Imphal: What was once a barren land is now turning into a lush green forest, thanks to Moirangthem Loiya from Manipur’s Uripok Khaidem Leikai in Imphal West district.
Loiya, along with a few volunteers from the Wildlife and Habitation Protection Society (WAHPS), has been working relelentlessly for the past 17 years to conserve a once-known deforested area and replenish the area by planting thousands of trees. The result is a green paradise called Punshilok forest in Maru Langol hill range.
Interestingly, for the past six years, the 45-year-old Loiya has been living amidst the greenery of the forest toiling alone and turning every single unattended space into a home for various kinds of plants, herbs and wildlife.
“I didn’t choose Punshilok in the first place. It happened to me when I was looking for a location to plant a few trees and I stumbled upon the hill range. And now, here am I protecting nature, making sure that they lead a full-fledged life,” said the environmentalist.
Today, Punshilok forest is a living testament of Loiya who put in his hard work and passion for protecting the dying forest and giving it a new lease of life. The Maru Langol hill range is now home to over 200 different types of plants and 20 varieties of bamboo, besides giving shelter to a variety of birds, snakes and animals.
However, it is an achievement accumulated over a few years. For Loiya, it was a challenging phase of life where he received rebuttals from various corners questioning his work and morally de-motivating him.
But, what kept him going strong was his deep concern for nature and unconditional support from his family members, friends and forest officials. Loiya’s devotion and love for nature speak volumes and teach us how a person’s deepest sense of humanity can overcome selfish thoughts and minds.
“Initially, there was a frequent forest fire and whatever we plant gets burnt down. So, that was quite disappointing. To tackle the fire, we made a fire-line. And another difficulty we faced was that people come here (Punshilok) often for hunting and chop trees for firewood,” said Loiya.
“I have a brother who is very supportive of my work and without him; this place wouldn’t be possible because he provides all the financial support. My mother used to tell me that doing service for the helpless birds and trees is the highest deed for mankind,” added Loiya.
But when asked how people came to know about his work only now, after all these years, Loiya said: “I was waiting for the trees to speak for themselves.”
Now with time, people from various walks of life, including the forest department have noticed Loiya and his organisation and lauded their efforts in safeguarding the environment.
Divisional forest officer for Central Forest Division RK Amarjit Singh, said: “I am feeling very good for Loiya. He has been doing this work for over 15 years and that has also been told as per our records as well. It is a good thing about a young man coming up and conserving the plants and trees in the reserve forest area.”
Recognising his passion and hard work in preserving the forest, Loiya has been inducted as part of the Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC), initiated by the forest department to oversee the reserve forest areas in the state.
“We are planning to rope in more and more local people and give them training in capacity building in order to protect the forest from fire, which is the most degrading factor,” added Singh.