The 266-sq-km Loktak Lake in Manipur is Northeast India’s largest freshwater lake and a Ramsar site of international importance Credit: Tanmoy Bhaduri

Imphal: In their continuous attempt to safeguard and protect the fauna and flora of Loktak lake, the largest freshwater in Northeast India, the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union Manipur (ALLAFUM) has announced to oppose the Centre’s inland waterways project over the lake in Manipur.

The ambitious project was approved by the Union ministry of shipping for tourism purposes and sanctioned an amount of Rs 25.28 crore to the Manipur state government to improve it under the Central scheme.

According to reports, the project will develop the inland water transport connectivity and boost the tourism sector in the region.

However, sources close to ALLAFUM said that the implementation of the waterways project in the lake will not only disturb the peaceful nature of Loktak Lake but will also impact the overall environment surrounding the lake.

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“Loktak Lake is a Ramsar site and the wetlands are not just of local importance but of international importance. Since the ecosystem of the lake is very sensitive, unless you do a proper study of what will impact on the lake, the whole system will disturb,” said Ram Wangkheirakpam, an environmentalist who has been vocal in preserving and promoting a safe environment, including the lake.

Members of the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union Manipur (ALLAFUM) holding a press conference in Imphal

According to ALLAFUM, the contentious project will have a huge impact on the environment since the boats, which will possibly carry tourists, will make a lot of noise. Moreover, the oil spill from the boats as they ply on the lake will destroy the surface water system, which at the moment is regarded as the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast region.

During the press meet, representatives of ALLAFUM also questioned the Centre as to how the project was cleared and money sanctioned to Loktak Development Authority (LDA) without a proper environmental assessment.

“We want a proper environmental assessment before the project is sanction. Therefore, we strongly demand not to clear the project keeping the greater interest of the environment in mind,” Ram added.

According to the members, the union will urge the ministry concerned to look into the matter and if required, will even go to court.

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