Save Loktak: It Also Needs Passion

It is not merely a case of the script ‘Save Loktak,’ going horribly wrong but also exposes the lack of sensitivity or ignorance of those in positions of authority to the fragile eco-system of the biggest fresh water lake in eastern India. The objective of trying to save the Loktak Lake from further degradation is laudable and a task which ideally should have been taken up a long time back. However, this should be no reason for giving up Loktak Lake as a lost case and the Save Loktak Lake, though late in the day, is welcome.

Loktak not only occupies an important place in the history of Manipur, but is also a major player in the eco-system, not to speak of being the source of livelihood of thousands of family in the State. Fables, and there are many, woven around the lake by itself is a standing testimony of how Loktak Lake has neatly fitted into the history and social system of the land, according to its time and period. The folk lore of Khamba and Thoibi cannot be seen divested from Loktak in any way.

As a fresh water lake, the role it plays in the eco-system of its immediate surroundings as well as on the entire State is immense, for Loktak is not only the source of numerous rivers and rivulets but is also the basin where the rivers empty their contents (read pollutants). This is one reason for the gradual degradation of the Lake. Given the importance attached to this lake, we are more than certain that no efforts would have been spared to ensure that the process of removing the Phumdis by letting it get carried away by the current of the water of many rivers, does not in any way compromise on the eco-system or the living organisms which survive and thrive in the lake and its periphery.

M/S K Pro Infra Private Works along with the experts from the Loktak Development Authority must have surely conducted a thorough and scientific survey of the lake, its surroundings, the rivers along which the Phumdis will be directed to be carried away across the Ithai Barrage and as well as the safety of the Sangai (brow antlered deer or dancing deer), the only one of its kind in the world and Keibul Lamjao, again the only natural floating National Park in the world and which is the natural habitat of the Sangai, must have been taken into consideration.

However as we have noted, in any project or endeavor taken up by the State Government, a high risk of coming close to cases like throwing the child out along with the bath tub or water is a constant factor, and the Save Loktak campaign is not an exception. The campaign to save the lake from further degradation, requires not only a scientific approach coupled with a high professional skill, but a natural love for nature and the instinct to save the environment from further degradation. In short, saving Loktak Lake will not be possible by applying only scientific knowledge but also needs an equal dose of passion.

We really do not know what the long term plan is, but as per information from the Government, as a short term plan, Phumdis are being cleared manually and with the help of machineries after which they are pushed down the river by opening the Ithai Barrage. So far so good, nothing to worry about or nothing to complain about.

However in a development, which has been dubbed as being ignoring protocol as well as failure to recognize the fragile eco-system of Keibul Lamjao National Park, the Loktak Development Authority, after due advice from the Chief Minister has taken up necessary measures to push the uprooted or removed Phumdis on three water ways, which run right through the heart of the natural habitat of the Sangai, Keibul Lamjao.

The three water ways, as we have been informed are Khordak River and Babukhong and Khuningthek channels. The other alternative route to the three water ways is Imphal River, which entails dredging the Komlakhong channel for about 300/400 meters. Initially, the process strictly stuck to the official channels, with the Chief  Wildlife Warden giving the go ahead signal for opting for the three water ways through Keibul Lamjao under certain conditions, but as in so many other cases, it came to light that no formal consent was sought from either the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment or the Supreme Court of India.

What is more is the allegation raised by certain disgruntled LDA employees that K Pro Infra Private Works has cleared stationary Phumdis (There is a difference between the floating Phumdis which are artificially created ones by fisher folks while the stationary Phumdis refer to the body of bio-mass, which have been formed naturally down the decades), covering an area of about 20 square feet, which has presented the perfect site for illegal fishing and poaching. A report in this regard has been reportedly submitted to the Chief  Wildlife Warden by the Deputy Conservator of Park and Sanctuary.

It is obvious that scientific knowledge learnt in the class rooms and labs through experimentations are not enough when it comes to dealing with nature, which is as fragile as it could be, thanks to the large scale pollution of the water ways. What is needed is the passion. So far, we have neither seen this passion, nor has the scientific knowledge made any significant progress to save the lake.

What the Government must realize is the plain fact that in trying to save Loktak lake, the fate of Keibul Lamjao and thereby Sangai is not put to test, for Loktak will not be complete without these two distinct entities nor will the Sangai and Keibul Lamjao be complete without Loktak. Nature has deemed it that they should co-exist and our ignorance or insensitivity should not disturb what nature has pre-ordained.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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