Vanishing wetlands ring ecological disaster warning


Vanishing wetlands ring e
By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, Feb 20:  Once closely intertwined with the lives of the locals and home to many flora and fauna, wet-lands are now shedding their original glory rapidly. Water bodies and marshes which once had abundant fishes and vegetables are now shrinking turning the wetlands into deserts thereby warming the atmosphere.
Utra Pat, Khoidum Pat, Loushi Pat, Kharung Pat and Ikop Pat-all these wetlands like others are facing the brunt of uncon- trolled human exploitation. The symbiotic relation which once existed between these wetlands and the locals appears to have lost now as humans march toward development without paying due attention to the degrading environment.
A team of journalists including this reporter came across the sorry state of these wetlands during the “Know Your Sanctuaries and Wetlands" media campaign on February 12, organised by the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) under the sponsorship of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change.
The team first visited Utra Pat in Nambol. It is now dry though it was once famous for foxnut.  As Utra Pat has become much shallower, cultivation of foxnut is no longer productive. Except for many ponds where farmers rear fishes, the wetland appeared to have lost almost all the aesthetics of being a wetland.
A local who has a piece of land in the wetland, said some 50-60 years ago Utra Pat “glittered in the sun”. There was water all over irrespective of season, he said.
The man continued that “the wetland once had fishes that taste the best”. Locals used to fish and collect edible vegetation from the wetland. Now, there is no water and all the fishes and vegetation are gone, he added.
He further stated that a society by the name Utra Pat Fishing Cum Pisciculture Co-Operative Society, formed by about 120 people from Nambol Naorem and adjoining villages are overseeing the wetland and farming activities in the wetland.
The wetland which is bounded by Nambol River in the east and the southeast  has shrunk in size over the years. There are many houses and other structures built inside the wetland, he said adding that strict laws regarding wetland and Government’s active intervention are needed to save Utra Pat.
Utra Pat Fishing Cum Pisciculture Co-Operative Society chairman Chongtham Temba said the society is a registered body (1951) and it has been looking after the wetland and undertaking fish farming on lease from the Department of Fisheries.
The team then visited Khoidum Pat, Loushi Pat, Kharung Pat and Ikop Pat.
As in other wetlands, agriculture and pisciculture activities were found dominant at Khoidum Pat in Kakching district. Although the wetland has some water in the canals during the rainy season, the wetland is normally dry, said locals.
The wetland is surrounded by Hiyanglam Hiranmei, Sarik Konjil, Tokpaching, Laphupat  Tera and Arong  Nongmaikhong. Agriculture and allied activities were taken up inside the wetland after the green revolution was brought to India in the late 1960s. However, due to excess water from the Ithai Barrage, agriculture activities have decreased. “The wetland is no longer a wetland nor is it viable for agricultural activities now," said a local.
At Loushipat north of Kakching, the team found vast agricultural activities dominating the landscape. To aid agriculture activities, locals had cut a hill at what is known as Kakching Chingkakpham to drain water and facilitate irrigation. Even though the wetland has some water during the rainy season, it is dry in other seasons, said locals.
They also claimed that pattas have also been issued to some.
Kharung Pat and Ikop Pat were also found sharing similar fate as other wetlands. Agricultural and allied activities were found dominant.
The wetlands once had water which provided locals with fishes and vegetation. The  wetlands also had migratory birds as visitors, said locals who expressed hope that the wetlands can be conserved with collective efforts of the Government and the people.