Manipur's iconic Loktak Lake hit by illegal fishing, hunting
Famous for its floating islands and picturesque landscape, Loktak Lake in Manipur’s Bishnupur district is one of the largest freshwater bodies in northeast India
Even as Manipur battles protracted ethnic violence, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) and the fishing community that is facing the impact of indiscriminate hunting of waterfowl and the illegal use of the electric shock method for fishing, has appealed to the public to emerge as responsible guardians of this invaluable natural resource.
Famous for its floating islands and picturesque landscape, Loktak Lake in Manipur’s Bishnupur district is one of the largest freshwater bodies in northeast India.
Three of northeast India's most important ecosystems — Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura, Deepor Beel in Assam and Loktak Lake in Manipur — are categorised as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Held in February 1971 at Ramsar in Iran, the convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources.
LDA chairman Asni Kumar Singh said encompassing an area of about 26,000 hectares and being the state’s fishery resource, the lake is not just a source of livelihood but a goddess to the people of Manipur and a mother to the fishing community, the cradle of Manipuri civilisation and culture.
Appealing to the communities dwelling around Loktak Lake, Singh has asked them to discontinue the illegal use of the electric shock method of fishing and illicit hunting of waterfowl and endangered species of migratory birds using firearms.
He stressed that this natural treasure isn't just a body of water but an integral part of the region's identity, woven intricately into the fabric of its existence.
Expressing grave concern about the adverse effects of illegal fishing and hunting on the fragile balance of the lake's ecosystem, the LDA chairman sincerely urged the public to emerge as responsible guardians of this invaluable natural resource.
His plea resonated with a call for collective environmental responsibility, urging citizens to understand that resorting to the use of electric shock in fishing and the illegal hunting of waterfowl not only poses a serious threat to the biodiversity of Loktak Lake but also violates established laws.
The chairman underscored the importance of unified action and encouraged individuals to promptly report any instances of such illegal activities to the authorities.
Promising stringent action against offenders, he emphasised the consequences of such actions that not only harm the environment but also undermine the relentless efforts of the state government towards the conservation and preservation of Loktak Lake's natural heritage.
Further emphasising the need for community involvement, he urged citizens to actively support the Loktak Development Authority in their mission to safeguard its ecological integrity.
Significantly, the LDA chief’s plea follows a fervent call by the All Loktak Lake Area Fishers Union, Manipur (ALLAFUM) to ban fishing with LED lights, an activity that compromises its conservation objectives.
Expressing concern over the dwindling fish populations impacting the livelihoods of Loktak fishers, ALLAFUM secretary Oinam Rajen Singh condemned the recent trend of nocturnal fishing using LED lights.
He said this practice not only leads to overfishing but also disrupts the feeding grounds of migratory water birds arriving between October and February annually.
The Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006 was enacted by the Manipur assembly with the objective of conservation and preservation of the lake. Under the act, the lake is divided into three zones in which the core zone is protected from all kinds of activities which would affect its biodiversity and water quality.
Loktak, the largest freshwater lake in the northeast, is also one of the major tourist attractions of eastern India.