The connection between massive deforestation or clearing of forest areas and the extensive poppy cultivation is quite obvious. However the possible link between poppy cultivation and illegal immigration from across the border has not been fully established but none other the Chief Minister has expressed strong suspicion of possible involvement of Myanmar nationals or people from Myanmar in poppy plantation within Manipur. Where does the poppy harvested from Manipur go? Where is the raw poppy collected from Manipur processed into different types of opium products? Are the poppies cultivated and harvested in Manipur processed into different types of narcotic drugs within the State itself or somewhere else. These are a few pertinent questions which must be taken into account in the ongoing War on Drugs and answers to these questions can give a clear picture of whether foreign nationals are involved in poppy plantation in Manipur or not. If foreign nationals are found involved in poppy plantation in the State, then one can safely assume that deforestation, illegal immigration and poppy cultivation are all inter-connected. Massive deforestation for extensive poppy plantation can be financially quite rewarding at the moment but it is suicidal in the long run. Generally, poppy plantation is done on hill slopes after clearing all the natural vegetation including majestic trees and it relies heavily on chemical fertilizers. It would take decades, if not more, for trees and natural vegetation to flourish once again on the hill slopes laid bare for poppy plantation. By clearing the hill slopes and mountain ranges off trees and again using excessive fertilizers, the poppy planters have been wittingly or unwittingly turning the land arid. In another word, they are acting as active agents of desertification thereby posing a direct challenge to the lives of the entire population. People have already seen the devastating effects of massive deforestation in the forms of turbulent floods, soil erosion and landslides during rainy season and acute water scarcity during the dry season.
When poppy plantation has been established as one major factor for massive deforestation, there is an urgent to couple and synchronize the War on Drugs with the efforts to protect forests. Too often mankind thinks and acts as if we were not part of nature. Rather than thinking of ourselves as nested in nature and dependent upon it, we think of ourselves as sitting on top of it, managing it. We think there are the human world and the natural world, and we forget that we are ourselves, with all our technology, part of nature. In the context of Manipur, the poppy planters have gone to the extreme by clearing all the natural vegetation and again making the soil arid. We face the prospect of utterly destroying much of the natural world. Perhaps, forest resources are the single largest source of livelihood after agriculture for majority of the mass in Manipur. But the sad part is, we continue to see forest resources only as firewoods and tree trunks for obtaining timber. That is why, many people do not have any qualms in destroying vast tracts of forest areas and natural vegetation to make space for poppy plantation. Ignorance and economic compulsion are behind unrestrained exploitation of forest resources. And now, greed for easy and big money is the principal driving force behind the clearing of vast tracts of natural vegetation to make space for poppy plantation. Our people must have certain idea about the roles of forest in environmental protection viz; retention of underground water, absorption of harmful carbon emission, balancing seasonal rainfall, prevention of landslides, floods et al. Until and unless, forests are protected effectively, water crisis as we see today will remain a regular, seasonal affair in the State. Given the obvious connection between clearing of forest areas and poppy plantation, the War on Drugs must adopt a multi-pronged and comprehensive strategy with protection of forest as a major component. Poppy plantation as well as all acts of desertification must be stopped without any delay.