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Fish species of Manipur on the brink of extinction
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Sobhapati Samom

Imphal, March 30 2011: The largest global environmental network, International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), has listed 15 fish species including seven from Manipur as 'Endangered freshwater fish species' in their recently released red list of threatened species report on the status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in eastern Himalaya which covers the entire NE states and parts of eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Manipur's seven fish species in the IUCN red list are Ngakha Meingangbi (Puntius manipurensis) Ngatup (Schistura Kanjupkhulensis), Ngatup makhal ama (Schistura minutes), Ngatup manba nga (Schistura reticula), Ching-ngakra (Pterocryptis barakensis), Ching-Ukabi (Badis tuivaiei) and Nung-nga (Psilorhynchus microphthalamus) .

A six member research team headed by renowned fish researcher Prof Waikhom Vishwanath of Manipur University's Life Science department conducted the research work on the status and distribution of freshwater fishes of the eastern Himalaya region which comprises of the Ganga delta and plain, Ganga Himalayan foothills, Upper Brahmaputra, Middle Brahmaputra, Chin hills-Arakan coast and Sittang-Irrawaddy eco-region, for compiling IUCN's red list report.

The other co-researchers are Heok Hee Ng of National University of Singapore, Ralf Britz of The Natural History of Museum, London, L Kosygin Singh of Zoological Survey of India (Orissa), Shivaji Chaudhry of BG Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development and Kevin W Conway of Texas and A&M University.

"It took one year to compile it (IUCN's report) by studying 115 fish species out of 520 species found in the eastern Himalaya region", Prof W Vishwanath said.

"Interestingly out of the 50 freshwater fishes listed as vulnerable there are 23 more fish species from Manipur" .

According to the IUCN document, half of fish species(263) in eastern Himalaya are categorized as Least Concerned while 27 per cent (141 species)are under Data Deficient category.

Only 1 per cent of the species(5) are Critically Endangered including one nemacheiline loach, Schistura papulifera is endemic in eastern Meghalaya's Krem Synrang Pamiang cave system in Jaintia hills, while Endangered occupies hardly 3 per cent species (15) .

Besides 9 per cent of them (46) are categorized as Near Threatened category.

Though no species was categorized as globally extinct or extinct in the wild in the eastern Himalaya assessment region, Manipur's state fish Pengba (Osteobrama belangeri) was reported to be regionally extinct in the wild as the route of this Ayeyarwaddy basin (Myanmar) origin minor carp has been disturbed with the construction of the Ithai barrage across Manipur river for the operation of the Loktak hydro-electric project 28 years ago.

Drying up of wetlands due to siltation and conversion of Loktak, largest freshwater lake in NE India (40,000 hectare), into a water reservoir after commissioning of the above project, caused a drastic change in Manipur's aquatic environment forcing many species including Nganap (Pangio pangia), Sareng Khoibi (botia berdmorei), Ngasep (mystus bleekeri) and Ngamu (Channa orientalis) vulnerable.

Manipur has more than 200 fish species.

"Pollution, habitat loss, damming, over-exploitation besides species invasion are the major threats in Manipur," Prof Vishwanath said when enquired.

"Fishes in the Chindwin basin, in Manipur, particularly Imphal river and its tributaries are so vulnerable unlike the Bramhaputra basin where the species may find similar habitat for their survival" .

Besides the development of Moreh (India) and Tamu (Myanmar)-both border townships during the 16 year old Indo-Myanmar border trade has impacted on the aquatic environment in Lokchao river in Manipur and Yu river in Myanmar.

Barak basin in south western Manipur is also under threat, the IUCN report added.

Manipur's western hills are drained by the Barak and its tributaries before it enters Assam's Cachar district to finally enter Bangladesh and join Surma-Meghna basin.

The proposed development of the Tipaimukh High Dam hydro-electric project along Manipur-Mizoram-Assam border there will be a flow modification and flooding of the Barak basin in the western part of Manipur.

"Many species endemic to the Barak basin including Ching-Ukabi(Badis tuivaiei), Ching-Ngakra(Pterocryptis barakensis), Ngatup manbi (Schistura minutus) and Ching-nga(Schistura tigrinum) are assessed as endangered or as vulnerable", it added.


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