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Manipur And Its Mountains: Issues Of Development

This year is the International Year of Mountains. This observance has got two basic objectives. First it aims to raise the place value of mountains by evolving a sustainable development of these regions. Secondly, it endeavors to ensure a higher welfare of both mountain and lowland communities. Accordingly, the international organizations (particularly the United Nations and the World Bank) and the mountainous countries of the world have already focused their attention on the development related issues of the mountains.

Given the topographical structure of Manipur, one would have expected that the administration would by this time presented to the people of the State at least a line of concern if not a program of action. But, as we all know, the administration of the State is under the spell of a spirit of thoughtlessness. This does not, however, forbid the people of the State to exercise their mind over the issue of transformation of the mountains, welfare of the mountain people and its correlates with the welfare of the lowlands.

The correlates:

That, geographically speaking, Manipur is basically a mountainous region is known to all. However, two points are yet to be fully appreciated in so far as the development correlates of the State are concerned.

First, we cannot imagine a sustainable development of the State without incorporating the mountains into the development fold. Moreover, the development of the mountains and raising the welfare of the mountain people call for a development strategy quite different from the ones followed so far. Given the above two premises, we can now appreciate how the mountains are unique from the perspective of development intervention.

To begin with, whereas the overall road condition in the State is now at the worst state, yet it is definitely better in places in and around the State capital. The roads in the hill areas ‘˜are in extremely dilapidated condition to serve any meaningful purpose of road’. Besides, there are many places which do not appear at all in any road map.

Secondly, the relationship between the environment and the livelihood of the mountain population is uniquely strong in the hill areas of Manipur today. Even if the mountain people desire to earn something through the modern market process, they can do so by basically selling the products of nature. They still depend heavily on the natural environment even for their daily food requirements.

Thirdly, the modern marketisation process has yet to make much headway in the mountain regions of the State. Further, whereas the present natural environmental condition, on which the mountain people depend both for earning and food, took years to build up, it would take years again to restore it if once damaged. In other words, under the present circumstances, the natural environmental condition of the mountains cannot serve as a continuous source of earning and food.

We have said earlier that the natural environmental products serve as the means of earning for the mention people. In other words, they earn by selling these products to the outside world. But once the stocks of these products get depleted or exhausted, the outside world loses interest in these areas and the poor mountain people are left to fend for themselves in an environment of reduced resources. The consequence is bad both for the environment of the mountains and the poor people therein. In other words, it becomes a factor for perpetual poverty of the mountain people. When it comes to the valley, the sustainable development of agriculture here is dependent upon the sustainable use of the environment in the mountains.

The Need:

Given the above factors, we now need to focus our attention on evolving a proper development strategy for the mountains. The strategy should be able to raise both the welfare of the mountain people and sustain the environment in the mountains. It is in this connection that we now fundamentally require to properly ascertain the livelihood pattern of the mountain people and the values of the mountain environment. There are issues of financing development which need to be properly addressed in this connection as well. Let us start our future development strategy in this Year of the Mountains with the realization that the future growth of Manipur lies in the mountains.

*The article is written by Amar Yumnam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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