Call For Community Ownership And Rights To Be Recognised And Protected
Wetland Experts And Ramsar Sites Stakeholders In India

Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kerala | 4 March 2013

National Ramsar sites Stakeholders' Meeting and Wetlands Conservation Seminar at Alappuzha, Kerala
National Ramsar sites Stakeholders' Meeting and Wetlands Conservation Seminar at Alappuzha, Kerala

On the second day of the National Ramsar sites Stakeholders' Meeting and Wetlands Conservation Seminar at Alappuzha, Kerala, delegates and wetlands experts from across the country expressed their astonishment and concerns when the 8 (eight) member delegation from Manipur led by Oinam Rajen, Secretary of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen's Union took the floor and shared his story of many years of continuous torture and discrimination of fishermen and their families by the government of Manipur and its authorities culminating in conflict, displacement, arson and eviction, destruction of property, rights violations , sustained mismanagement by Loktak Development Authority (LDA), promulgation of the draconian Loktak Lake Protection Act 2006, and the day to day degradation of the Loktak Lake despite its designation as an international Ramsar site in 1990.

Out of 26 international Ramsar designated sites in India, he said that the Loktak is the only wetland in the special Montreux Record for the past 20 years because of changes in ecological character that have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur. It was a shame that despite invitations from the organizers of the national meeting supported by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, the LDA and Manipur Tourism Department did not respond positively, he further stated.

In his presentation, "Dying Mother", Oinam Rajen said that even as he left Manipur on 28 February 2013 to attend the national meeting in Kerala, his phum khangpok (Hut) and properties were destroyed by the LDA and Bishnupur District police personnel of Manipur, and cases were pending before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Gauhati High Court. He told the delegations from 20 (twenty) Ramsar sites in India that a further urgent petition has been submitted to NHRC today urging the Commission to intervene in court case as a party under the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993.

Inaugurating the meeting on 3 March 2013, Mr K.C. Venugopal, Hon'ble Minister of State for Civil Aviation emphasised that though there are many claims to good initiatives in wetlands management arriving at practicable and workable solutions is the need of the hour. Stating that in a world becoming increasingly complex every problem today is complex too, the Minister said that the full involvement of the people and other stakeholders at policy formulation and decision making is most necessary.

Giving his keynote address, Prof. (Dr.) B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kochi said that wetlands are the most productive ecosystems of the world capable of not just supporting life but also creating life. He informed the delegates that 52% of the world's wetlands have disappeared, and the conservation of existing wetlands and reclaiming lost wetlands are a priority today.

Opening the second day, renowned naturalist Dr V.S. Vijayan of the Salim Ali Foundation and former Chairperson of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, who chaired the panel reiterated that policy-makers, decision takers and politicians need to be made aware that the Supreme Court of India had declared that water is a fundamental right, and the direct and indirect ecosystem services value of wetlands amounts to 45% (14.9 trillion US dollars) of the total ecosystem services values of the world, and is 21 times more than tropical forest ecosystem values. He also said that despite India's shrinking wetlands, their annual economic contribution in ecosystem services value at Rupees 124 lakh crores annually is considerably more than the Union budget (Rupees 14.9 lakh crores per year).

Dr. Vijayan said that the top priority for States is the reclamation of lost wetlands and halting of destructive development activities, privatization of wetlands and the repeal of legislation and regulations that are aimed at invalidating existing rights and protections. Lamenting that there are no specific government authorities to be accountable for wetlands, and many departments and ministries are in confusion, States must be pressurized to develop comprehensive policies and action plans for wetlands.

The final day of the national meet will hear scientific research findings on wetlands conservation esperiences across India. The Manipur delegation included representatives of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen's Union (ALLAFU), Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE) and Environment and Human Development (EHUD).

Oinam Rajen
ALLAFU Manipur

Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy

S. Doren Singh

* This info was sent by D Roy Laifungbam (President/Convenor - Centre for Organisation Research & Education) who can be contacted at laifungbam(at)coremanipur(dot)org
This Press Release was posted on March 04, 2013.

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