Imphal: “Out of 54 indigenous fish varieties in Manipur, we have now only 35 varieties in existence, Manipur chief minister N.Biren Singh said on Wednesday concerning over the environmental hazard caused by human negligence.
Biren strongly deliberated on the public habit of dumping garbage into rivers which in turn fall into Loktak Lake and making it hard for the fish and other organisms to survive.
The chief minister was addressing in a ranching programme which aimed at rejuvenation of Pengba (Osteobrama Belangeri), State Fish of Manipur, in Loktak Lake and distribution of inputs of cage net and fish feed at Sendra in Bishnupur district.
Biren appreciated the concerted efforts and schemes of the ICAR-CIFRI, Barrackpore taken up in collaboration with local fishermen and the department in trying to protect and revive the indigenous fish varieties of the state.
“Now is not the time for speeches, it is the time to act,” the chief minister said stressing on the importance of acting on the government’s promises and assurances.
“Sometimes, we seem to forget that there is a democratically elected government formed with the mandate of the people,” he said, highlighting obstructions to developmental projects from some quarters.
Explaining the story behind implementation of the Loktak Livelihood Mission in 2018, the Biren said during his air travels, he noticed a vast tract of swampy area around Loktak Lake lying idle. This gave him an idea to utilize the area for rearing fish by means of pen culture after clearing the phumdis which in turn will be turned into organic fertilizer, he added.
Altogether Rs 15 crore has already been sanctioned for developmental works for the peripheral area of Loktak Lake and only about Rs 2.5 crore have been utilised so far, he said.
Highlighting that the shortage of fish production in the state is due to lack of releasing fish in the lake, Biren said, “Today we are releasing one lakh fishlings, and aim to release around one crore during the month of May.”
He appealed to the fish farmers to create awareness among the public as well as stop catching fishlings. He also appealed to the fish farmers against using electric current to catch fish.
Biren also spoke strongly against encroachment on forest land and Loktak lake. Stating that out of 12,344 pattadars around the lake, 379 illegal encroachers were found, he said adding that after the Loktak Protection Act was implemented in 2006, no new patta could be issued. He reiterated that stringent actions will be taken up against all encroachers and concerned government officials who were involved in issuing illegal pattas.
He warned against illegal drug business and illegal poppy plantations.
Manipur’s own existence rests on the existence of Loktak Lake and Koubru range. So it is very important to safeguard Loktak Lake and Koubru Range, he said.
He stressed on the importance of safeguarding our forest cover and said, “With conviction and commitment we have to meet all challenges for our future generation.”
Earlier, around Rs 400 crore were utilised for importing fish into the state annually; however, in the past 4-5 years, the state have managed to bring this down to around Rs 300 crore, he said.
The government needs support and sincerity from the public as well as officials to bring development, he added.
Biren assured that any developmental project to be implemented in and around Loktak Lake will be taken up by properly maintaining the ecological balance as well as with proper consideration of the local public. And at the same time the people should ensure that the ecological balance of the Lake is properly maintained and that there is no illegal encroachment in the area, he said.
He stressed the need to construct a ring road around the lake to ensure that there is no encroachment around the lake and to improve tourism in the area.
He appealed to all to support surveys of the revenue department and LDA.
Fisheries director H. Balkrisna Singh said due to overfishing in the Loktak lake, the population of fishes are depleting and to supplement the depleting population and as Pengba is declared the State Fish of Manipur.
The fishlings will need atleast six months before it is fully grown, he said and appealed to local fishermen to protect them and allow them to grow fully in an undisturbed habitat. Once these fishlings grow and start breeding, it will help in improving the local economy as well as in preserving the state fish.
ICAR-CIFRI, Barrackpore director Dr B. K. Das said the population of Pengba is gradually declining in Loktak Lake and so ICAR-CIFRI is trying to reestablish its population in the lake. He said that they will mark this day so that this fish can establish its population within 2-3 years in the lake, and at the same time increase the livelihood of the local fish farmers.
The programme was attended by the fisheries minister H.Dingo Singh, MLA T. Robindro Singh, MLA Mayang Imphal AC K. Robindro, MLA L. Rameshwor Meetei, MLA Th. Shanti, chairman Loktak Development Authority, Manipur M. Asnikumar Singh among others.
The programme was organised by ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barrackpore in collaboration with the state department of fisheries and Loktak Development Authority, Manipur.