World Wetlands Day 2020 & Wetlands in Manipur

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

 Beautiful vista of Lamphelpat landscape during the last part of summer season :: October 2013
Beautiful vista of Lamphelpat landscape in October 2013 :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam

World Wetland Day is organized every year on 2nd February to mark the day that small group of Environmentalists signed an International Agreement on this day at RAMSAR Convention in Iran on the shore of Caspian Sea in 1971. Established to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet, WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997 and has grown since then.

Each year government agencies and non-government organizations and group of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of the wetland values and benefits such as and benefits conservation.

Some of these benefits includes biologically diverse ecosystem that provide habitat for many species serve as buffer on the coast against storms and flooding and naturally filter water by breaking down on transforming harmful pollutants. The theme of this year World wetland Day is “WETLAND and BIODIVERSITY”.

The 2020 theme for World wetland Day is an opportunity, its status, why it matters and promote actions to reverse its loss. According to “The Ramsar Convention” wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters .

Fish ponds, rice paddies, and depollution’s and stabilization ponds and salt ponds are human- made wetlands are vital for human for other ecosystem and for our climate providing essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, including flood control and water purification.

Wetland- Biodiversity matters for our health, our food supply, for tourism and jobs. Wetlands also absorb carbon dioxide, so help slow global heating and reduce pollution, hence have often been referred to as the “KIDNEYS OF THE EARTH”. Though, wetland covers only around 6% of the earth’s land surface, 40% of all plants and animals species live or breed in wetlands. The worrying thing is that they are disappearing three times faster than forests, due to human activities and global heating.

Wetlands are fantastically valuable multifunctional habits- they nurture a great diversity of life, provide water and other resources, protect us from flooding and act as great filters easing pollution. The loss of wetlands due to development pressure has been enormous but these ecosystem can be restored to generate benefits for people and natural- wetland form an important part of nature.

But, nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history—and the rate of species extinction is accelerating with grave impacts on people around the world now, likely according to a landmark report by “Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform “on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services.

The Manipur valley is located as an in tramontane basin filled with alluvium of fluvial – lacustrine origin of Quaternary age in the Indo- Myanmar range of North-east India. The valley is confined between 24 degree 16 minutes and 25 degree 2 minutes North latitudes and 93 degree 41 minutes and 94 degree 9 minute East longitudes ,covering an area of approximately 1920 with a population of more than 2 million people.

This valley is mainly occupied by wetlands like ponds, swamps, pale channels, lake, agricultural fields and flood plains. Historically these wetlands have been emotionally relating to cultural and ritual activities, fortification and recreational activities since the beginning of the Manipuri culture. Presently the wetlands are used for water supplies for domestic consumption, irrigation, industrial purposes and fish production.

The rapid urbanization, massive increase in population, local climate change cause significant diminishing and shrinkage of these wetlands and thus creating a cultural gap as the ritual activities around these surface water bodies are no more practiced.

Further mismanagement and negligence on the treatment of domestic solid waste deteriorates the quality of our water bodies. Artificial eutrophication coupled with climate changes, it reduces oxygen level and increases acidic level in the wetlands waters further worsen the quality leading to the extinction of some fish species from these waters. Therefore, it is high time to avoid demolishing these wetlands and rejuvenate them to maintain the age old socio- cultural relationship it bears.

According to the recent survey conducted by the Remote Sensing Application Centers Government of Manipur, there are 17 lakes and 2-ox-bow lakes in the state of Manipur. Largest number of lakes are in Imphal and Thoubal Districts. However there are also a number of smaller lakes which are termed as Kom(pits).

About 134 water logged marshy and swampy wetlands are in different districts. These areas are low lying situated either in the peripheral area or vicinity of the lakes. Highest number of water logged areas are recorded in Imphal valley (69), followed by Thoubal (40) and Bishnupur districts (21). There are 2 man-made reservoirs, one each in Senapati and Tamenglong districts.

The lakes in the state are comparatively old with their own distinct characteristic life-span, topographical, physiological as well as hydrologic features. These features have been closely related to the evolving geo-physical features of the state. In the state, there were about 500 lakes in the valley in the beginning of 20th Century.

They have been reduced fast in the past few years and as a result hardly 55 lakes were found existing in the state by 1950s. Loktak Lake is the most important fresh water lake not only in the state but also in the entire North-East India. But its fate is uncertain now as it is the apple of thesaurus for political leaders and for those who are pretend to save it.

Other important existing lakes which are in the state of extreme danger are Ikop, Waithou, Ngakrapat and Loushipat. These lakes remain threatened due to artificial eutrophication and encroachment for cultivation and fish farming.

Highly degraded lakes in the state are Kharungpat, Khoidumpat, Pumlen pat, Sanapat, Yaralpat and poiroupat forgetting about Lamphelpat, Porompat and Akampat which are no more a lake but still Skelton of being one time a lake is seen.

So simply shouting at the public platform on this day with print and electronic media coverage will not do anything to save from this fiasco until those who shouts are sincere and honest enough else your shouting may not rule out the outbreak of another epidemic like CORONA Virus in this little Paradise.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a Faculty at NIELIT, Imphal , Akampat and can be contacted at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 18, 2020.

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