Space allotment in Loktak: Making a joke of statutes
The report that 1.30 hectares in the core zone of Loktak Lake has been allotted to private individuals is exceedingly outrageous. The report, if true, exposes how corrupted and corruptible are the Government servants. At first, the report may sound audacious but there is nothing new in it. There have been many reports of allotting lands to private individuals right in the heart of reserved forests and other public spaces. Issuing land ownership deed in the core zone of Loktak Lake also exposes the fact that many of the Government officials have little or no respect for the Government’s rules, laws and Acts. Chaos and anarchy will become the hallmark of any society when the citizens, particularly Government servants do not respect the rule of law. It is a matter of grave concern for everyone that the contemporary Manipuri society tends to head in the particular direction. Yes, there is the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act and also the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act but all these statutes were violated most blatantly by allotting space to private individuals in the core zone of Loktak Lake. As pointed out repeatedly, impressive Act and statutes would not serve any purpose if the authorities stumble in the implementation part. With more and more wetlands reclaimed for different purposes, there are now only around 17 wetlands in the State, and if their current pathetic state is any indication, they will disappear sooner than later. When so many wetlands have disappeared over the years, frequent floods and droughts at irregular intervals is only a natural corollary. At the same time, one cannot put the entire blame for the soaring temperature in Manipur on global climate change or global warming alone. In addition to rampant deforestation, disappearance of wetlands is another major factor for the soaring temperature. The report that all wetlands of Manipur except Loktak and Pumlenpat have virtually vanished is a wakeup call for the Government, NGOs, the civil society and the general public to do something significant to save these dying wetlands. It is in the midst of such crisis that allotment of a part of Loktak Lake to private individuals has been revealed. The irony is simply too stark to be missed.
Perhaps, people dependent on these wetlands might have harmed them inadvertently, out of compulsion to some small degree. But it is largely modernisation and urbanisation projects which have taken a very heavy toll on wetlands. Unfortunately, almost all these modernisation and urbanisation projects are directly executed or patronised by the State. Wetlands across the world have been increasingly facing several anthropogenic pressures and Manipur is no exception. Rapidly expanding human population, large scale changes in land use/land cover, multiple development projects and improper use of watersheds have caused serious impacts on wetlands. As such, it is these areas which the State, NGOs, the civil society and the general public must pay extra attention if the vanishing wetlands of the State must be saved. It is a hard fact that our ecosystems have been shrinking exponentially as the wetlands vanish one after another. If conservation measures are not taken up at the right earnest with the required dose of political will and dedication, the limited number of wetlands that still exist would vanish sooner than later. Unfortunately, it appears both the Government and the public are conveniently overlooking the fact that it would be impossible to retrieve or regenerate any of the wetlands which are closely associated with our world view and of course, livelihood, if they are once lost completely. It is indeed a forlorn tale of transformation from wetlands to dry lands. It is really tragic to note that whatever little the Government has done to save Loktak Lake and other wetlands have been undone by its own officials.