So, the year finally came to an end with a winter that arrived rather late and dragging along with it, a familiar old fear of Covid 19 wrapped in a brand-new package like a Christmas gift from China. This unwanted gift almost dampened the festive mood and ruined everyone’s new-year resolutions. The looming threat of another wave gives the impression that we might go through 2020 all over again.
Thankfully, the state continued to report zero active cases till Friday. Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued health advisories and measures for prevention in the country as the deadly new variants continue to spread in countries like China, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea. Manipur Chief Minister N Biren and Health Minister Sapam Ranjan also called on the people of the state to vaccinate and start following Covid Appropriate Behaviour strictly as a precautionary measure.
But it appears that the general response to the situation so far is not even lukewarm but rather cold. After the second wave subsided, the reaction to any new Covid scare has been quite the opposite compared to that eventful day in March 2020 when the first case of Covid 19 was reported in the state. One might recall the state-wide panic and those makeshift bamboo/wooden fences that suddenly appeared at the entrance of every leikai.
As we had limped our way out of the pandemic fatigue and finally returned to normalcy, people have grown more immune to the fear of deadly new variants than the artificial or natural immunity gained towards the disease itself. Considering the losses and deaths the people of the state endured when it was hit hard by the pandemic, it can be said that the widespread celebrations during the festive season this year proved our perseverance and resilience as a race in the face of tragedies. Hard times have indeed created stronger bonds and closeness among the different communities settled in the state as witnessed during the pandemic. But have we grown wiser and become kinder towards nature with a stronger sense of awareness of climate change and prepared for the many threats that lie ahead?
While in the rush to become a part of the ‘modernized world’ with enhanced connectivity and the dreams of becoming a major business hub that will contribute to the nation’s economy, we must not forget our responsibilities to protect our biodiversity and the ecology. According to the World Bank, 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity is protected by the indigenous people although they make up only 5 percent of the world’s population.
During the United Nations Biodiversity Conference COP15, which was the biggest biodiversity conference held in a decade in Canada this month, the UN secretary-general António Guterres declared that humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction. “We are out of harmony with nature. In fact, we are playing an entirely different song. Around the world, for hundreds of years, we have conducted a cacophony of chaos, played with instruments of destruction. Deforestation and desertification are creating wastelands of once-thriving ecosystems,” he said.
We can still try to prevent such widespread devastations from happening at least in our state which is a part of the biodiversity hotspot in the Indo-Myanmar region. Compared to the metropolitan cities filled with jungles of concrete where hours of traffic jams occur on highways congested with vehicles that emit carbon nonstop into the air, we are still closer to mother nature although some damage has been already done here in the state as well.
There is a desperate need to salvage whatever is left now, and the responsibilities indeed fall on our shoulders although this may sound a bit unfair. But this can be a privilege and an advantage we have over others. As the new year arrives, we have to look into the brighter side of things, appreciate one another and cherish what we have. Let us step into the year 2023 with a more mature and wiser attitude.
(The views expressed are personal)