquarter.
“The village had little green covers. In an effort to revive the dead forest of the village, a local club called ‘Nature club’ with around 70 members started a project in 2000," LDA official (environment) Asem Bidyabushan recalled during a field visit to the village organised by media cell of Directorate of Environment and Climate Change.
The project in the village included a water harvesting pond locally called ‘Langmai Jai’, which was originally an indent area engrossed with thick vegetation through which one of the many streams flowed through.
The locals along with LDA turned the area into a water reservoir by constructing a small boulder dam around 70 feet in length and 10 feet to stock the water and create a small water body.
The joint venture was started in 1999, with afforestation of the village, Bidyabushan said.
Bidyabushan also pointed out that even with abundant springs and streams, apprehension of water scarcity in the village had started back then as deforestation and lack of forest areas was dominant.
Maintaining that works to construct water harvesting pond ‘Langmai Jai’ was started parallel to the afforestation, Bidyabushan said altogether around 10 such ponds have been constructed in the village.
The scientific officer highlighted the purpose of making such water harvesting structure - to keep the streams alive throughout the year.
“With the structures the goal is to retain water and moisture in streams, it will be counted as successful if we can retain stream moisture till May,” he said.
Bidyabushan further stated reduction of silt deposition in Loktak catchment is the ultimate long-term objective of the local project. He pointed out the streams from Tokpa deposit in Ningthoukhong and Pothangsangbam river and eventually in Loktak lake.
“Silting is the burning problem in Loktak as such the plan is to reduce silt downstream from Tokpa village,” he said.
On the afforestation front, the LDA scientific official asserted that large scale tree plantation in the village was needed to keep the streams and springs well-endowed.
“Lush green forest will ensure the survival of the streams,” he said.
Bidyabushan highlighted that nearly all areas in the village had undergone afforestation and pointed out that diverse plant species had been used to exhort growth of biodiversity and creation of a unique ecosystem similar to a natural forest.
“Most of the times people practice monoculture which creates empty forest with no biodiversity, polyculture should be the practice in forest rejuvenation,” he said.
Noting that trees take nearly 30 years to properly grow and crown Bidyabushan stressed the need for tree conservation instead of new sapling plantations.
“New plantation cannot mimic the role a fully grown tree as they cannot absorb carbon, emit oxygen and aid in soil moisture maintenance,” he pointed out.
Bidyabushan further highlighted the LDA’s three primary steps to achieve all the above mentioned goals which are - afforestation, aided regeneration of forest and cultural operation.
“With afforestation completed, the focus now is aided regeneration which prioritises reviving dead forests around the village and cultural operation which encompasses prevention of wildfire and promotion of balanced plant growth,” he said.
Bidyabushan maintained that the two latter steps had reduced human intervention to round 30 per cent in natural forest rejuvenation.
The scientific officer also mentioned that certain patches of land had been left out not to interfere with life chain in the forest. The villagers built a bucking dear corridor to allow movement of the dear and other wildlife in the forest, he added.
Meanwhile, village secretary of Tokpa Kabui Village, Athon Pamei asserted that the main objective of all the efforts is the creation of a sustainable local economy in the village. He mentioned that poultry farming and cultivation of various seasonal fruits such as pineapple, banana among others is the main occupation of the villagers.
Hence, he urged authorities concerned to push the villagers into developing ‘Langmai jai’ into a tourist spot. “The creation of such a spot would tremendously benefit the village economy,” he said.
On water issue, the village secretary stated that the water in three major springs in Lamdan and Charoi Khullen had reduced and water scarcity was a big problem for the villagers. He, however, exuded confidence that the joint initiatives will bear fruits in the near future.
Water is the source of all living creatures on earth, no matter who or what, it is a common factual link which binds all living beings. The significance stretches to the extent that the planet sometimes, is fondly referred to as the ‘blue planet’ because of its predominant blue colour of water from outer space.
However, the availability of this vital resource is slowly reducing because of various factors which include pollution, environmental degradation and booming population among others.
At this juncture, Tokpa Kabui village shows the way for all other villages to emulate the efforts towards stream rejuvenation, afforestation and self-sustaining local economy.