A group of Manipuri youths turned a barren land into a breathing lush green forest
People’s concern for safeguarding nature has been increasing in recent times. Punshilok, 6 km from Manipur’s capital Imphal in the Langol Hill Range is one such area which has been transformed into a lush green forest from a dry, barren hill. And this has happened for the tireless efforts of a group of youngsters, who were determined to restore the ecological balance that originally existed in the region.
Moirangthem Loiya Ngamba was scouting for land to create a green space for the local communities. It was then a farmer from the foothills of Langol Range suggested a visit to a nearby hill, Punshilok. Loiya is also the founder of Wildlife and Habitat Protection Society (WAHPS), an NGO to conserve the rich natural wealth of the region.
Punshilok literally means ‘Spring of Life’ and derives its name from King Luwang Ningthou Punshiba, from whom the Manipuri people trace their descent. But, when Loiya visited Punshilok, it was straggly, rock-strewn patch of land with nothing growing on it except for some wild weeds. The gurgling stream flowing through it had plenty of water, but was used mainly by herds of cattle and sheep, not humans.
The place was barren except for some wild weeds. The stream here had plenty of water, but was not usable by human beings because cows and cattle were drinking from it. But, for me, this was like a baby, I took care till it grew up, I needed to nurture and protect it, explains Loiya.
With the help of a few friends, Moirangthem started by clearing the area of weeds. Next, they cleaned and made it a good source of drinking water for the people of the valley. This was followed by a major afforestation drive, with young boys and girls working relentlessly towards greening Punshilok. Loiya made Punshilok his home for six years and lived there alone in a seven-feet-by-five-feet hut that he built for himself. Under his supervision, lush green vegetation spread over the land, breathing life into it.
When wild animals started returning to the forest, he hired caretakers to prevent hunting, poaching and deforestation. Punshilok is now home to over 200 plant species, 20 species of bamboo, some varieties of orchids, herbs and medicinal plants.