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| Last Updated:22/09/2017

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Shirui Festival: Where is it heading

 By: Khoyumthem Brajesh Kumar

Source: Imphal Free Press

Among the slew of new initiatives being undertaken by the new Government, the decision to upgrade the hitherto local Shirui festival into a state level event is worth a closer look and scrutiny. Not that the decision to celebrate the state level festival is under question but a little more thought on why the festival should be celebrated is called for. What are the aims and objectives of organizing such a festival? Thereafter how best the festival should be celebrated will naturally follow. Is the decision to grandly celebrate the festival a political decision or is it for the development of Tourism or is it for the conservation of the famed Shirui Lily, which is the state flower of Manipur. Ideally a healthy mix of all three would be best but neglecting the conservation angle, not just of the Shirui Lily but of the ecology and biodiversity of the Shirui range would be disastrous.

Judging from the timing of the festival it is apparent that the organizers intend to showcase the Shirui Lily during its blooming period. A well intentioned plan indeed but the hard realities on the ground demand a closer look. If all goes as planned the event is likely to attract thousands of tourists. A good percentage will be from Imphal. Recalling the scenario experienced at the recent Tourism festival at Santhei Natural Park, Andro and the Kwatha festival where the crowd turnout was way beyond the holding capacity of the respective villages. From the commercial angle these events may have been remarkable successes but for an ecologically fragile place like Shirui it can spell disaster. It is a well known and documented fact that the Shirui Lily is moving on a fast track to towards extinction. The reasons for its decline may be many and most probably global climate change is a major culprit but other local factors adversely affecting the ecology of the Shirui range such as pressure from the local populace on the resources available on the Shirui range cannot be ruled out. Year by year jhum fields are replacing once pristine forests. The Lilies which during the days of Frank Kingdon Ward grew luxuriantly now grow barely to a height of about one and a half feet. That too scattered here and there.  May is also a season when most orchids bloom, moreover a number of plants also bloom concurrently making the slopes of the Shirui extraordinarily beautiful. When thousands of non locals most of whom are ignorant or insensitive to conservation makes footfall on the slopes of the beautiful but ecologically fragile Shirui range we cannot expect anything positive for the Shirui Lily or the ecological well being of the place. As of the last flowering season, the barbed wire fencing supposedly erected to fend off visitors trampling on the Lilies no longer stands. Are we nailing the last nail on the coffin of the Shirui lily? read more>>