ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Govt. of India

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State Govt advised to submit action plan: Bhupender Yadav Union Minister details steps to protect Loktak

 Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, April 28 2023: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has advised the State Government to submit an action plan to mitigate the issues of changes in water regimes of Loktak Lake, phumdi proliferation, water quality deterioration, loss of migratory fish, degradation of Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP) habitat and conversion of natural phumdi into fish farms inside the lake.

The Ministry has also asked the State Government to submit a timeline for removal of Loktak Lake from the Montreux Records (The Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the list of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.

It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List) Loktak Development Authority (LDA) has also been advised to update the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) of Loktak Lake on priority basis.

Replying to queries raised by the media and some environment activists, Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav said that the Ministry has been providing financial assistance for Loktak Lake since 1988-89 to the Government of Manipur for undertaking conservation activities like survey and demarcation, catchment area treatment, fisheries development, removal of phumdis, constructing water harvesting structures, small scale engineering works, creation of education and awareness etc.

So far, an amount of Rs 16.86 crore has been released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to the Government of Manipur.

Further, the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) prepared by LDA has been examined by IIT Roorkee and certain suggestions have been given.

The Ministry has asked the LDA to submit a revised plan addressing all issues related to conservation of Loktak Lake for endorsement by the Ministry for its implementation,, Bhupender Yadav said.

On being asked about measures taken up for upliftment of livelihood or alternative livelihoods of the wetland people, Bhupender Yadav said that the Government intends to enhance livelihood opportunities of the local communities through developing eco-tourism infrastructure in and around the lake and need-based capacity building of local communities.

He said that the Ministry has already taken up the issue of Ithai Barrage operation with the Ministry of Power and NHPC.

After due deliberation, NHPC has agreed to lower the water level of Ithai barrage gradually to the drawdown level in the forthcoming winter season starting from November 2023 to rejuvenate KLNP habitat as per a technical report of 2011 .

With lowering of water levels in winters, the park habitat will improve along with improved circulation and flushing in the wetland, he said.

To another query regarding steps to protect Loktak from inflow of waste (brought down by river/streams flowing) into the lake, Bhupender Yadav said, "As informed by the State Government of Manipur, commissioning of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) and implementation of activities as envisaged in the Integrated Management Plan will substantially reduce loading of pollutants into the lake" .

The State Government has also commissioned the construction of STPs at Nambul with the financial assistance of Rs 100 crore provided under the NRCP scheme by NRCD for effective functioning of existing waste management infrastructure.

It will be commissioned by June 2023 to capture and treat waste from Imphal city and Nambul river and take care of the discharge of untreated sewage into Loktak, he said.

On being enquired if there is any long term plan to protect Loktak from encroachment, Bhupender said that the MoEF&CC has suggested the Government of Manipur to immediately submit an action plan along with a timeline and a map with clear demarcation of the wetland boundary following guidelines provided by the Ministry and as per provisions laid by the Ramsar Secretariat for removal of Loktak Lake from Montreux Record.

To another query on the responsibility of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (NHPC) towards rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced communities affected by the Loktak hydroelectric power project since 1983, he said that the project was implemented before the EIA notification of 1994 and 2006 .

Therefore, environment clearance of the project was not applicable for the construction of the project.

Works on the project commenced in 1971 and it was commissioned in 1983 .

NHPC informed that for construction of Loktak project 217.09 ha of private land were purchased from landowners of 11 villages at different sites of the project and full compensation was paid to land owners before land possession but rehabilitation and resettlement was not applicable at that time, he conveyed.

On steps taken up by the Government of India for ecosystem restoration of Loktak Lake, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that an Integrated Management Plan (IMP) of Loktak Lake was received at the Ministry for endorsement.

The plan envisages to put in place Manipur River Basin scale actions, such as conserving catchment to control silt, abating pollution generated from upstream cities, demarcating wetland boundaries, managing water regimes and supporting livelihoods diversification of wetland dependent communities.

IMP includes core and non-core activities in the lake area and its zone of influence (catchment, command areas, etc.).

The IMP was appraised through IIT-Roorkee and observations given by IIT-R had been sent to the Govt of Manipur for revision of the IMP.

The revised proposal is yet to be received by the Ministry.

Nonetheless, the Ministry will consider the proposal on priority as per the cost sharing formula between the Central and State Government and the funding norms of NPCA, he said.

On being enquired how the Central Government has been planning to accommodate the fishing community in lake management plan, Bhupender informed that the State Government is working to promote healthy capture fisheries which ensures that ecosystem processes such as migration pathways, water quality and phumdi distribution are not adversely affected.