World Habitat Day, a celebration for Home
By N. Munal Meitei
The United Nations designated the first Monday of October i.e. the 7th October this year as the World Habitat Day. This day reflect to recognize the basic right of all humanity to adequate shelter and to encourage grass roots action toward ending affordable housing for all in our towns and cities and thus it is the celebration for home. However, with the celebration of this day, we can’t ignore the rights to conserve the habitats for the wildlife too. The day is also intended to remind the world that we all have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns. This day was planned to make available the sufficient shelter, water, sanitation, health, other basic services, good education within easy reach, job prospects and etc.
The World Habitat Day also remind us the increasing number of urban dwellers, especially the poor and vulnerable groups, the women, migrants, persons with disabilities and HIV, elder, youth etc. who are living in precarious conditions, addressing their housing needs informally, lacking access to basic services and living space, isolated from livelihood opportunities and vulnerable to force evictions or homelessness. There is a global housing crisis, approximately 1.8 billion people worldwide are living in the substandard housing and almost 130 million people are homeless.
But today our main discussion will be on wildlife habitats.
In ecology, a habitat is described as a type of natural environment in which a particular species of organism lives. It is characterized by both physical and biological features. A species’ habitat refers to those places where it can find food, shelter, protection and mates for reproduction.
In Manipur, out of the geographical area 22,327 sq.km, our forest area is claimed to be 67.7% but only 22.11% represent the dense forest and the rest are not in the meaning of a good forest. The most important reasons for dwindling of our forest are the Jhum cultivation, logging of timbers, felling trees for fire-wood, uncontrolled burning or forest-fire, coming up of new villages and other development activities. Jhum cultivation both for staple & cash-crops and present scenario for poppy plantation in almost all the hill villages is the biggest challenge. More than 96 thousand families in the state are reported to practice Jhum cultivation with an average area of about 4 ha by each family. Thus a huge area of our forests is cleared every year challenging both to our environment and the habitats for the animals.
Rather than focusing on the economic or material benefits from nature, the world now began to appreciate the value of nature and the need to protect the most fragile and beautiful environments for posterity. Today, with the help of NGO’s and governments worldwide, a strong movement is mobilizing to protect habitats and preserving biodiversity on a global scale. The natural environment is a source for a wide range of resources that can be exploited for economic profit, for example timber is harvested from forests and clean water is obtained from natural streams. Still, land development from anthropogenic economic growth often causes a decline in the ecological integrity of nearby natural habitat.
However, there is the highest economic value in conserving the natural habitats. It is worldwide accepted that financial profit can be made from tourist revenue but the cost of repairing the damaged ecosystem is considered to be much higher than the cost of conserving natural ecosystems.
Habitat conservation is important in maintaining biodiversity, an essential part of our global food security. Wild species of agricultural plants have been found to be more resistant to diseases than the home grown species. Thus a combination of seed banking and habitat conservation has been proposed to maintain plant diversity for the food security purposes.
Habitat loss and destruction are occurred mainly through the anthropogenic causes. In aboriginal hunting practices, many herbivorous mega-fauna species were left with no habitat and were driven into extinction. Once herbivorous mega-fauna species became extinct, the carnivorous mega-fauna species also soon followed. Hence, please remember, all of them, including us are a part of the ecological cycle and balance.
Deforestation, pollution, climate change and human settlements have all been driving forces in altering or destroying habitats. The biodiversity hotspots are the home for millions of species. Once their habitat is destroyed, they cease to exist. This destruction has a follow-on effect; the species which coexist or depend upon the existence of other species also become extinct, eventually resulting in the collapse of an entire ecosystem. As a result the extinction rate has climbed to the point where the Earth is now within a sixth mass extinction event, as agreed by the biologists.
Changes in land use caused by logging, mining, railways, highways, dams, electric towers, bridges, oil and gas exploration, agro-industry, cash crop farming, subsistence agriculture and other development activities are competing with natural habitat for the wildlife. There are national and international laws to protect the species, but there is hardly any Law to protect the habitats on which they depend and thus the sizes of many important habitats are diminishing day by day leading to the extinction of many animal species from the surface of the Earth.
Therefore with the celebration of World Habitat day, 2019, let’s save the habitats both for the human community and for our wildlife so that we can hand over a green and beautiful environment to our future generation.
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