The fishing community of Champhu Khangpok floating village warned the state government against launching any development projects in the Loktak Lake area without taking their consent.
Champhu Khangpok floating village fishing community expressed concern during the one-day public meeting held at the office of the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishers Union Manipur (ALLAFUM), Champu Khangpok Floating Village, Loktak, Bishnupur district on Tuesday.
The public discourse was convened to discuss the recent meeting conducted by deputy commissioner of Bishnupur wherein representatives of Champu Khangpok Floating Village Welfare Committee (CKFVWC) had attended.
Addressing the media on the sidelines of the meeting, ALLAFUM secretary Oinam Rajen said that the meeting held on December 8 with the DC has called for a joint Survey of Champu along with the Champu villagers.
Local residents of Champu Khangpok accepted their approach but the process must be conducted with CKFVWC as the village is under the authority of the committee.
“The committee highly appreciated the authority concerned for inviting the meeting. Recognizing the village committee as an equal partner will be a good start. This is an overdue survey and the unwillingness of LDA till now to conduct proper survey or research has created much confusion and even delay in proper management of Loktak,” he added.
He said that the fishing community of Loktak Lake have been reeling under untold grievances for a long period. He added that they acknowledged the developmental activities to be taken up by the state government under ADB. But the committee won’t agree to any type of activities if the authorities failed to consult theme.
“The Committee is the sole authority for management and conduct of the village affairs, however there can be a temporary Joint Committee for specific projects or programs as proposed by the DC,” he pointed out.
Citing the alleged misappropriation of fund, he said that people of Champu Khangpok are still aggrieved for misuse of money funded under (Pradhan Mantri Gram Adarsh Yojana) PMGAY worth Rs 20 lakh to take up developmental activities in their village. It was sanctioned under the department of social Justice and Empowerment in the year 2019-2020.
The committee even lodged complaints in the anti-corruption cell in this regard. However, no action has been taken up. They resolved to approach the prime minister's office or higher court for justice if the state government fails to punish the culprits involved by December 2022.
In the meeting, ALLAFUM consulting adviser Salam Rajesh alleged that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) tried to reenter this wetland with a new project name. The previous Loktak Eco-Tourism with destructive components like Golf Course, Sea Waves, and several resorts was taken up in a secretive way without the consent of the fishers folk.
The project was about to be taken up despite the fact that it will have far-reaching implications for the wetland ecology and the hundreds of fishing families who call themselves Loktak their home. It was for this reason that ALLAFUM sought a Review Petition of the PIL 24 of 2017, he added.
He informed that the high court is clear that the basic necessity of preparing a brief document and the Wise Use Management Plan for Loktak is still pending as mandated by the National Wetlands Rules of 2017. Unless these foundational works are completed , new projects or developmental works cannot be taken up at Loktak, he said.
At this juncture that the ADB is stepping in once again to provide Technical Assistance for the "Sustainable Loktak Lake Ecosystem Restoration, Ecotourism and Livelihood Improvement Project (previously, Loktak Lake Eco-tourism Project)" towards a Strategic Plan and Investment Road Map for Loktak, he added.
He suggested that there is a need to act in accordance with the court and the legal mandate. ADB should ensure that all stakeholders are on board and not just pay mere lip service. The traditional and indigenous Meitei people who inhabit this lake for generations are the real custodian.