Natural Resources Based Development Strategies-Part III


By RK Ranjan Singh

Sustainable Development Planning:

It is well known that any kind of development planning or establishment of industries, which is based on local resources of Manipur cannot compete with the techniques and production patterns of MNCs. Subsequently the products of Manipur may not be able to get proper markets. Development activities today are influenced by liberalization, privatization and globalization and information technology. Therefore, considering the current trend, the only viable development approach in Manipur may be of an endemic nature and of an ethnic character. Prevailing geographic locations and the corresponding natural resources and cultural reflections of the people of Manipur may favour plant-based drug and pharmaceutical industry and tissue culture products. In this, the community may apply its indigenous knowledge system with the intervention of modern science and technological approaches. In order to achieve the main goal of sustainable development, the state needs to establish biotechnological institutes so that the people may be empowered for exploring the bio-resources.

Secondly, considering varied topographical features and the corresponding micro-climatic conditions in the state, varieties of scenic resorts are naturally located in almost all places of the state of Manipur. these scenic resorts are the gifts of nature to its people. Hence the people of Manipur should have the capacity to explore the resources of resort heritages for the benefit of the people. In this context, we may consider tourism a one of the most appropriate industries through which multiple facets of Manipur’s economy can boom in a sustainable fashion. It may also be considered as the only industry in which machines and computers cannot replace the activities of human beings. It is the only industry in which all works for livelihood of individuals, different cultures and endemic heritages are all harmoniously held together for upholding the social and cultural values along with the development. Considering the inner value and spirit of humanity, tourism industry is the only means for sustainable development based on its natural resources. The different multiethnic communities in the hills of Manipur and their traditional ways of life, art and crafts, weaving and their monolith culture are of high value in the present trend of resource mobilization. Over and above, there are varieties of natural locations where the nature itself beckons people for eco-tourism. Some of them may be mentioned here like Dzuku vally, Khayang, Sirui peak, Mount Esso, Kharasom Booning, Kailam, Barak Waterfalls, Zeilak Lake, Lokchao, Tharon Cave, Khamkhui Cave, Rani Cave, Loktak Lake and other wetlands.  All the river systems have high potential for adventure and water sports activities. However, to activate this development process, the planner needs to undertake a detailed exercise for mapping the compact resource potential and for linking it up with an infrastructural base. Once tourism could cope as an industry, sustainable development could be achieved. Effective and meaningful participation from all sections of the people of
Manipur should be gathered by giving appropriate education and training within a stipulated time.

Thirdly, the choice of sustainable planning needs to focus on resources that are generally endemic in character, i.e. not common to other states and countries of the world. As for example, development strategies should be based on natural heritages like the Loktak wetland/lake, bio-resources of the state and cultural heritages of the people of the state, etc. for instance, Loktak Lake (a Ramsar Site) may be selected as a natural heritage resource for sustainable development, basing on her water resources, biomass locally known as phumdee, its habitats, fishes, art and craft and its literature. These natural heritages may be grouped into three distinct subgroups, viz., (i) water (ii) flora and fauna, and (iii) indigenous knowledge systems and its aesthetic value. Based on water resources, the Loktak Hydro Electric Project was commissioned as early as in 1980. However, on account of this, the lake ecology and habitat system were extremely degraded. Power generation, of course, is owned by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and not by the state. Hence, this kind of development project is not directly beneficial to its people; rather, the people were losing their natural heritage of Loktak. Instead, the water area of the Loktak is feasible for water sporting, waterways in between the peripheral villages, harvesting of aquatic vegetable and fisheries. There are a number of floating fishing huts locally called “phumsang” used for traditional fishing practices. These floating huts may be transformed into fishing huts cum floating house for tourists with the extension of minimum facilities this may correlate with the introduction of canoeing/boating/rowing with the phumsangs for visitors. Currently, due to high eutrophication of lake water, a vast and huge biomass was thickly growing in the lake. This makes a serious problem of pollution, deteriorating water quality and reducing the surface water area of the Lake. However, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) is experimenting with this biomass by making bio-fertilizers. If this kind of process is scientifically examined, it will be of high value to the farmers of the state. Subsequently, the state departments may have a coordinated composite planning for this purpose, utilizing Loktak as a natural heritage for sustainable development in the region. This specific area based planning may choose eco-tourism industry as one of the most appropriate ones. However, there is need to establish well-defined and enforceable rights (customary rights) and security of tenure, and ensuring of equal access to land, water and other natural and biological resources. Water governance arrangements should protect ecosystems and preserve or restore the ecological integrity of all natural water bodies and their catchment area. Therefore, planning process should always necessarily recognize the role of traditional ecological knowledge for a sustainable development of the area since a majority of population in the state is mainly dependent upon their natural resources linked land use activities for their livelihood concerns.

The long term impact of industrialization, urbanization, exploitation and environmental degradation cannot be wished away. The problems are complex and choices of alternatives are difficult poverty and degraded environment are closely inter-related, especially in a state like Manipur where people depend for their livelihoods primarily on the natural resource base of their immediate environment. Restoring natural resource systems and improving natural resource management practices is important for the empowerment and participation of the grass roots peoples in the development strategies of the state. An environmental prospective must guide the evaluation of all development projects, recognizing the role of natural resources in the local and state level livelihoods. This recognition must be informed by comprehensive understanding of perceptions and opinions of indigenous people about their takes in the natural resource based sustainable development planning.

Biomass is, and will continue as a main source of fuel and energy for the common people of the state. Realizing the fact, appropriate technology must be evolved for the economy of biomass consumption, efficiency of energy use, progressively less pressure on forest and green belt and less pollution.

The age-old traditional approaches to natural resource management such as sacred groves and ponds, hills, water harvesting and traditional land use practice etc., should be revived by reacting institutional mechanisms which recapture the ecological wisdom and spirit of community management inherent in those systems. Hence, our common future for sustainable development can only be achieved with a better understanding of our common concerns and shared responsibilities.

Further, it is also revealed that the developmental projects are prepared and imposed from outside or above and not from below who need them for their improvement. The people, particularly the underprivileged, are regarded just as objects and not as subjects of development. Projects are not undertaken for the benefit of people but people are use for projects for the benefit of the affordable groups. All these factors are accentuating the existing disparities between the hills and valley sections of people as between the urban and rural sections.

Therefore, sustainable development calls for multi-faceted and comprehensive intervention to address a wide variety of problems of the people and the state. The community, for whom the development programmes are meant, must take part in their planning and execution.


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