Changing course of Jiri River threatens state’s boundary

JIRI,16th Oct: Enriched with natural resources on both flanks, Jiri River in Jiribam district, which also serves as the inter-state boundary between Manipur and Assam, provides livelihood to thousands of residents of the district. However, changing course of the river over the decades has been a major threat to the boundary of Manipur. Among other factors, frequent flooding often cause the river to change its course and chip away the river bank on the Manipur side over the years. Those, who have lived long enough to observe and see the changing course of the river, are saddened over the fact that the state government fails to see the reality and remains satisfied that the river is marking the boundary of the state with Assam.

According to elders, portions of the river, which were once in the middle of the river, are now beyond its bank on the side of Assam state. Often, the elders used to point to an Indian Plum (Boroi) grove on the other side of the river and tell the young ones that the river once flowed there. Besides, Khutchoi Thup, a village located along Jiribam Sorok Atingbi is on the verge of shifting to Assam due to the changing course of the river. Area of Jiri Keithel is also decreasing day by day and the river is changing its course towards National Highway 37 in Gularthol area due to erosion of the banks.

In-spite of such gradual change in the landscape, lack of initiative by government to checkthe erosion will ultimately lead to loss of more areas of the state. On the other hand, like Loktak Lake, the Jiri River is also a source of livelihood for thousands of families, mainly Meeteis and Muslims, whose main source of income is fishing in the river. PHE department is also sourcing water from the river for providing tap water to different parts of the district. Sands from the river is considered one of the best construction sands of the state. Besides, the river is an important mode of transportation for timber and bamboo trades.

Though open defecation along the banks of the river has decreased significantly, dumping garbage is polluting the river and it needs effective intervention from the authority as well as public to keep the river free from pollution. Different species of living creatures thrive in the river and surrounding forests.

These species include fish, snails, mussels, turtles, salamanders, otter, Particoloured Flying Squirrel (Shamarak Ngamarak) and other rare species. Fish from the river are also popular for their tastes. Apart from the traditional way of fishing, people nowadays are using easy ways to catch fish without even thinking the impacts they have on the water, fish and other creatures living in the river as well as human beings who use the river water for consumption.

Today, many people are using pesticides to catch fish. Apart from the fish caught using this method being unhealthy for consumption, it also makes the water toxic for the living beings. It also cause certain disabilities to the surviving fish sometimes making them unable to reproduce thus leading to decreasing fish population. At the same time, using dynamites to catch fish is another major threat to the fish and other water species as it impaired health of the surviving ones leading to population decrease. Besides, using electricity to catch fish is another major concern. In this method, people carry generators in the boat to catch fish and the number of people involved used to be just a handful due to certain inconveniences. But today, with the availability of mobile electric fish catchers with battery fitted on a backpack, the number of such individuals has increased significantly in the past few years since one man can easily operate these portable machines.

Considering the impact of the new and easy fishing methods, the government should take up necessary measures to restrict such methods to restore the natural balance of the river and its resources as well as create awareness among the public to make them understand the impacts. At the same time, the public can always come together to ban such practices before it is too late.

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