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| Last Updated::14/10/2014

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Climate Change and Ecosystem in Manipur

 T. Brajakumar, Ph.D. (email: brajakumar_t@yahoo.com)

Eco-systems have an inherent capacity to adapt and adjust to the climatic variabilities as well as to incremental changes in the landscape to a certain extent. When this capacity is exceeded, the eco-system parameters get altered in multifarious ways and become socially and environmentally unsustainable. Ecosystems are well recognized life support systems which are critical factors for human wellbeing. Hence, the importance of the conservation of ecosystem which is veritably subjected to anthropogenic climate change is explicitly highlighted in the Article 2 of the UNFCCC, 1992.  The impacts on the ecosystems could lead to loss and migration of rare and endangered species and fragmentation of habitats.  Though many of these are medium term impacts but they pose serious consequences especially in species extinction whether globally or locally.
 
 
Forest of Manipur(Ukhrul District)
 
Manipur comes under two of the global bio-diversity "hotspots" viz. Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot and Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot characterized by eco-systems which are rich in bio-diversity and possess rare and/or endangered species. The projected climatic variabilities could have adverse impacts on ecologically distinct and rich biodiversity of the region. Therefore, it is crucial, to be cautious about the causal links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the maintenance of ecosystem services. Thus adaptation responses have to be crafted in such a manner that the endangered species are preserved and adverse impacts are minimized as species extinctions whether global or local due to climate change (natural or anthropogenic) bring about irreversible change. Moreover since both the Brahmaputra and Chindwin river systems drain Manipur, the aquatic fauna of the state embodies both Assamese and Burmese elements. Many fish species which were hitherto not recorded elsewhere in India are found only in Manipur. The Manipur River Basin is reported to be under the greatest threat - specifically for the freshwater fish. Out of the fifteen endangered fish species of Eastern Himalayas, eight fish species are reported from Manipur.
 
The conservation of ecosystem is vital to the ecological security of the state landscape in terms of restoring forest cover, maintaining the sources of perennial water required for drinking and irrigation purposes and sustaining agriculture which in turn is linked to the livelihood of the people.   The sustainable management of ecosystem, biodiversity and livelihood requirements must go hand in hand with climate friendly practices and adaptations to the dynamic situation that may arise during execution of the programme.
The climate change has impacted the resilience of the eco-systems and can bring about irreversible changes to many of the parameters which are potentially harmful to the livelihoods of the people. It is essential to understand the economic profile of the state, in order to assess the impact of the climate change on ecosystem and therefore on the livelihood issues.  There has been a transformation in the composition of the State Domestic Product. During the last decades, there is a decrease in contribution of primary and tertiary sectors to the state GDP which is taken over by the secondary sector viz. Agriculture, Fishery and allied sectors. Manipur's population stands at 2,721,756 (2011 provisional Census) which continues to be predominantly rural, with rural population being 73.82 % of the total. Considering the large percentage people living  in rural areas, livelihood of people in Manipur is heavily dependent on Agriculture, Fishery and Natural Resources including Forest and Wetland Ecosystems of the state.
 
Moreover an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and consequent global warming may also have a profound effect on the flowering and reproduction time of plants.  The impacts of climate change is likely to affect the natural ecosystem of the state in different ways, viz., reduced yield from agriculture and its allied sectors,  lower production of  natural resources, forest regeneration etc. which in-turn will have a negative impact on the livelihood of the people. However, due to increase in night temperature and high rainfall variability, there is a probability for reduction of yield of certain crops like rice, potato, etc. Side by side, Horticulture sector may also be affected by the extreme weather events including frost and heat stress.  The Livestock and Animal Husbandry sector will suffer from heat distress and drought like situation. Fishery & aquaculture will be impacted by changes of water level and flooding events. All the above, singularly as well as combinedly will lead to over exploitation of surrounding natural ecosystem of forests and the wetlands which are getting degraded due to anthropogenic pressures. The climate change impact in totality will put on risk the livelihood balance of the entire rural economy.   
 
INCCA (Climate Change and India A 4×4 assessment)  report has already predicted that under the climate projection for the year 2085, 77% and 68% of the forested grids and its ecosystem in India are likely to experience shift in forest types under A2 and B2 scenario, respectively. Although, there is no immediate threat to forests of Manipur from climate change point of view, one has to continuously monitor the species diversity by maintaining of its ecosystem in the state and not to allow extinction of keystone & flagship species. This task is more challenging than that of routine afforestation and reforestation.
 
In view of the climate change adaptation programme in the state, some of the major strategies and action plan on ecosystem restoration, biodiversity conservation and livelihood sustainability as Mission Mode have been highlighted in the Manipur State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC) as, 
 
-Appropriate land-use planning, sustaining traditional knowledge / practices, sustainable management of natural resources and skill development;
-Promote sustainable livelihood through promotion of eco-tourism and non-timber forest products [NTFPs];
-Promotion of traditional knowledge;
-Development of market strategies to improve the livelihood and increase climate change adaptive capacity;
-Restoration of Ecosystem Structure and Functions.