IMPHAL Aug 24: Project Director of K-Pro, a New Delhi based agency responsible for the clearance of Phumdis (floating biomass) from Loktak have promised that by 2012, the lake will be as clear as a mirror. A survey team of Loktak Development Agency (LDA) along with officials of K-Pro went to the various sites in and around Loktak area where the clearance work is being undertaken at present.
A media team which accompanied them to the clearance site at Komlakhong saw that three excavators were pressed into work and phumdis were scooped up and cleared and futher used as landfill in a nearby area.
The next clearance site at Khordak river was maintained by nearly 200 local laborers engaged in cutting down the phumdis and transporting them downstream. The locals hailing from Tera, Arong and other surrounding villages using scythes, bamboo, ropes and improvised pulleys cut down the phumdis to transportable size. The cut phumdis are measured in cubic metres and the wages are paid according to the size of the biomass. The laborers stated that at least four hectares is cut in a good days work.
However, various complaints including lack of proper medical care at the work site leading to fever, diarrhea were highlighted by the workers. Ibopishak , a labourer said “We are working six days a week and in hazardous conditions. But, I am grateful for getting employment and at least Rs. 1630 per month as wages. The first term when the work started, at least 300 persons were employed including myself and we cut around 16 hectares but only got money for 10 hectares as the cashier Rajen had absconded with more than Rs. Two lakhs from our hard earned money. I hope it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
The cut phumdis drift downstream along the Khordak river and finally disintegrate after being ‘flushed’ at the Ithai Barrage slipstream. Briefing mediapersons at Sendra, Director of LDA Kh.Ibobi stated that a short term plan has been initiated by the state government under the Specail Plan Assistance (SPA) for the conservation and management of Loktak lake.
A major component of the plan is mainly emphasised on phumdi management and a total of 63.48 lakh square metres of phumdis need to be flushed and 80 lakh sq.metres need to be conserved to maintain the ecological balance. The tender for the project was floated at a national level to interested agencies and the contract was awarded to K-Pro agency (New Delhi) on 2nd November 2009.
The project was inaugurated by the chief minister O.Ibobi on the 6th of January 2010. Giving his views on the subject, Project Director of K-Pro Chiranjeevi stated that the project estimate is 374 crores and 224 crores is to be utilised for phumdi removal. The time span for the completion of the project is 2 years and 3 months. The deadline is set at March 2012.
He further stated that 7.57 lakh cubic metre have been cleared mechanically and 12.85 lakh cubic metres manually till 15th August 2010. Citing the law and order situation prevalent in the state, he stressed that his company has been working all out to complete the project on time but the economic blockade has affected the working as there has been unavailability of petrol and deisel and other supplies.
At present there are 24 excavators and 35 tipper trucks engaged in a 12-hour shift. Chiranjeev further stated that with the aid of the LDA and the public, the project will be completed to satisfaction and Loktak will wear a new look.