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Ithai barrage behind deteriorating Loktak lake
Correspondent IMPHAL, OCT 3:
Published on 3 Oct. 2009 11:56 PM IST
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Manipur celebrates “Loktak Day” every year on the full-moon of Meetei Lunar month Mera which usually falls in October with the objective of conserving the only fresh water lake in the north eastern region on October 4. Loktak Lake, one of the seven notified lakes of International importance in the Indian subcontinent, as declared in the Ramsar Convention, is the largest freshwater lake in the North-Eastern region. Manipur government constituted Loktak Development Authority (LDA) 23 years back in 1986 “to check deterioration of the lake and to bring improvement in the areas of power generation, fisheries, and tourism and siltation control.” Manipur government has been investing huge funds from various funding since the constitution of the LDA under Management and Conservation of Loktak Lake but with little success. In this current year, 2009-10 also a total of Rs 1357.94 lakh has been earmarked by the state government from the state annual outlay of Rs 2000 crores approved by the Planning Commission of India. The earmarked amount includes continuation of ongoing programme for promotion of settled agriculture and livelihood improvement implemented by the agriculture department, management of shifting cultivation in the catchment areas of the lake, treatment of degraded forests, management of shifting cultivation and biodiversity conservation. The proliferation of phumdis in the lake after the construction of Ithai barrage, has reached an alarming situation. This has seriously affected the biodiversity and overall fish productivity of the lake. The unique natural up and down movements of the phumdis (floating mats) in the vast expanses of the same in Keibul Lamjao area which generally occurs alternately during summer and winter seasons have been disturbed over the last 30 years or more. Human activities have led to severe pressure on the lake ecosystem. The root-cause problems can be traced to loss of vegetal cover in the catchment area and construction of Ithai barrage. The degradation of the catchment area has led to the problems of siltation and increase flow of nutrients, a work on the Loktak Lake by Radhabinod Aribam wrote. Proliferation and change in the character of Phumdis (floating biomass) have led to the problems of water quality deterioration, decline in fish production, reduction in water storage capacity, loss of open water area, blockage of channels and retardation of natural water-flow, disturbances in navigation and overall health of the lake has been seriously effected, a report of the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (ASTRA), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore stated. The construction of Ithai barrage has led to the changes in hydrological regimes thereby affecting ecological processes and functions of the wetland, inundation of agricultural lands and displacement of people from flooded lands and loss of fish population and diversity and decrease in the thickness of phumdis in the Keibul Lamjao National Park thereby threatening the survival of Sangai deer. Loktak lake, in Manipur, which is 300 square km in area, is under stress due to human encroachment, deforestation, raw sewage disposal, agricultural runoff, and siltation. Due to these, many services to the community as well as the lake quality have deteriorated. About 70% of the lake is covered with a floating heterogeneous mass of vegetation, organic debris and soil locally known as Phumdis, studies report said. These Phumdis are at various stages of decomposition and occur in various sizes and thickness. There has been a growing concern to protect and save this natural resource by the people of Manipur. There is a need to minimize or totally eliminate the organic load that enters the lake in the form of non-point and point source pollutants. Modern agricultural practices involving the extensive use of synthetic fertilizers have played a major role in increasing the inorganic pollution of these water bodies. It is now well known that nearly 70% of the applied inorganic fertilizers, mainly soluble forms of nitrogen are leached or run-off from typical flooded paddy growing areas into nearby water bodies. In a few water bodies nearer denuded hill slopes, even silt enters the water causing further problems, the report stated.

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