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Hope ripples for Loktak
- Plan to protect Manipur wetland, turn it into tourist hub
Loktak lake

Imphal, March 20: The future appears brighter for Manipur's sprawling Loktak lake with the state government planning a massive makeover to turn it into a tourist hotspot.

As part of its multi-pronged plan to spruce up this largest freshwater lake in eastern India, the Okram Ibobi Singh government had engaged an Australian consultant to formulate a strategy following suggestions from the Planning Commission.

A project has since been formulated at a cost of Rs 400 crore and it will be forwarded to the Centre for necessary funding.

The next step is to give the Loktak Development Authority, a government agency, more power to prevent pollution, encroachment and unauthorised fishing in the lake.

In view of this, forest and environment minister Ngamthang Haokip introduced the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Bill 2006 during the ongoing budget session and the legislation is likely to be passed during this session itself.

The Loktak, a wide expanse of 236.21 square km in Bishenpur district, is rich in bio-diversity. It was designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990.

However, the lake has been under serious threat because of various factors such as silt, weeds and pollution.

These have not only led to decrease in the wetland's water-holding capacity, production of fish and generation of power by the Loktak hydroelectric project, but have also led to a loss of its bio-diversity.

'The government considers it necessary to enact an adequate law in order to protect, conserve, manage, restore and develop the lake and its resources for present and future generations,' the forest minister said while tabling the legislation.

According to experts, 40 per cent of the water body is now covered with phumdi (floating bio-mass) planted by fishermen. Under the project, the phumdi will be cleared and the fishermen rehabilitated.

The North Eastern Council has agreed to provide an initial amount of Rs 41 lakh for rehabilitation of the 1,000-member strong fishing community, an official source said.

Officials in the state tourism department have welcomed the move. 'The lake has always been a tourist attraction. If the wetland is cleared, water sports can be introduced to attract more domestic and foreign tourists,' an official of the department said.

The bill proposes to prevent alteration, lease, mortgage, transfer or allotment of any part of the lake. Besides, no person would be allowed to obtain any resources from the lake or knowledge associated thereto for research or for commercial utilisation or for bio-survey and bio-utilisation without prior permission.

The proposed legislation will also prevent anyone from transferring results of any research relating to the lake or its resources without prior approval of the lake authority.

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