PHAYENG (IMPHAL WEST)
Phayeng village comes under Imphal West district of Manipur and the village is divided into eight Singlup namely Nongpok singlup, Makha singlup, Awang singlup, Ching Khunau singlup, Kharang Koireng singlup, Kharang Khunau singlup, Shabal singlup and Umang singlup. As per 2011 census, the village has 660 households with a population of around 2728 individuals. The sex ratio is high with 1045 females for 1000 males and the literacy rate of the village stands at 75.17%. Majority of them belong to scheduled caste category with a few tribal populations. Agriculture is the main occupation of the villagers and many of them also engaged themselves as agricultural labourer. Most of the villagers have large area of homestead land as well as agricultural land surrounded by varieties of trees and bamboos.
The importance of this village comes in the limelight due to the undying effort of the Phayeng people to conserve a vast tract of forest adjacent to the village from any sort of anthropogenic disturbances. For the purpose, a forest committee was formed and every year 60 members were selected by the villagers to preserve and conserve the forest. Due to the presence of this dense forest adjacent to the village, the people of the village still gets to breathe fresh air and it gives cool wind to beat the heat on a sunny day.
Pic: The dense community forest
The villagers who were interviewed felt that the temperature have indeed increased and more drastically in the last 4-5 years. In olden days, during the winter season, it was difficult to walk barefoot on the ground due to the presence of fog and frost but that is not the case now and has become a rare phenomenon. Many believed that the reason for the increase in temperature is due to deforestation, although some feels that climate change is due to the increase in population and pollution.
In the earlier days before forest conservation was started, thoughtless felling of trees has made way for the loss of many indigenous fruit trees. Today, only a few of the indigenous trees like Hamengji, Heirangoi, etc., are found growing in the forest. The villagers feel that conservation of the forest is very important, not only to preserve the various tree species but also to conserve water. In the absence of the forest, the water that is present in the river today will also be gone, as the trees helps in percolation of the rain water thereby ultimately filling the river.
Pic: Maklang River runs by the forest
Once, the river was also always filled with water, even during the winter months and the gushing sound of the water can be heard all along the river. But at present, the Maklang River often runs dry after the rainy season and seasonal flood has become a rare occurrence which might be due to the climatic changes.
Earlier the number of rainy days was more and rainfall occurred with high intensity but it has drastically fallen during the last decade, both in intensity as well as in the number of rainy days. As of today, the erratic nature of rainfall have become a hard task for the cultivators but the productivity in agriculture as such has not decreased mainly due to the introduction of many high yielding varieties of the crops. Local varieties like “Moirang phou” have been replaced by new varieties as the local varieties tend to fall down at the impact of wind since they have more height.
Pic: Fishing farm
Almost every household rear pigs and very few are also engaged in poultry. Wine brewing is another common source of income in almost every household. Even though many of the families have large area of land, the people of the village are still socio-economically not sound. Most of the household still use firewood for cooking purposes and only few houses were found to use LPG.
For the purpose of drinking water supply, every leikai and leirak has a community water tank which is filled by pipeline from the Leimakhong and Singda water supply unit along with the water draining from the forest catchment area (Lok). The village also has a large community pond and a number of wells which cater to the daily water requirements of the population.
Pic: The community pond
Overall, Phayeng can be developed as a model village for its collective effort of the people for forest conservation leading to overall sustainable development of the natural resources. Drought conditions have not been experienced here and the villagers proudly claim that if Phayeng area experiences drought conditions then other parts of Manipur will be completely barren. The community participation in preserving the nature can serve as a perfect example for the other villages which could be developed into self-sustaining nature friendly villages.
There should be a convergence of various schemes and an integrated approach with biodiversity concerns in the village level planning. The livelihoods can also be promoted with improved animal husbandry, poultry rearing, bamboo basket making, organic farming, agro forestry, fish farming, etc. Therefore, in the long run, it is necessary to create capacity building and awareness about the importance of conserving the natural resources.