Loktak Lake being cleared of encroachments

There are about 5,000 family members living in these floating huts in localities within the Loktak lake.

Imphal: The majestic Loktak Lake in
Manipur is being cleared of all floating fishing huts that
have mushroomed encroaching upon the core zone of the wetland.

"We have given them a notice to vacate the lake and
have also given them a proper compensation package. Those who
are not accepting it, we are dismantling their settlements and
burning the huts. Without doing that, we cannot protect the
ecology of the lake," Manipur`s DGP Joykumar Singh told PTI.

Inside the 286 square km lake, a designated Ramsar
Site, which is spread across three valley districts of Imphal
West, Bishnupur and Thoubal, local people engage in fishing by
erecting huts on floating biomass known as `phumdies`.

According to a report by Wetlands International, the
proliferation of `phumdies` and detrimental fishing practices
like `atha phums` have resulted in the degradation of the

The Loktak Development Authority (LDA) had issued a
notice on November 11 announcing a livelihood package of Rs
40,000 for each `phum` hut dwellers, who were asked to vacate
it after receiving the payment.

The LDA started its eviction drive on November 16
citing section 20 and 21 of the Manipur Loktak Lake
(Protection) Act, 2006, under which building floating huts
inside the core zone of the lake is prohibited.

"Around 1000 huts have encroached upon the lake in the
core zone. Besides choking the waterbody, they use detrimental
fishing practices. We have already removed 400 huts and will
clear the remaining in the next 2-3 days," LDA`s project
co-ordinator Sanajaoba Meitei said.

However, the fishermen are still allowed to fish in
the lake. "All we want is that there should be no permanent
settlements inside it. They can come, fish and go back home,"
he said.

There are about 5,000 family members living in these
floating huts in localities like Khuman Yangbi, Nambul Machin
and Karang Sabal within the Loktak lake.

Local people say that more than a thousand people have
already been displaced as a result of the eviction drive in
the core zone comprising 70.30 sq km, which is a no
development zone.

The affected family members including women, children
and elderly are seeking refuge at Ningthoukhong Makha Leikai
community hall in Bishenpur district.

"Having lost all their belongings, including books,
uniforms and school bags, many children can no longer go to
school. With the winter already setting in Manipur, the
displaced villagers are left to fend for themselves during the
harsh weather," the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights
Commission said in its report.

The failure to obtain consent of the affected
communities also constitutes a serious form of discrimination
targeting the marginalised communities and violates the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it said.

The National Association of Fishermen has already
submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
requesting him to instruct the Manipur government to stop
burning down of huts of fishermen at Loktak Lake.

Police and LDA officials, however, say that there has
been no displacement due to the eviction drive as all
fishermen have permanent houses on the mainland besides `phum`

"The issue is getting politicised unnecessarily. All
fishermen have huts in the mainland also, so where is the
question of displacement?" DGP Singh said expressing surprise.


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