India — Imphal: Taking advice of experts, setting forest fires has been banned in Khulsaibung village of Chandel district and any one who defies the ban is fined Rs 2500 but many villagers who depend on jhum cultivation are left without any option.
Although experts and environmental activists have been campaigning against jhum cultivation which entails burning forest areas in view of its harmful impact on environment and ecology, no one has ever talked about alternative methods of cultivation or other sources of livelihood which can replace jhum cultivation.
For mankind, searching livelihood always precedes any efforts to save forests.
That is why, many hill ranges are now bereft of trees.
It is not only the jhum cultivators, many influential timber traders are also responsible for the large scale deforestation.
Nonetheless, taking serious note of the drastic climate change witnessed at the local level because of continuous slash and burn practice followed by villagers for jhum cultivation which was compounded by the drying of Chimcher gorge which served as the main source of water for the village, the villagers took a collective decision to ban burning forests in their areas.
Moreover, the villagers are also actively engaged in reforestation activities in collaboration with the Loktak Development Authority.
According to Khulsaibung village chief D Korungthang, water was available in abundance at the village earlier.
Water was drawn from Chimcher gorge but the gorge dried up sometime back.
Since then, the villagers have been fetching water from Kumshel gorge about 13 Kms away from the village.
If any villager sets forest fire in the area of Khulsaibung, he/she is fined Rs 2500.The amount of fine is again increased if the forest fire destroys other properties.
Since the ban was announced, the villagers have stopped burning forests in the last three/four years.
Korungthang said that there was restriction on burning forests since the past according to Maring customary laws.
Nevertheless, villagers burnt forests in their struggle for survival by means of jhum cultivation.
On being asked where the slash and burn practice is done, the village chief said that the same practice is being executed in selected areas with the villagers keeping a strict vigil not to let the fire spread to surrounding areas.
Khulsaibung is a Maring village located about 7 Kms from Heirok.
The population of Khulsaibung is around 2000 .
Since the practice of slash and burn was banned, people who used to collect and sell vegetables like Mansang plants and Heikal leaves which sprout up after burning forest land have been left without any option.
Khulsaibung village is known for abundant production of haribok fruits, ginger, banana and sha maroi.
The road which connect Heirok with Khulsaibung was made in 1990.Though the road can reach Moreh, its condition is highly pathetic.
During dry season, it is irritatingly dusty yet motorable.
But during rainy season, it is tortuous and often impassable.
There is one PHSC and one Primary School at the village.
But only one nurse come to the PHC at the time of administering polio vaccine, said the village chief.