The High Court of Manipur directed the state authorities to take relevant steps for protection of environment, especially the forest cover of the state, to avoid the threat of animal borne diseases like COVID in the future.
In its detailed order, the division bench comprised by Chief Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice A. Bimol Singh observed that destruction of forests and invasion/intrusion of human beings in the forest domain displacing forest species appears to be a major factor for the series of diseases like the present COVID.
The Petitioner was represented by Advocate Kh. Tarunkumar and the Respondents by Advocate Lenin Hijam and ASG S. Suresh.
The bench told the state authorities in a PIL filed by the Manipur Valley Village Reserve Forest Rights Protection Association, seeking protection of Forest and reserved forests of Manipur to curb diseases like COVID and stated,
“In the light of the above scientific data which clearly established that deforestation coupled with wild animal-human contact as a major cause of diseases, this Court is inclined to direct the State of Manipur, more particularly, the respondents No.1 to 5 to safeguard the forests, environment and ecology on the following parameters.”
The bench has ordered the state authorities:
- to take immediate measures to arrest wild fires which appear to be man made in many cases;
- to arrest the illegal encroachment of forest areas for human habitations;
- to protect wild animals, birds, flora and fauna as provided under the Acts and Rules;
- to take up afforestation of lands which have been subjected to deforestation by various means including forest fires;
- boundary marking of forest areas by warning signs and monitoring in such manner as to avoid human contact with the wild animals, birds, flora and fauna other than for scientific research and studies.
Further the court has asked the Union of India to ensure that ongoing research on infectious diseases like COVID is properly funded and monitored.
“The University Grants Commission sanctions huge amount for education, research and faculty development to encourage young students in the field of science, arts, medicine, etc., to excel. The funding will have great impact on research and education and if not properly utilised, it will not serve the purpose in the field of science and medicine which is now grappling with many infectious diseases. It is desirable that the Central Government monitors the fund utilisation with accountability and proper audit. The feedback from students and research scholars may also help in monitoring the proper utilisation of funds,” the bench suggested on the basis of an article titled “For Experts Who Study Coronaviruses, a Grim Vindication,” authored by Charles Schmidt.
Before parting, the bench noted,
“To believe that human beings are the dominant amongst all living species, fauna and flora, animals, mammals, bacteria, unicellular & multi-cellular organisms, etc. appears to be a misconception. Homo sapiens though a dominant species, cannot claim predominance as one specie is interlinked to the other in their own cycle of life. It has to co-exist within limits thereby maintaining the balance in nature. The indiscriminate population fuelled deforestation and unnecessary animal human contact appears to be the cause of the present pandemic which could have been otherwise avoided.“
Read the order below: