Rajya Sabha MP Aneel Prasad Hegde has drawn the attention of the Central government and the chief minister of Manipur to ensure that the interests of the unique biodiversity of the Loktak Lake and its local communities is protected for posterity.
In this regard, the MP wrote a letter addressing to the Union MoS for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey pointing out the contradictions in the government’s proposed and actual actions with regard to the Loktak Lake and “violation of Ramsar Convention and National Wetlands Rules 2017.”
Stating that he visited the lake on April 16 2023, the letter mentioned that he is deeply troubled by the LDA’s approach. The LDA’s ‘development’ schemes are threatening the existence of Loktak fishers and farmers who are arguably the most environment and ecology friendly community in the world, it stated.
Their way of living can be characterized as with the most negligible carbon footprint, and offers extraordinary nutritional and ecological services across Manipur and the rest of the North East region, he said, adding, these people are today threatened by dislocation and displacement.
Hegde highlighted how the Ithai Barrage of the NHPC continues to be a major issue with the local communities and a serious threat to the wetland regime. He said that the existence and utility of Ithai Barrage needs to be comprehensively re-examined from the perspective of securing the environment, ecology and people of the Loktak Wetland system, and for posterity.
He also pointed out that the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006 is abjectly opposed to ‘wise use’ of the wetlands as is mandated under the United Nations Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, 1971 (Ramsar Convention).
The LDA’s actions over time demonstrate amply that its methods in managing Loktak are opposed to local people’s ecologically wise traditional ways of living. Besides, the approach threatens their ecologically sensitive dependencies on the wetland, he said.
The local communities continue to be traumatised by LDA’s draconian actions in November 2011 when massive police action destroyed and burned several hundred floating huts, he said. The communities fear such draconian and illegal actions are likely to recur again, he stated.
Hegde stated that the state government along with the Central government is proposing a variety of projects in Loktak, and without any public consultation and consent of the local people.
“Prima facie, these projects are absolutely opposed to protection and conservation of the Loktak Wetland Regime, as per the Ramsar Convention, on the one hand, and also attack the fundamental rights and freedoms of the local fisher communities,” he added.
He further stated that the lake and its people can be protected only when any and all development in the region is proposed and undertaken only with the due and appropriate consent of local communities as is required per the principle of free, prior and informed consent.