The court was listening to a PIL when it made the statement
The Manipur High Court recently linked biodiversity loss to the emergence of infectious diseases.
The outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has already been blamed on rampant ecological destruction by several quarters.
“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-19,” the court said June 11, 2020, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
The PIL was filed May 27 by non-profit Manipur Valley Village Reserve Forest Rights Protection Association.
The court compared COVID-19 to “the march of the Macedonian army”. While the immediate focus was on developing a vaccine, there was also a need to use the collective wisdom of the human beings to reflect on what went wrong, it observed.
“Amidst all the cause and effect theories that have been propounded, there appears to be one significant factor which needs the world’s attention — irrespective of any one nation being the cause for the current pandemic — that is desecration of nature and the environment,” the court said.
It asked the state government to take immediate measures to stop wild fires, illegal encroachment, undertake afforestation and protect wildlife, apart from creating awareness among people about the importance of biodiversity.
The court observed that the funds to undertake these activities were already with the state under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Act.
“In August 2019, CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) released Rs 47,436.18 crore to 27 states including Rs 309.76 crore to the state of Manipur,” the court said.
While announcing the stimulus package in May 2020, for combating the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, the Union finance minister had earmarked a further sum of Rs 6,000 crore out of CAMPA funds for creating job opportunities in rural and semi-urban areas, the court noted.
The court asked Manipur’s Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, to submit a report on the utilisation of the CAF money.