ByPhurailatpam Keny Devi
Updated 20 Feb 2021, 12:51 pm
Buning, with rolling meadows, tucked away amid the mountainous forests in Tamenglong district of Manipur in Northeast India is a beautiful place of tourist interest. Located about 36 km away from Tamenglong HQ, every year, it attracts a good number of visitors to the place. The number of visitors has been increasing over the years. However, the place is facing deforestation and the villagers have been struggling to conserve the environment for the love of their land.
Owing to its rich biodiversity and the environmental significance it holds, the Manipur government had notified Bunning which falls under Tamei sub-division of the district as a wildlife sanctuary under Section 18, sub-section (1) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 on September 8, 1997.
However, as the government is yet to declare it a Wildlife Sanctuary even after a lapse of 24 years, the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 rules and guidelines are not being implemented effectively. In the absence of proper implementation of the Act, the sanctuary area is now facing degradation.
According to Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, any wildlife sanctuaries which had served initial notification can also exercise most of the laws given under the said Act. It also states that land settlement process should also be completed within two years of its initial notification.
During a media team survey to the place, chairman of Piulong village (Bunning) shared the degrading condition of the sanctuary area and how the villagers are struggling to save and conserve the natural environment of the place.
Piulong village chairman Peter Newmai said that the sanctuary area has been facing degradation in recent years. In view of it, the village authority of Piulong has taken up initiative to control forest fire, hunting and catching of wild animals and rare species found in this area since 2018.
“There are around 60 houses with a population of around 400. We have been witnessing the declining condition of this forest. Bunning wildlife sanctuary is endowed with many species. But several fauna and flora are hardly seen today. They are becoming endangered,” he lamented.
Stating about the steps taken up by the village to conserve this sanctuary, Newmai said “We have an emotional attachment to the place”.
The village authority took the initiative to conserve the sanctuary way back in 2018, he said.
“Since then, it was decided to mete out punishment to anyone found into hunting, causing deforestation and poaching. We collect heavy fine from them,” he added.
Newmai said that villagers appreciated the serving of the notification declaring it a wildlife sanctuary. As such the village had even discussed relocating it outside the sanctuary but final resolution was yet to be taken.
The main reason for the delay in taking the decision is that villagers are not aware how the government is going arrange for permanent settlement of the village, he added.
While appealing to the state government to develop a model village if the government has any plan to relocate the village, Newmai told the media team, “Without giving proper livelihood and settlement, how are we going to relocate as most of the villagers are poverty-stricken”.
A forest official, on the condition of anonymity, told the Imphal Free Press that within the jurisdiction of the sanctuary, human settlement is allowed with certain condition, while deforestation, hunting and pollution of natural resources are strictly prohibited.
Stating the reason for the delay in the final declaration of the sanctuary, the official said that under Section 18B of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, a collector was appointed by the state government to enquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of rights of any person in or over land comprised within the limit of the sanctuary. The notice can be issued under sub section (1) of Section 18.
Pendency in declaration of final notification has created difficulties to take up steps and process to control the sanctuary. However, some activities have been started for the past two to three years, he said. The activities included cutting of fire-lines, engagement of local volunteers, removal of invasive weeds, conducting of awareness programme and aided natural regeneration to improve habitat of animals among others.
It may be mentioned that the government had notified seven wildlife sanctuaries in Manipur. Of them, only Yangoupokpi Lokchao Wildlife Sanctuary has the status of a full-fledged wildlife sanctuary.
The forest department of Manipur noted that Bunning Wildlife Sanctuary with an area of 115.8 square km has a significance of being a combination of Alpine grassland and forest ecosystem. There are undulating small mounds covered with varied exotic flowers, herbs and shrubs, bamboo orchid and wild lilies. The sanctuary has catchment areas of four rivers.
The department also pointed out the presence of barking deer, sambar, leopard, jackal, pangolin, wild boar, tiger, jungle cat, martens, clouded leopard, golden cat, slow loris etc.
First published:11 Feb 2021, 4:43 pm
Phurailatpam Keny Devi
IFP Reporter, IMPHAL, Manipur