TODAY -

Importance of protecting Loktak Lake emphasized on World Wetlands Day
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, February 03 2021: Fisher unions and farming communities of Manipur observed World Wetlands Day yesterday at Tonoma Chingjin, Mamang Ching, Pumlen Pat-a wetland devastated by the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Hydroelectric Project.

The event was organised by Ngamee Lup, a federation of fisher unions and other associations of Loktak and surrounding wetland areas including Pumlen and Khoidum Lamjao in coordination with Indigenous Perspectives (Imphal) and Environment Support Group (Bangalore) and was hosted by Pumlenpat Ngamee Sinmee Lup.

The focus of the event was to demand Wetlands International South Asia and Loktak Development Authority must unconditionally withdraw Loktak-An Integrated Plan For Wise Use (2020-2025) and the Government to repeal the draconian Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006 .

The federation also demanded cancellation of Loktak Inland Waterways Project and the Loktak Eco tourism project.

The occasion was also an event asserting the indigenous and natural right of present and future generations' to access these wetland commons without repressive action of the Government of Manipur and Loktak Development Authority (LDA), as has been the case periodically.

The event witnessed active participation of people living in and around Loktak, Pumlen and Khoidum Lamjao and also representatives of fish workers living on Champu Khangpok, the floating village of Loktak.

Members from Human Rights Alert (HRA) and Extrajudicial Execution Family Association Manipur (EEVFAM)', Imphal-based organisations working for the protection of civil and political rights of the people of Manipur, the Lawyers from Imphal and Manipur Loumee Marup (affiliates of All India Kisan Sabha) participated to extend solidarity with the struggle of the locals.

Representatives from Girl Up Manipur and Fridays For Future (Manipur Chapter) were also present.

Delivering the keynote address Salam Joy, Secretary of Pumlen Pat Ngamee Sinmee Lup highlighted how their land was destroyed by the Ithai Barrage in the 1980s.For his community the result of commissioning the Ithai Barrage across the Manipur River has been equivalent to pushing them into conditions of forced poverty, he added.

He maintained that for 40 long years the community has been eking out a living by nurturing small fishing zones, and that too without any support from the government.

Now the land on which they farm and fish is also on the verge of being taken over for various infrastructure and mass tourism projects.

He asserted that the wetland is their ancestral territory, and the entire community is resolved to resist the takeover of these biodiversity by corporations backed by the government.

Ratan Yumnam, the Secretary of Manipur Loumee Marup (Manipur Farmers Union), drew attention to the strong linkage between the ongoing farmers' protest across the country and the struggle of the Loktak people.

He said it is time the farmers and the fisherfolks of Loktak and the surrounding wetlands come together with those who are leading the movement against the repressive pro-capitalist system.

He emphasised on the importance of collectively fighting against undemocratic and oppressive projects that would certainly result in destruction of wetlands and displacement of fishing and farming communities in Manipur.

Babloo Loitongbam, Director of Human Rights Alert, said the Government policy and programs are antithetical to conservation and livelihood of the people of the Loktak and the other wetlands.

He said that the right to life and livelihood are enshrined in the Constitution of India and the Government of Manipur cannot bypass any of the laws that seek to protect them.

He also said that human rights groups in Manipur and also those across the world should help the people of the wetlands thereby protecting their livelihood.

Ram Wangkheirakpam, Convener of Ngamee Lup, read out a Global Petition that asserts rights of local indigenous communities to continue to live in the Loktak region without being disturbed by destructive projects and draconian laws and State's action.

The petition calls on the international community to support the struggle of the fishing community of Loktak Wetlands region.

The event came to an end with release of campaign posters by Lanchenbi, Panchayat member of Khoidum Lamjao,a symbolic gesture to mark observance of the World Wetlands Day at Pumlen Pat and of resisting projects that attack human rights and destroy nature.


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