IMPHAL, March 4: On the second day of the National Ramsar sites Stakeholders’ Meeting and Wetlands Conservation Seminar at Alappuzha, Kerala, delegates and wetlands experts from across the country expressed their astonishment and concerns when the 8 (eight) member delegation from Manipur led by Oinam Rajen, secretary of All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen’s Union (ALLAFU) took the floor and shared his story of many years of continuous torture and discrimination of fishermen and their families by the government of Manipur and its authorities culminating in conflict, displacement, arson and eviction, destruction of property, rights violations , sustained mismanagement by Loktak Development Authority (LDA), promulgation of the Loktak Lake Protection Act 2006, and the day to day degradation of the Loktak Lake despite its designation as an international Ramsar site in 1990. This was said as per a press release jointly signed by Oinam Rajen, ALLAFU, Manipur; Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, CORE and S Doren Singh, EHUD.
The release said, “Out of 26 international Ramsar designated sites in India, he said that the Loktak is the only wetland in the special Montreux Record for the past 20 years because of changes in ecological character that have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur. It was a shame that despite invitations from the organizers of the national meeting supported by the Ministry of Environment & Forests, the LDA and Manipur Tourism Department did not respond positively, he further stated”.
“In his presentation, “Dying Mother”, Oinam Rajen said that even as he left Manipur on 28 February 2013 to attend the national meeting in Kerala, his phum khangpok (Hut) and properties were destroyed by the LDA and Bishnupur District police personnel of Manipur, and cases were pending before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Gauhati High Court”.
“Inaugurating the meeting on March 3, K.C. Venugopal, Minister of State for Civil Aviation emphasised that though there are many claims to good initiatives in wetlands management arriving at practicable and workable solutions is the need of the hour. Stating that in a world becoming increasingly complex every problem today is complex too, the Minister said that the full involvement of the people and other stakeholders at policy formulation and decision making is most necessary”, it said.
Giving his keynote address, Prof. (Dr) B Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kochi said that wetlands are the most productive ecosystems of the world capable of not just supporting life but also creating life. He informed the delegates that 52% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared, and the conservation of existing wetlands and reclaiming lost wetlands are a priority today, the release said.