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the world's largest floating park in Manipur's Loktak Lake, the Keibul Lamjao National Park, may soon stop floating. The water level in the lake is rapidly declining due to curbs on the inflow which has been caused by the Ithai Barrage on the Imphal river - a major contributory to the lake.
According to a report, " The Impact of Ithai Barrage on the Environment of Manipur: An Overview, " the Loktak Lake will be soon on the verge of extinction by the barrage. The report was conducted by the All Manipur Ithai Barrage People's Organisation (amibpo) which has been protesting against the project for a long time. National Loktak Multipurpose Hydro-electric Project, as the project is called, was taken up for irrigation and power generation on the Imphal river.
As a result, about 20,000 hectares (ha) of agricultural land have submerged and have left around 25,000 fisherfolk jobless.The report says that the water level has come down and the fishes are hard to come by. "The state government assured the people that about 37,352 ha of agricultural land would be provided to the displaced people. But the promise was not kept. So the land owners have become daily wage earners," says the report.
It is reported that the ecological balance of the lake - one of the six vulnerable wetlands of India - has been disturbed. The ramifications of the ecological imbalance are already visible. On January 10-11 this year, a bird census, conducted by the Manipur Association for Science and Society (mass) and the Global Science Club, Khoijuman, found an alarming drop in the number of seasonal birds visiting the lake. The census team could spot only 12 species of water fowl and three other species while the first census in 1996 listed 23 species of water fowl. The lake and the park used to host around 300 migratory species of birds during winter but today even the local species like the stork are not visible. The survey teams say that the birds have stopped visiting due to the hydro project's impact on the lake.
Loktak has an unique ecology which sustains more than one lakh people. But with the barrage being constructed, the lake will be left without water thus not only affecting agriculture but also the whole biodiversity.