Imphal: Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav while highlighting the Loktak lake’s significance to Manipur said the Loktak Lake is revered as “Ima” by the inhabitants of the Manipur valley and is considered the lifeline of the State.
Bhupender Yadav was addressing a two-day Regional Consultative Workshop for Restoration and Integrated Management of Wetlands at Hotel Classic Grande, Imphal on Saturday.
The Union Minister said it is a very prestigious natural gift to Manipur and acts as the largest source of fish, edible plants and fresh water.
Bhupender Yadav called on every citizen of the country to join hands with the government to secure the wetlands eco-system of the country.
Asserting that the purpose of preserving the wetland is to also preserve the lives and livelihood of the locals, he said that without people participation it is not possible to conserve and preserve our wetlands.
Wetlands conservation and sustainable management are deeply interrelated, he added.
Bhupender Yadav also said that today because of the expansion of cities, consumption habits, over explosion of population, our wetlands are in danger. But despite all the difficulties, India achieved the significant milestone on its 75th year of Independence by declaring 75 wetlands as Ramsar sites. We are committed to increase this number and committed to increase more awareness of the wetlands, he added.
Further speaking on the importance of wetlands, the Union Minister said that the wetlands are vital for our food and water security and that it acts as the kidney of landscape.
Wetlands have deep connections with our beliefs and practices, he added.
The Union Minister also said that it is pertinent that wetlands are mainstreamed in the developmental agenda. This requires integration of conservation and sustainable development of wetlands at district level plans and programmes, prepared for different sectors such as tourism, disaster management, environment and others.
The Union Minister also said that conservation of wetlands cannot be the government’s responsibility alone, wetlands are essentially societal assets with the government acting as trustee of these assets and unless the entire society participate, and partner in wetland conservation tangible change cannot be achieved.
He also highlighted that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had launched Mission Life in October 2022 stating that that Mission Life puts individual and collective duty on everyone to live a life that is in tune with earth and doesn’t harm it.
The Union Minister also spoke on the importance of Amrit Dharohar Mission and said it will be implemented over the next three years to encourage optimal use of wetlands, and enhance bio-diversity, carbon stock, eco-tourism opportunities and income generation for local communities.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said wetlands are one of the most valuable ecosystems on earth and are crucial for maintaining biodiversity, regulating the water cycle, and mitigating climate change.
He said despite their importance, wetlands are under threat globally, with over 35% having been lost in the last century alone.
One wetland that is facing particular challenges is Loktak Lake of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh said adding that efforts are on for rejuvenation of rivers falling into the lake to save the lake.
Loktak is also home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including the endangered Manipur brow-antlered deer, also known as the Sangai, he added.
However, the ecological, economic, and cultural value of Loktak Lake is under threat, he said adding that cabinet sub-committee has been formed in connection with efforts to fence the entire lake.
Over the last few decades, the lake has been heavily degraded due to human activities such as pollution, overfishing, and encroachment, he said adding that the degradation of Loktak Lake has had severe ecological consequences, including the loss of biodiversity, the spread of invasive species etc, the Chief Minister said.
Furthermore, Loktak Lake is also economically important for the surrounding communities, who rely on the lake for fishing, agriculture, and tourism, he said adding that the cultural value of Loktak Lake is also significant, he added.
The Chief Minister said it is considered a sacred site by the indigenous communities living around the lake, who use the lake for religious and cultural ceremonies.
To save Loktak Lake and other wetlands like it, there is an urgent need for effective management and conservation efforts, he said.
The Chief Minister also highlighted that one crucial step is to regulate human activities around the lake, such as reducing pollution, regulating fishing practices, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Additionally, sustainable tourism practices can be promoted to raise awareness about the ecological, economic, and cultural value of Loktak Lake and to generate revenue for conservation efforts.
Loktak Development Authority (LDA) has been doing a tremendous job in this regard, he said adding that the LDA over the years has grown into a professional lake management organization through the experiences gained and a systematic process of capacity building at various levels to effectively respond to the challenges of managing Loktak Lake through integrated lake basin management practices.
He further expressed hope that this workshop conducted under the Sahbhagita Mission to conserve and manage the country wetlands will deal with the challenges that lay ahead of us in conserving the wetlands of our country.
As Sahbhagita Mission involves local communities in conservation efforts, it is only through participatory processes that the Mission will succeed in creating awareness about the importance of wetlands and their services, including water purification, flood control, and carbon sequestration, he added.
A book “Cultural significance of Indian Wetlands” was also released during the session.
The session was also attended by Minister for Forest, Environment and Climate Change Th. Biswajit Singh, Loktak Development Authority Chairman, Shri M. Asnikumar Singh, officials of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, GOI and GOM, representatives from all States of the North Eastern region, experts, intellectuals among others.
During the session, Joint Secretary MoEF & CC Government of India Dr. Sujit Bajpayee briefed on the workshop while the respective moderators of the discussions presented the recommendations of the roundtable discussions.