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Manipur Forest Loss Sparks Environmental Probe: National Green Tribunal Steps In

11 May 2024

Manipur's forest cover loss has become a flashpoint, with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) taking notice!

Here's a breakdown of this complex environmental issue intertwined with ethnic tensions:

Forest Cover Concerns:

  • Alarming Decline: A social media post by Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh highlighted a significant decrease in forest cover, from 17,475 sqkm in 1987 to 16,598 sqkm in 2021.

  • NGT Takes Action: The NGT, India's top green court, issued notices to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) and Forest Survey of India (FSI) to investigate.

Deforestation and Beyond:

  • Blaming the Poppy:  The Chief Minister attributed the loss to deforestation and illegal opium poppy cultivation.

  • NGT Seeks Answers: The NGT is probing if environmental norms were followed amidst these concerns.

Manipur's Ethnic Tensions:

  • Kuki-Zo Tribes Push Back: The Kuki-Zo communities in Manipur have long contested the government's claims of forest encroachment on their lands.

  • "Ethnic Cleansing" Fears:  They allege the government's actions target them for expansion of the Meitei community and suspect a fabricated narrative.

A tangled Web of Issues:

  • Scheduled Tribe Status and Resource Scarcity: The Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribe status adds fuel to the fire, as resources are already strained.

  • Media Scrutiny:  The Editors' Guild of India report raised concerns about the government's procedures for declaring protected forest areas and alleged bias against Kukis.

Seeking Solutions:

  • NGT Hearing Set: The NGT has scheduled a hearing for July 31st to delve deeper into the environmental aspects of the case.

  • Manipur Government's Defense: The government denies accusations and claims they faced resistance from Kuki-Zo groups during eviction attempts.

Manipur's forest loss case highlights the complex interplay between environmental protection, ethnic tensions, and resource scarcity. The NGT's intervention offers hope for an unbiased investigation and a path towards sustainable forest management and peaceful coexistence in the region.

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