Loktak Lake – the jewel of Manipur
The northeast states are nature’s treasure house. They never fail to amaze their visitors, either with their natural opulence or their exotic cultural heritage. The Loktak Lake in Manipur is truly a jewel of the state. The largest freshwater lake of Northeast is located in the Bishnupur district of Manipur at a distance of 48 km from the state capital, Imphal. Loktak Lake is special because it has multiple ring-shaped land masses floating on it that are known as phumdis or phumshongs. The phumdis are actually heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition.
The phumdis float on the lake and some of them are big enough to accommodate a number of huts that are inhabited by the local families. The phumdis in various forms resemble miniature islands floating on the lake. And here we have islands that are floating! The Keibul Lamjao National Park located on the Loktak Lake is also the only floating National Park in the world. The Keibul Lamjao Nation Park is the only natural habitat of the brow-antlered deer or the Sangai Deer, lovingly known as the dancing deer of Manipur because of its gait.
The lake covers an area of 300 sq metre and plays an import part in the economy of Manipur. The lake serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply in the region. Also, a large number of fishermen depend on the lake for their daily income.
Where is Loktak Lake?
Loktak Lake is situated in the Bishnupur district of Manipur near the town of Moirang. The lake is only 48 km away from Imphal, the capital of Manipur. The Loktak Lake also happens to be the lifeline of many Manipuri people.
Flora and Fauna at the Loktak Lake
The biodiversity of the lake is surely fascinating. The lake is the home to 233 species of aquatic plants. The fauna includes 425 species of animals including rare animals such as the Indian python, sambhar and barking deer. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is the natural habitat of one of the most endangered deer, the Brow-antlered deer (Cervus eldi eldi) that was once thought to be extinct! The Lake is also a birders’ paradise. There are about 100 species of birds found in the Loktak Lake.
Things to do at Loktak Lake
Take a boat ride on the beautiful waters of the lake. It will definitely have a calming effect on you.
Visit the Keibul Lamjao National Park
The Keibul Lamjai National Park is located on the Loktak Lake. Covering an area of 40 sq. km. of wetland overgrown with 1.5 m of deep floating vegetation (phumdis), it was initially declared as a Sanctuary in 1966, was subsequently declared a National Park in 1977. The Sangai deer was reported to have been extinct but was rediscovered in 1953. Keibul Lamjao was thus declared as a sanctuary and later as national Park only for the conservation of the Sangai deer.
The Sangai deer is also the state animal of Manipur. The word ‘Sangai’ is ubiquitous in the state and you can see it everywhere in cafes, hoardings, signage and very other common things.
Is the Loktak Lake in danger?
The phumdis of the Loktak Lake that are floating biomass are a rich source of vegetation and have supported the humans and animals of the place since long. But now, just like the endangered Sangai deer, their home as well as the islands are under threat.
The phumdis usually float during the rains and sink during the dry months, sucking nutrients from the lakebed to replenish their roots and float again when the next monsoon cycle begins. This has been their life cycle for centuries. But with the development of the Loktak Hydroelectric Project, this cycle is now at grave risk. The hydroelectric dam built in 1979 constantly keeps the water level in the lake high. The phumdis are thus Unable to feed on the nutrients on the bed and are thinning out and even breaking away. Also with a large number of Manipuris depending directly or indirectly on the Loktak Lake are also putting immense pressure on the lake. Sewage and wastage are often dumped in the lake, thus choking it with plastics and toxins. Overfishing has also become a concern. The Government is doing their bit to conserve the ecology of the place, but much more needs to be done.
How to Reach Loktak Lake?
The best way to get in Manipur is by flight. The nearest airport is Tulihal Airport in Imphal well connected with flights from Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Mumbai. From Imphal, you will get shared vehicle to Moirang. From Moirang, you have to take another shared taxi to Thanga. Thanga is the name of several clusters of villages that make up a peninsula on Loktak Lake.
You can also hire a car from Imphal to Loktak Lake.
When to visit Loktak Lake?
You can visit any time of the year apart from the monsoon months from June to October.
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