Exclusive

In a bid to boost tourism, government fails to save Loktak Lake, fishing community

While tourism and tourist activities around the Loktak Lake are growing, the fate of the fishers is becoming more uncertain as the catch has declined drastically.

ByNingthoujam Victor Singh

Updated 14 Jan 2023, 2:49 pm

(PHOTO: IFP)
(PHOTO: IFP)

 

Manipur’s Loktak Lake, one of the most attractive tourist spots in the state, has been deteriorating owing to the contamination affecting it. The government, however, is looking the other way. Instead of taking up proper effective measures to stop the contamination of the lake, especially by pollutants from the contributing rivers, the government’s focus is limited to developing tourism in the lake. The government’s decision is adversely affecting those living in and around the lake.

In August 2022, just before the Sangai festival, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) issued a 15-day ultimatum for the removal of residences, homestays and phumdis (floating biomass) from the premises of the lake, except for Champu Khangpok.

The reason cited was to save the lake from further deterioration and to be delisted from the Montreux record – all these while it is evident that the lake is increasingly getting contaminated with the merging of polluted water from the connecting rivers and fertilizers and harmful chemical residues from the fields that fall directly into the lake.

 The ultimatum, however, appeared a step to please tourists for the Sangai Festival.

Meanwhile, many families have been evacuated from the premises of Loktak lake, depriving them of their livelihood, most of them being fishers, living off the earnings from the catch at the lake. They are being disconnected from their lifeline.  

Despite the agitations and protests by the residents, the people living in the lake for ages were evicted without providing any proper provisions for the families. They said the LDA has taken up no measures to help the displaced people yet.

One Momocha, an owner of a homestay that has been recently destroyed by the LDA, stated that there has been no remuneration or help from the authorities concerned after they demolished all the homestays and houses in August, 2022.

Advertisement

“The homestay had cost me Rs 14 lakh, and most of the money was borrowed from others. Now, I have no income, yet I have to pay back the money. We have been discussing with the LDA for proper rules and regulations, for proper operation of the home-stays, but we were never given any proper guidelines. They do as they like without any consideration of what we are going to face because of their actions,” he said.

The locals mentioned that the homestays and the residents at the lake have not caused any such contamination to the lake, while pollutants are dumped into the lake from different rivers.

A similar incident occurred in the chilling winter of November 2011 when the LDA allegedly burned down 777 fishers' huts, evicting the helpless fishers on the pretext of cleaning the lake. This act is remembered as the Loktak Arson and will remain one that history will judge forever.

While tourism and tourist activities around the lake are growing, the fate of the fishers is becoming more uncertain as the catch has declined drastically.

Loktak Lake, spanning over an odd 287 square kilometres, is home to a large population of fishermen and the home of the magnificent Sangai. Over 1 lakh people are dependent on the lake for livelihood.

The freshwater lake not only provides resources but its aesthetic beauty also lures tourists. It offers a breathtaking experience for tourists, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with the Phumdis floating on the water. Fishers have mastered the art of building their fishing huts in floating biomass with natural materials.

Often described as the mirror of Manipur, what meets the eyes is beyond ordinary if one looks deeper. Contemporarily, the lake has been discussed as a 'dying lake' due to developmental projects starting from the Ithai Barrage to other pollutants, sediments and waste that its feeder streams and river bring to the lake.

The lake is a Ramsar site and is under the Montreux Record due to its health condition. But not much seems to be done to improve its health, rather the neo-liberal agenda of pushing mass-scale tourism is being taken up by the state.

Advertisement

The pollution occurring in the lake has been previously recorded that it is due to the pollutants from the connecting rivers.

In 2020, due to the constant deposition of debris from the Nambul and Nambol rivers, the confluence of the two rivers, known as Yangoi Karong, flowed in two colours - a mixture of grey and brown water, letting off an awful rotten stench. The said Yangoi Karong connects directly to the Loktak.

As a result of the constant feeding of pollutants into Loktak lake, the part of the lake where water flowing from Yangoi Karong merges, the Birahari and Yangbi area faced major pollution in August, 2021. With greasy and oily rotten water, the fish and aquatic plants died as the water became inhabitable, ultimately giving a big dent in the livelihood of the fishers, especially during the unfortunate period of the pandemic wherein being economically stable was already a hard task for the fishers.

The pollution increased to such a high level that the fishers residing there, inside the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast had even started buying mineral water jars of 20 litres for daily use.

Another incident was in August 2022, due to the heavy rainfall and the rising water, the same part of Loktak was again contaminated by the pollutants from the rivers, causing dead fishes to flow along with the upstream created by the Loktak Hydro Power Plant at Loktak Project Ningthoukhong.

While there has been evidence and reports for the cause of pollution, the victims of the eviction are against the claims made by the LDA and the destruction of their residents and homestays.

The condition of the lake worsens with the passing of time, an epitome of utter failure of management by the authorities concerned.

Advertisement

First published:

Tags:

loktak lakemanipur tourismfishing communityhomestayloktak lake pollution

Ningthoujam Victor Singh

Ningthoujam Victor Singh

IFP

Advertisement

Top Stories

Loading data...
Advertisement

IFP Exclusive

Loading data...
Advertisement

Feedback

Have a complaint, a suggestion or just some feedback about our content? Please write to onlineifp@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to address it.