Loktak Fishers Express Concerns Over Government’s Unilateral Push for Inland Waterways Project
Imphal: In a significant development, the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishers Union, Manipur (ALLAFUM), has questions the Government of Manipur’s unilateral decision to advance the proposed Loktak Inland Waterways Project. The fishers union contends that the government’s move lacks consultation with the local fishing community residing in and around the Loktak Lake peripheral areas.
Expressing concerns over the potential adverse effects on the lake’s ecology and the traditional livelihoods of numerous fisher families, ALLAFUM criticizes the government for not including fishers as primary stakeholders in the state-level discussions about the project.
Secretary Oinam Rajen highlighted that the recent interaction sessions organized by the Transport Department deliberately excluded Loktak fishers, while unrelated groups like the All Manipur Entrepreneur Association (AMEA) were invited.
The fishers union underscores that the government’s action contradicts the earlier opposition voiced by Loktak fishers against the Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project, citing potential negative impacts on the lake ecosystem and fishers’ livelihoods. Despite a directive from the High Court of Manipur in 2022 instructing authorities not to initiate development works around Loktak Lake without court permission, the government appears to be pushing forward with the project.
The High Court’s involvement stems from Supreme Court directions to maintain the status of Ramsar sites across the country, including Loktak Lake. The PIL initiated by the High Court in 2017 sought the State Government’s response on ecosystem restoration measures for Loktak Lake, emphasizing the need to prevent developmental projects from compromising the lake’s Ramsar site status.
Loktak Lake has long been embroiled in controversy due to disruptions in its hydrological regime caused by the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Hydroelectric Power Project since 1983. The barrage has been implicated in ecological and environmental challenges within the Manipur River Basin, negatively impacting biodiversity and fishers’ livelihoods.
ALLAFUM vehemently opposes the government’s initiative to advance the inland waterways project without consulting the Loktak Lake-dependent fishing community and considering potential negative impacts on the lake’s ecosystem. The fishers union calls for a more inclusive and environmentally conscious approach in decision-making processes related to Loktak Lake and its surroundings.