TODAY -

On the lap of Punshilok Forest!

James Khangenbam *

 Volunteers of WAHPS (Wildlife and Habitat Protection Society)
Volunteers of WAHPS (Wildlife and Habitat Protection Society)



“Rush to the hill, there is a fire“ an alert message pops up at a wattsapp group. Few volunteers make it to the hilltop in time. Punshilok at Langol hill range is a small hilltop. It is just 6 kilometers away from Imphal City.

It took the volunteers almost an hour in reaching the foothill and making it to the hilltop. The fire had ravaged the dry vegetation and tree branches turning them into ash on the other side of the hill slope.

The fireline made by the volunteers at the periphery of the hilltop just a week back had saved a lot of time sealing the conservation site from wildfire. But the strong February wind proved stronger enabling the wildfire to cross the fireline and sneak into the Punshilok forest conservation site. The fire was dangerously spreading with dry grass and dry vegetation acting as fuels at the highest peak of the hill.

Armed with tree branches with full of leaves at one end, the volunteers rush toward the steep peak. They started to extinguish the fire by hitting the burning vegetation (mostly dry and tall grass) with the tree branch they carried. They lose their balance while doing so as the peak was steep @almost 75-degree slope.

They slide down in their act but with renewed energy they repeatedly ascend while extinguishing the fire. After removing the tiniest ember, they return home. It took them four hours of fire fighting and scrutiny when they realize that the forest is safe. One of the volunteers stayed back as he is engaged on a round the clock vigilance.

 wild forest fire caused by the fire lit up by picnickers
wild forest fire caused by the fire lit up by picnickers



Some picnickers had actually lit up a fire to cook food at the hilltop. They seem to have not fully extinguished the fire resulting into a huge lost in the reserve forest area.

The efforts of few dedicated young volunteers in making fireline while conserving forest area at Punshilok hill and proactively acting on time had saved a lot of forest area at the Langol Hill Range. The firefight efforts were also joined by the fire department, government of Manipur, Forest Department and few locals.

On a glorious note, the state authority had banned picnickers from entering certain reserved forest areas within Imphal district following the Punshilok wildfire outbreak in January, 2023.

The volunteers who took proactive role in saving the fire belongs to Wildlife and Habitat Protection Society founded in 2002 by Moiranthem Loiya, who restored the Punshilok hills from a barren hilltop into a lush green.

Two decades back the hilltop was exploited by firewood gatherers and Jhum cultivators. It was all covered by lantana bushes until Loiya grew tree and stationed alone for almost 6 years nurturing trees.

Inspired by his efforts many young volunteers joined him in conserving the forest. The forest is guarded round the clock for the last 20 years by a voluntary forest guard in checking illegal activities like hunting animals, felling down trees etc.

The volunteers make fire line annually in winter season before the windy season to protect the forest from wild forest fire. Over the years, the annual fireline had saved the forest many a times and every time a wildfire takes place the volunteers would rush to the hills and strategically take positions to check if wildfire crosses the fireline.

The selfless activity of the youths had been recognized by the State authority and the forest department had included them into Joint Forest Management Committee. Punshilok forest is a maturing forest and in the recent times it has given the locals in the foothill abundant natural spring water.


*James Khangenbam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jameskhangenbam7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 11 2023 .



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