IMPHAL, December 20: The Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE) has expressed its deepest concern that the age-old cultural and social values of the Loktak Lake have been trivialized by the state government, which has demonstrated its total disregard for the ancient heritage and spiritual mother of Manipur.
In a statement the centre has stated that the recent pronouncement by the Chief Minister that the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act of 2006, amended in 2007, may be further amended amply demonstrated the unfortunate depths that the government has sunk into regarding the appropriate legislative environment that it is responsible for establishing an effective policy and action plan with the participation of the local indigenous communities.
“The Loktak Wetlands region must be viewed primarily as one of international importance today as it has been designated a Ramsar Site in 1990 under the international Convention on Wetlands”.
The government of India, as also the Manipur government, is accountable to the wiseuse standards, principles and guidelines of the Ramsar Convention of 1971, to which India is a party, it has further added.
The Loktak Development Authority (LDA), reconstituted under the Act, has become the nemesis of not only the people of Manipur but also of nature itself. Allowed to conduct its affairs unchecked, the LDA will drive the final nail into the coffin of our Loktak, the statement charged.
“The Act, which is designed to “develop” the natural environment of the lake, is a draconian legislation that does not even acknowledge that the Loktak is a Ramsar site of international importance, and much alike the notorious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958”. It confers to the LDA power to enter, search and seize any private property without due process of law, and it also seeks to place the officers of the authority above the law by saying that none of its officers can be prosecuted, the statement added.
In line with this draconian anti-people and anti-nature legislation, the authority has taken the unprecedented step to stamp out the ancient cultural heritage of Manipur by even viewing the natural phumdi as illegal and, therefore, to be removed by private contractors at monumental cost to the public exchequer.
Added to this affront is the arbitrary zonation of the lake. This zonation has resulted in the recent violent steps taken by the LDA and the government of Manipur to evict and demolish the livelihoods of the phum hut users, usurping the age-old rights of the local fisherfolk, the statement further added.
“CORE strongly condemns the violent police attack on a peaceful protest march on December 19 at Ithing by the family members of those who have been inhumanly deprived of their livelihoods. CORE further reiterates that mere tinkering of a fundamentally flawed legislation is not enough. The Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act must be publicly reviewed in its entirety, and an appropriate law enacted” the statement added.