The potential of Keibul Lamjao National Park for inscription as World Natural Heritage Site
- Part 2 -

By Kh Hitler Singh *

The boundary of Keibul Lamjao National Park is defined as follows as per the Government of Manipur Notification No. 60/20/75-For Dated March 28, 1977.

North: Starting from the western corner of Keibul hillock along its northern foothills and then turning towards north easterly direction to the northern foothills of the Waroi ching and the Chingthi, bordering the Tolengpat;

East: From the north-eastern foot-hills of the Chingthi hillock turning in the southerly direction along the eastern boundary of the Laphupat, bordering Komlakhong and Tera villages patta lands and thence turning in a southerly direction along the Khordak and the Nongmaikhong village pattalands and then to the Lousikhong;

South: From the Lousikhong along the North-westerly direction to the Luwangkhong and thence along the Thanga Lawai, Keirenphabi and Chingmei villages’ pattaland to the southwestern foot hills of the Chingmei hill reserved Forest;

West: From the south-western foothills of the Chingmei hill reserved forest and thence along the western foothills to the northernmost tip of the reserved forest and thence towards north-eastern direction bordering Keibul and Sagram villages patta lands and thence to the western foot-hills of the Keibul hillock.

Justification Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

(I) Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only floating National Park in the world. A Unique floating habitat locally known as phumdi (a closely knitted vegetation of several aquatic plants, soil nutrients and debris of vegetation floating in the fresh water) and interspersed small islet hillocks are the preferred habitat of the rare and endemic deer species of Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) and many other associate wildlife found in this park.

(II) Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) is one of the three sub-species of Rucervus eldii found in the South-East Asia. The other two sub-species are Rucervus eldii thamin distributed in Mynmar and Thailand and Rucervus eldii siamensis distributed in Thailand and South China.

All the three deer species have been classified as “Endangered” by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources or the World Conservation Union) in 2008. Of three sub-species, Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii) is the most endangered because of its small isolated population (less than 250 individuals) in an isolated deteriorating habitat. (IUCN 2008).

Threat to the Property

1. The major threat to the park is the deteriorating habitat condition of the Park. There is change in the natural cycle of water flow; flushing mechanism of the lake is out of place and the phumdi are constantly floating throughout the year resulting in the decrease thickness of phumdi. The reason attributed for this is due to construction of Ithai Barrage under Loktak Multi Purpose Project in 1983 where high level of water is maintained (between 768 m (2519.7 ft) and 768.5 m (2521.3 ft) during October to March - the dry months of the year. This has disturbed the natural cycle of floating and sinking of phumdis at the National Park area.

2. Before the construction of Loktak Hydro Electric Project, the phumdis floated during flooding by backflow from the Khordak River and discharge from other streams and nalas and settled down on lake bed during dry season when water was drawn out through the same river. This resulted in enhancing of nutrients and minerals of the phumdi vegetation from the bottom of the lake during dry season. But this cycle is no more because of the Ithai Barrage. There is high degree of apprehension that at some later stage the phumdis may not be able to support the weight of Sangai deer.

3. Encroachment and illegal entry to the National Park Area by the ever increasing human population around the park are serious challenges to the management of Keibul Lamjao National park. These illegal activities pose a serious threat to the attempt for inclusion as World Natural Heritage Site.

4. Earlier, there was only marshy land in the park area but after commissioning of the hydroelectric project two ecosystems have emerged; one with water body covering one third of the area of the Park and the other is phumdis, which covers two thirds area of the Park.

5. The water quality is deteriorated due to the pollutants coming from vast agricultural areas and different rivulets such as Nambul, Yangoi Chaoba, Yangoi Macha, Nambol, Thongjaorok, Ningthoukhong and Moirang rivulets flowing into the Loktak Lake. The assessment of mineral accumulation indicates that annually 478.6 tons of Nitrogen, 39.6 tons of Phosphorus and 157.20 tons of Potassium are accumulated within the phumdis of Northern Zone of the National Park.

6. The Sangai deer (Rucervus eldii eldii) has the inherent biological bottleneck of inbreeding depression as the present population has been built up with founder population of mere 14 (fourteen) individuals during seventies. (Dr SA Hussain and Dr Kh Shamungou Singh)

7. The fluid law and order problems witnessing in the State also hinder in proper planning and implementation of Management activities in the National Park.

Present Management of the Park: The Park is all surrounded by human habitation except on park boundaries with the water of Loktak Lake. The Park has no buffer Zone. There is zone of influences all around the Park from domestic cattle and local poor for grazing, fishing, collection of vegetation and other forest products including hunting of wild animals and birds. The Park is now well managed by the full time Forest Officials consisting of one Deputy Conservator of Forests and his subordinate staff.

The incidence of poaching has been drastically controlled. Participatory approach enlisting support from intellectuals, universities, national institutions, local peoples, print and electronic media and other important stake-holders is being adopted in protecting the natural resources. The officials are now having very good rapport and mutual trust with the local people. Some awareness measures and trust building activities are taken up every year besides visitors’ management and habitat improvement activities.

But the long term conservation of Sangai deer and its natural habitat may require compromising with the developmental and societal requirement of the Park and Loktak Lake’s natural resources. Thus a lot of people’s alternative income generating activities is to be carried out so as to divert them from depending on the Park’s resources.

The Park is getting financial assistance from both the State Government and Central Government. But the assistance is too meagre to manage the park with the ever increasing human population around the Park. The other short coming is the manning of the Park with a very few protection staff (25 nos) to protect 40 Sq Km Park area and 39 Km long Park boundary.

Conclusion: The inscription of Keibul Lamjao National Park in the World Heritage List will ensure long term conservation of Sangai Deer (Rucervus eldii eldii) and its unique habitat by enlisting conservation support from international organizations, legislatures, biologists, environmentalists, intellectuals, administrators, policy makers etc. all over the globe.

The Park will not only be eligible for additional international assistance from World Heritage Fund but also be benefited with capacity building opportunities to all level of Park managers with the latest globally recognized institutions and their support. To get the status of World Heritage Site the surrounding villagers are requested not encroach the park area; as such activities may reduce the possibility of KLNP for inscription in the World Natural Heritage List.

If the Property is in-scripted in the Heritage List there is very likelihood that a Mid-Project Environmental Impact Assessment of Loktak Hydro Power Project may be taken up for mitigating any serious adverse impact to the Sangai Deer (Rucervus eldii eldii) and its habitat since Keibul Lamjao National Park is one of the major stakeholder aspiring non-deteriorated ecosystem of Loktak Lake.

*** This article is based on my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the policy or understanding of the department or the Government.


* Kh Hitler Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on July 7 2010.

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