Loktak Lake has been dammed and damned, and the indigenous peoples’ floating huts (phum khangpok) burned in November 2011.
The Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater wetland in the North-Eastern region of India and has been referred as the lifeline of the people of Manipur due to its importance in the socioeconomic and cultural life. The site was entered in the Montreux Record on 26th June, 1993. The Montreux Record is “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur” maintained by the Secretariat in consultation with the Contracting Party concerned (Recommendation 4.8, 4th COP, Montreux, Switzerland). The record presently has 48 sites listed.
It plays an important role in the ecological and economic security of the region. A large population living around the lake depends upon the lake resources for their sustenance.
The staple food of Manipur is directly linked to Loktak Lake. The lake is rich in biodiversity and has been designated as a wetland of international importance under Ramsar Convention in 1990. The Keibul Lamjao National Park, in the southern part of the lake, is home to the endangered Manipur Brow Antlered Deer, locally called Sangai. The lake has been also the breeding ground of a number of riverine fishes and continues to be a vital fisheries resource. It supports a significant population of migratory and resident waterfowl.
The Lake has become the source of water for generation of hydroelectric power by the commissioning of the Loktak Hydro-electric Project (LHEP) by the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation Ltd.(NHPC) of India. To make power generation possible, the water of the wetland was dammed by the construction of a barrage at Ithai, at the southernmost corner of the Imphal Plateau in order to divert it through a tunnel into another river basin, the Leimatak River Basin.
“Loktak Ema”, literally means Mother Loktak, depicted today as a weeping mother. The indigenous Meetei people of Manipur consider the Loktak to be a spiritual mother who has nurtured the people over the ages. There are many sacred sites within the around the Loktak, many mythological ancestral deities adorn the Loktak through their special sites and rituals. The sacred sites of Heisnām Lairembi on Thanga island, and Yāngon Ningthou (Yāngon Maril is a water channel found within the Loktak Lake, a traditionally recognised feature) at Lǝmāngdong, Bishenpur District at the north-western rim of Loktak, Ibudhou Thangjing at Moirāng (western rim of Loktak), and Oknarel Hanuba at Ningthoukhong (north-western rim) are examples.
A critique of the Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection) Act of 2006 has been prepared has been prepared by CORE a constituent member organisation of the CSCHR in accordance with resolutions passed at a public meeting held on 18 December, 2010 at the sacred site of the ancestral deity Ema Loktak Lairembi, Haoréng Chingjāng on the Thāngǝ Island of the Loktak Lake, a wetland of international importance designated as a Ramsar site on 23rd March, 1990. The meeting, which resolved for the repeal of the Act, was organised by the Loktak People’s Forum.