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Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for concerted conservation efforts

Ng Liklaileima Arambam *

Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for concerted conservation efforts
Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for concerted conservation efforts :: Pix - TSE



From TSE News - 04th January 2021

The historically significant Lamphelpat is staring at an uncertain future. This wetland in the urban area of Imphal West district is about 19.22 square kilometres and "shrinking", said experts. Lamphel in Imphal West is about 60 square kilometres in area and comprises 25.01 sq km in rural area and 34.99 sq km in urban area.

And for many years, the famous Lamphelpat had been providing its abundant resources and services to the surrounding people. The wetland stores water drained from the Lamphel Reserve Forest and the Nambul River. It brought down the temperature and controlled or mitigated flood by storing the excess water from Nambul River. Now all these have been affected by uncontrolled anthropogenic activities and negligence.

With siltation, human encroachment and dumping of waste materials in the wetland, the Lamphelpat has lost its original glory. Siltation and dumping of waste materials have made it shallower every year and water plants and weeds have wholly covered the wetland suffocating it.

Speaking to this reporter, Deputy Director of Directorate of Environment and Climate Change, Dr T Brajakumar said, "Wetlands offer many benefits or services. They regulate micro- climate and bring down temperature of the local area. They help mitigate floods and support biodiversity. They are home to many flora and fauna essential to maintaining ecological balance" .

On conservation, he said that bringing water back to the wetland only would not help preserve and save it. "A wetland can be said to have been restored and preserved when it resumes all the ecosystem services. It would again support all the flora and fauna and regulate micro-climate".

Elaborating about the wetlands and micro-climate, Brajakumar said that the densely populated urban area of Imphal or the Urban Heat Island (UHI) is warmer than the rural areas surrounding it. This excess heat is created by energy from all the people, cars, buses and infrastructures.

However, the presence of a healthy urban wetland would provide a micro-climate, a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas. It (wetland) would cool or bring down the temperature in the urban area by absorbing carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases, he said.

Further, if the Lamphelpat is restored and successfully conserved, it would reduce or mitigate flash floods that happen frequently in Imphal area. Human settlement and development can take place vertically without affecting the wetland, he said adding that timely and speedy conservation of the wetland would benefit all.

He also opined that resources mapping may be done to protect and conserve them. State Wetland Technical Committee Chairman Dr Kh Samungou stated that the Lamphelpat is one among many wetlands the committee recommended to the State Wetland Authority for conservation.

The Lamphelpat was also famous for Kombirei flower. Conserving the wetland would not only bring back this flower but also migratory birds. Conserving the wetland would also attract tourists, he said. On the other hand, NIT Manipur's Assistant Professor Ng Romeji said the soil profile of the Lamphelpat has revealed that it contains about 20 feet thick layer of soil made of decomposed biomass and soft clay.

This soil profile confirms that it was a wetland, he said adding that the upper soil of the Lamphelpat burns when dried and ignited because it is composed of decomposed biomass. The Assistant Professor who is also a member of the NIT Planning and Development Section said that the soil of Lamphelpat is not suitable for major construction and as such there had been discussion to build some of the infrastructure of the institute elsewhere.

He further stated that there have been frequent floods in the wetland area as the Samusang Uku (culvert-drainage/discharge point) was narrow. During the 2015 flood, about 1131 mm water was drained into the Lamphelpat when discharge capacity at Samusang Uku was about 31.2 cubic metre per second.

During the rainy season of 2018, about 1974 mm water was drained into the wetland when the Samusang Uku was able to discharge only about 18.3 cubic metre per second. This made the water level of Lamphelpat rise enormously flooding the surrounding areas, he said.

On the other hand, historian Soram Lokeshwar recalled that the Lamphelpat was a source of livelihood for the locals. Locals used to fish in the water and cattle grazed in the wetland. There were no major settlements and infrastructure development in the wetland area till the 1960s.Since the 60s, there have been massive changes in terms of settlement and infrastructure development in the wetland.

Now there is Central Agricultural University, Zoo, Games Village, Langol Housing Complex, NIT, Sewage Plan and other Government offices and projects in the wetland area. There are three major roads-Games village road, Shija Hospital road and Central School road, all of which are affecting and disturbing the natural flow of water causing floods, he said.

The Lamphelpat used to mitigate floods, now it is causing floods. The wetland should be conserved in time before it is too late, he added. Meanwhile, sources at the Water Resources Department said development of a 442 square kilometres water body in Lamphelpat area is in the pipeline.

The project with an estimated cost of around Rs 650 crore would be implemented under the Ministry of Jal Shakti with funding from the World Bank. 80 percent of the cost will be borne by the Centre while the remaining 20 percent will be covered by the State Government.

The project aims at improving and enhancing supply of drinking water, flood control and eco-tourism. The planned water body would store excess water from Nambul River and water collected from various sources and catchment areas would be further treated for use in water supply schemes. The project is likely to start from April this year, said the sources.


* Ng Liklaileima Arambam wrote this as a news article for The Sangai Express edition of 04th January 2021
This article was reported under Khelen Thokchom Media Fellowship .
This article was webcasted on January 04 , 2021 .



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