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Edible aquatic insects vanishing from Loktak
Sobhapati Samom

 IMPHAL, May 19 - Manipur’s edible aquatic insects found in Loktak, the largest freshwater lake in North East are vanishing from its natural habitat due to the ongoing degradation of the lake’s biodiversity.

 To name a few – Naosek (Lethocerus indicus), the giant water bug, Tharaikokpi (cybister), a genus of beetle, Konjeng Kokphai (Diplonychus rusticus), another water bug and Long Khajing (Gerris Lacustris), the common pond skater and Maikhumbi (Baetidae), a family of mayflies, etc. have disappeared from the lake.

This came to light during a recent study of diversity of insect fauna in Loktak Lake of Manipur by Dr M Bhubaneshwari Devi, a Zoology teacher in Manipur’s premier DM College of Science in association with senior research scholar O Sandhyarani.

Experts here feel that the disappearance of these aquatic insects from its habitat may have a direct or indirect impact on Manipur’s lake biodiversity and society at large as the people here have an age-old tradition of consuming edible aquatic insects. Use of Naosek while preparing popular mouth watering Manipuri dish ‘Laphu eromba’ (plantain stem chutney) is perhaps the best example of this, not to speak of using Maikhumbi or Tharaikokpi fry, etc.

“Nowadays one can rarely find Naosek bug being sold at Rs 20 per insect in the markets close to the Lake,” said Dr Bhubaneshwari. “Naosek was abundantly available during summer not only in the markets but also in paddy fields and periphery of the lake in the past. But due to continuous use of pesticides and insecticides besides fertilisers, the bug is slowly vanishing from its habitat.”

In their years long study, they found around 31 edible aquatic insects out of 100 species in Loktak. The cultural and traditional traits of Manipuris will not be complete without relating to the lake, which is witness to the history of Manipur civilisation. Loktak is also the home of 48 different fish species.

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