The fishing community residing in and around the Loktak Lake area has strongly objected to the Inland waterway project to be developed on the water body claiming it will destroy its biodiversity and the livelihood of fisherfolks.
Mansukh Mandaviya, minister incharge for Shipping and Chemical and Fertilizers, last Thursday informed the Parliament that the Ministry of Shipping has approved a project for the development of Loktak inland waterways. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 25.58 crore.
The minister claimed that the project will help boost tourism and connectivity in the largest freshwater lake in the entire Northeast.
Some people have already raised a red flag for the proposed project on the grounds that it will be harmful to biodiversity. O. Rajen, secretary Loktak Lake Area Fishermen’s Union Manipur (ALLAFUM), contended that the project could spell disaster for both the fishing community and sensitive biodiversity.
He claimed that people residing in and around the lake have been eking out their living from the water body since time immemorial and fishing is their main occupation. At least 4,000 fisherfolks reside in and around the lake.
“Uses of motorboats will greatly disturb the eco-system of the Lake. It will only affect the breeding of fish but also disturbed the annual migratory birds that visit the lake,” said Rajen.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also put a ban on uses of motorboats on the lake, he added.
Rajen further pointed out that the project is also against the order passed by the Manipur High Court on August 7, banning new project or development programme in the Lake asking the authority concerned to furnish a status report on the conservation of the Lake.
Environmentalist Ram Wangkheirakpam said the project goes against the idea of conservation of the lake which has international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Moreover, the project has also ignored the National and State Wetland rules, he asserted.
“How can the ministry give approval to a project of such scale without even conducting a proper environmental impact assessment of an eco-system which is very sensitive. This is not a wise decision?” questioned Wangkheirakpam.
Loktak Lake is situated in Moirang in Bishnupur district about 45km from Imphal city. The lake is home to many indigenous fish species and flora besides being home to migratory birds.
Each winter season, Manipur witnesses a spectacular gathering of migratory birds around Loktak Lake. Some of these birds, mainly wild ducks, come to Loktak from Central Asia, Tibet, Siberia, and Yunnan province- flying 3,2000-4,800 kilometers over the Himalayan ranges.
These migratory birds come to the state every October till early March. December and January are the peak season.