Imphal: The Loktak Lake is revered as “Ima” by the inhabitants of the Manipur valley and is considered the lifeline of the state, Union Minister of Environment, Forest, & Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav said on Saturday, asserting the lake’s significance to Manipur.
Bhupender Yadav was addressing a two-day regional consultative workshop for restoration and integrated management of wetlands here.
The Union Minister said it is a very prestigious natural gift to Manipur and acts as the largest source of fish, edible plants, and freshwater.
Shri Bhupender Yadav called on every citizen of the country to join hands with the government to secure the wetlands ecosystem of the country.
Asserting that the purpose of preserving the wetland is to also preserve the lives and livelihood of the locals, he said that without people’s participation, it is not possible to conserve and preserve our wetlands.
Wetland conservation and sustainable management are deeply interrelated, he added.
Bhupender Yadav also said that today, because of the expansion of cities, consumption habits, and overpopulation, our wetlands are in danger. But despite all the difficulties, India achieved a significant milestone in its 75th year of independence by declaring 75 Ramsar sites. We are committed to increasing this number and increasing awareness of the wetlands, he added.
Further speaking on the importance of wetlands, the Union Minister said that wetlands are vital for our food and water security and that they act as the kidney of the landscape.
“Wetlands have deep connections with our beliefs and practises,” he added.
He also highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched Mission Life in October 2022, stating that Mission Life puts individual and collective duty on everyone to live a life that is in tune with the earth and doesn’t harm it.
Chief Minister of Manipur, N. Biren Singh, said wetlands are one of the most valuable ecosystems on earth and are crucial for maintaining biodiversity, regulating the water cycle, and mitigating climate change.
He said despite their importance, wetlands are under threat globally, with over 35% having been lost in the last century alone.
One wetland that is facing particular challenges is Loktak Lake in Manipur, N. Biren Singh said, adding that efforts are on for the rejuvenation of rivers falling into the lake to save the lake.
Loktak is also home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including the endangered Manipur brow-antlered deer, also known as the Sangai, he added.
However, the ecological, economic, and cultural value of Loktak Lake is under threat, he said, adding that a cabinet subcommittee has been formed in connection with efforts to fence the entire lake.
Over the last few decades, the lake has been heavily degraded due to human activities such as pollution, overfishing, and encroachment, he said, adding that the degradation of Loktak Lake has had severe ecological consequences, including the loss of biodiversity, the spread of invasive species, etc.
The Chief Minister also highlighted that one crucial step is to regulate human activities around the lake, such as reducing pollution, regulating fishing practises, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Additionally, sustainable tourism practises can be promoted to raise awareness about the ecological, economic, and cultural value of Loktak Lake and generate revenue for conservation efforts.
Loktak Development Authority (LDA) has been doing a tremendous job in this regard, he said, adding that the LDA over the years has grown into a professional lake management organisation through the experiences gained and a systematic process of capacity building at various levels to effectively respond to the challenges of managing Loktak Lake through integrated lake basin management practises.
A book, “Cultural Significance of Indian Wetlands,” was also released during the session.
The session was also attended by Minister for Forest, Environment, and Climate Change, Th. Biswajit Singh; Loktak Development Authority Chairman, M. Asnikumar Singh; officials of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change; GOI and GOM, representatives from all states of the North Eastern region, experts, intellectuals, among others.
During the session, Joint Secretary MoEF & CC Government of India, Dr. Sujit Bajpayee, briefed on the workshop, while the respective moderators of the discussions presented the recommendations of the roundtable discussions.