|Protect NE wetlands, lakes: Environmentalists|
Agartala, May 10 (IANS): Three of Northeast India's most important ecosystems - Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura, Deepor Beel in Assam and Loktak Lake in Manipur - face serious threats from encroachment and pollution and urgent steps must be taken to conserve them, environmentalists say."Though all the three lakes are categorised as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, the government has done little for their protection," senior fellow of the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) in Umiam in Meghalaya, JG Patel, told IANS.
Held in February 1971 at Ramsar in Iran, the Ramsar Convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Rudrasagar Lake is located 55 km west of Agartala. Loktak Lake is near Moirang in Manipur, while Deepor Beel, a permanent freshwater lake, is in the Brahmaputra valley in lower Assam.
In 1930, the erstwhile king of Tripura, Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, built a magnificent water palace in the midst of Rudrasagar Lake.
Called Neermahal, it served as his summer residence. It is northeast India's only water palace.
"Large parts of Rudrasagar Lake have been encroached upon, despite being home to Neermahal," said Arun Nath, secretary of Mukta Manch, a body of environmentalists, intellectuals, educationist and writers. "We have urged both central and Tripura governments to protect the heritage site, but nothing has been done," he told IANS. "Two brick kilns and paddy fields have sprung up in the area of Rudrasagar Lake, which was declared as national lake in 1993," he said.
Originally with an area of 816 hectares, the Rudrasagar Lake has now shrunk to around 100 hectares due to encroachments.
"We have urged (Chief Minister) Manik Sarkar to personally intervene in the matter," said Nath.
A 23-member parliamentary standing committee on tourism, headed by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury, recently visited Rudrasagar Lake and suggested steps for its immediate protection.
According to Patel, pollution and encroachment posed a major threat to all the three internationally acclaimed lakes in the northeast.
The NESAC recently released a Northeast Wetlands Atlas, which showed that the region has 7,731 wetlands, which are about 4.17 percent of the total 262,230 sq km geographical area of the region. In addition, there are 11,736 very small wetlands.
According to conservationist Raj Kumar Kalyanjit Singh, the central government had announced an action plan to develop the Loktak Lake near Moirang in Manipur, but nothing had been done so far.
"With an area of 246.72 sq km, Loktak is the largest freshwater lake in the northeast and is also called a 'floating lake' because of a mass of floating flora on it called 'phumdies' or decaying vegetation," Singh said.
Spread about 40.14 sq km area, Deepor Beel, a permanent freshwater lake, is one of the largest and most important lakes in the Brahmaputra valley in lower Assam.
The Guwahati-based Deepor Beel Conservation Movement and the Imphal-based North Eastern Centre for Environment Education and Research (NECEER) have been campaigning for the conservation and development of all the Ramsar sites in northeast India.