IMPHAL, December 17: A one day discussion on “Contradictions of Ramsar Conventions Standards and Guidelines with Loktak Wetlands Management in Manipur” was organized by the All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen`s Union and All Manipur Thanga People`s Welfare Association today at the Conference Hall of Manipur State Central Library, Imphal.
Haobijam Kula, general secretary of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen`s Union, while deliberating the key note address stated that the present day management of the Loktak Lake has only led to hardship and inconvenience to the indigenous people depending on Loktak wetlands for survival, as testified by the recent arsoning and destruction of the floating huts belonging to the fisherfolk of Loktak Lake.
Dr. Debabrata Roy Laifungbam, executive director, CORE said that Loktak Lake, already recognized as wetlands of International importance under the Ramsar Convention and listed in the International Montreaux Record as endangered wetlands has long been managed without recognizing people`s, community rights over the use and management of wetlands in Manipur.
The present day management of Loktak Wetlands violates the guidelines and standards stipulated by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands management, such as the resolution VII. 8 and VIII. 19 of Ramsar Convention`s Conference of contracting parties held in May 1999 at Costa Rica and Spain in November 2002. The efforts of the Loktak Development Authority are more to ensure government control of Wetlands and not for conservation of Loktak Wetlands, he noted.
The Loktak Protection Act, 2006 is more focused on control and administration of wetlands by the government, which is very much evident by the trend of violent arsoning of floating huts in Loktak Lake with the LDA, Manipur police under the Act.
The LPA, 2006 also did not mention the importance of peoples` participation in wetlands while the Ramsar conventions stipulated that wetlands management should be with due participation of the community depending on the wetlands along with the local and national government and international cooperation, he added.
“The LPA, 2006 has become a draconian law, not only anti to the people but also against the spirit of protection of nature itself”.
Dr. Laifungbam also said that the classification of Loktak as core and buffer zone is inappropriate as Ramsar conventions calls for conservation of all parts of the wetlands and not to prioritize on selected and restricted parts of the Lake. The creation of and creation of roads and ring bandh inside the Loktak Lake itself is a violation of Ramsar Conventions, Dr Debabarta asserted.
Yumnam Rupachandra, editor, ISTV said that the current state of affairs in Manipur is due to the ineffectiveness of the local authorities, which has long failed to take independent decisions sensitive to peoples` rights and needs of the people of Manipur.
The leaders of Manipur should stop taking decisions impacting on communities rights. It`s time to cross check the process of electing peoples representatives. It`s time for the people of Manipur to unite and question, reflect the trend of development processes introduced in Manipur and media needs to take more responsibility, he added.
Khoirom Loyalakpa, editor, Naharol Thoudang said that the present day governance resembles dictatorship polity. The government`s blaming the residents of Loktak Lake over floating huts and for harboring underground groups is false as the pollution of Loktak Lake is caused by several factors including discharge of sewage from Imphal town.
The current arsoning of floating huts is only to harness financial allocations for counter insurgency purpose in the name of conservation of Loktak Lake. The current day government lacks transparency, accountability and consideration of people.
Yumnamcha Dilipkumar, president, UCM opined that Loktak Lake has become a spot for mismanagement and manipulations of corruption officials as evident by the scandals, corruption and manipulations by dubious K-Pro company. Peoples` lives have been mortgaged to receive few crores of money just in the name of conservation of Loktak Lake. He also said that the traditional knowledge of building floating huts over phumdis in Manipur is a unique practice and cultural heritage of Manipur. However the complete destruction of floating huts is a complete disregard of this unique heritage. The state`s perception and approach of conserving wetlands contradicts Ramsar conventions.
Phulindro Konsam, convenor, Committee on Human Rights stated that the Loktak Protection Act, 2006 is only meant to benefit few elites and to suppress common people. Development should benefit the people and not to cause hardship and suffering to them. The recent arson in Loktak Lake and eviction of people depending on the Loktak wet¬lands is a clear violation of human rights.
Later, the participants of the one day discussion adopted a number of resolutions including the government of Manipur should provide immediate alternate relief for the 273 affected landless fishermen living on phum huts inside the Loktak Lake for ages and who are currently seeking shelter at Thanga Haoreng Chingyang community hall after displacement due to arson of their floating huts in November 2011 to ensure their reparation and redress.
The resolution also includes the fishing community living at Thanga, Karang and other peripheral areas of the Loktak Lake should be allowed to build adequate number of floating huts/phums huts (Khangpokshang) inside the lake so as to provide shelter during storm, heavy rains and hot suns and also to promote the cultural heritage of the people of Manipur.
the resolutions also include demand for compensation not less than Rs three lakhs to each affected fishing communities as rehabilitation; provision of land for the 273 landless fisherfolks and that no part of Loktak Lake should be declared as fishery and to demand to formulate Loktak Lake Fisherfolk Rights and welfare act among others.