Home Youth activism Over 2,000 people take part in the 1st Mizoram Youth-Led Environmental Rally

Over 2,000 people take part in the 1st Mizoram Youth-Led Environmental Rally

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Nickly Lotlai woke up at his usual time on Tuesday and left his Venghlui home around 10 a.m. for Vanapa Hall. It was a special day for Lotlai, a doctoral researcher in the Department of Mass Communication at Mizoram University, as for the first time in 28 years of his life he was going to attend a rally.

Tuesday was a special day not just for Lotlai but for more than 2,000,000 young people across Mizoram who participated in a first-ever youth-led environmental rally co-led by Youth for Environment Justice Mizoram and Aizawl City College Students Union in Aizawl.

The rally brought together young people from all walks of life, including students, schoolchildren and other concerned young people and citizens, marching together from Vanapa Hall to Sikulpuikawn. Placards were held up amid song and dance, a buzz of excitement echoing through the crowd as environmentally conscious young people in Mizoram had a platform to voice their concerns for the first time.

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“What I noticed first was that most of the attendees are young people, Gen-Z, so to speak. Environmental awareness and revolution have for sure found their way into the hearts of young people in the Mizoram Having seen the rate of forest destruction by the ongoing highway construction by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and the lack of necessary action by the state government, this is what has gave rise to this gathering and also the reason for my participation. We must act now and act fast for future generations, said Lotlai. IsMojo.

Mizoram State is often in the limelight for being a hornless city and for its tightly knit societal system. However, in recent times, the tiny hill state has drawn attention to environmental damage caused as a result of alleged road construction activities by NHIDCL. The incidents came to light when an activist named Vanramchhuangi, popularly known as Ruatfela Nu, staged a silent protest outside the environment, forestry and climate change office in Aizawl in the last week of May. . Ruatfela Nu in a memorandum alleged that NHIDCL completely ignored and violated the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) as part of the EIA. She said they ruthlessly pushed the spoil from the ground causing huge damage to biodiversity. She pointed out that the rivers and its tributaries were the most affected as they were covered in mud causing damage to 99.9% of seasonal and perennial rivers.

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NHIDCL is currently carrying out widening works on four national highways – NH-09 (Seling – Zokhawthar), NH-102B (Keifang -Manipur), NH-302 (Lunglei – Tlabung) and NH-54 (Aizawl – Tuipang).

It was concern over the environmental damage allegedly caused by the NHIDCL that led young people to decide it was time to act and form a movement called Youth for Environment Justice Mizoram. Although there are other environmental organizations in Mizoram, YEJM is the first such association in the state, founded and run solely by environmentally conscious youth.

“Youth for Environment Justice Mizoram is a movement, not an organization. We are a group of enthusiastic young people from Mizoram who have come together because of growing concern and apprehension about the destruction of our environment. Our intentions and objectives will be to save the ecology of Mizoram’s environment. We will go as far as what needs to be done, whatever we can do, in all spheres of environmental destruction within Mizoram,” said Lalrinfela Khiangte, one of the movement’s founders.

It was a book Khiangte, 23, read 11 years ago that sparked her love for the environment. “In 2011, Synod Center organized a book sale. There I found a book on wildlife conservation where a man had noted environmental initiatives that had been taken in Mizoram. After reading this, I started becoming environmentally conscious,” he said. IsMojo.

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“This movement started with Vanramchhuangi. She and her ally were reviewing NHIDCL’s three years of work in Mizoram. They started to identify what they (NHIDCL) did and what they failed to do. Recently she started the protest about the damage caused by NHIDCL, so when we heard about it, me and some of my friends wanted to join the protest. We called Vanramchhuangi to find out how we can help her, how we can support her and if she needs any help. We started this movement from that moment,” he said. Khiangte met Michael Lalramdingliana, co-founder of the movement in the UPSC civil service coaching courses they attended together.

They discovered that they had a common zeal for the environment. Michael, who has a forestry background with a Bsc in Forestry, has been studying the work of NHIDCL closely for a long time.

“My friend Michael has a background in forestry and he was very concerned about the NHIDCL projects from the start. He contacted Dr. Lallianpuii (a wildlife scientist) and inquired about the damage done to the forest by NHIDCL. She told him that they had researched the matter and were taking action on it. So the next night they scheduled a Zoom meeting. Michael suggested that some of his environmentally conscious friends join the meeting. After our meeting, we decided to create a Whatsapp group for young people who want to join the movement. We’ve shared the group so anyone can join. At first in the group we were around 10, now we are over 200. The majority of us are students,” Khiangte said.

On what motivated them to start the movement, Michael said IsMojo, “We decided it was time to act. If these people continue to destroy the environment thinking that they are on the right track without anyone standing up against them, there will be no hope for our environment.

Following protests by YEJM and Vanramchhuangi, on May 25, the state’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change served a show cause notice on NHIDCL. Five Divisional Forestry Officers (DFOs) were also asked to audit wherever state highways are widened or extended across the state.

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While YEJM made various points about the cause of the rally, Khiangte said their most important point is that young people are for development but they are against development at the expense of the environment. “We want to educate not only young people, but also our parents and the public.”

He commented on YEJM’s future initiatives saying, “As a movement, we will look at other spheres of environmental damage done to Mizoram and try to bring environmental justice with all aspects of the environmental degradation that has been done. . We received high moral support from all the districts we went to, especially from the young people since we are a youth movement. The movement is slowly gaining ground.

Lallianpuii Kawlni, a scientist from the Wildlife Institute of India who has been a strong supporter of the YEJM since its inception, commented on the need for concerted efforts to save the environment saying, “When it comes to conservation, efforts can never enough, you have to go. and continue. Moreover, a single approach in one direction is not enough, we must approach all problems from all directions. Young people in Mizoram are gradually gaining interest and activism for the environment. One such example is the Youth for Environment Justice Mizoram which has played a very important role in the recent shift in environmental activism in Mizoram.

The rally saw participants of all ages, and among them was K Lalmuansanga, the president of the Association for the Preservation of the Environment (ASEP). Lalmuansanga had founded ASEP with a group of friends in 2003 at the age of twenty-six. “It was a lonely road. There were tears along the way. We fought for the environment with little support. But being part of this rally today and seeing young people crying out their hearts for the environment almost brought me to tears. We have been to every corner of Mizoram for environmental causes, but I have never witnessed such a movement. It gives me so much hope and hope that our little efforts in the past would have contributed in some way to the movement today.

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“The rally may have been made up of environmentally conscious young people and others still new to the concept, but this event will always have a mark on their lives. They will always remember that they attended a rally for the environment and it will impact their future decisions in one way or another,” he said.

According to the Indian State of Forest Report, 2021, Mizoram lost 185.21 square kilometers of its forest cover in 2019-2020. In 2021, Mizoram was shown to have the highest rate of desertification in the country according to Indian Space Research Organization. A total of 0.18 million hectares (mha) suffered degradation/desertification over a fifteen-year study period.

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