Loktak freshwater lake has been their source of living for generations

Protesting eviction, fishermen of the Loktak lake in Manipur have decided to fight for their rights. A meeting of fishermen and their family members, held on the Thanga islet on Sunday, condemned the “insensitive decision” of the government which forbids them from machine-fishing and plucking edible water plants in the largest freshwater lake in the northeast, their source of livelihood for generations.

The Union government had sanctioned a huge amount to spruce up the dying lake. On January 6, 2010, the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) awarded a Rs. 374-crore contract to a Delhi firm for clearing biomass in the lake. The Manipur government has plans to develop tourism and water sports there. A more important purpose, it says, is to remove the shacks floating on the biomass for generations as they have become temporary hiding places of insurgents who, after ambushing security personnel, escape along with weapons in country canoes inside the lake. Except for some raids, with local fishermen rowing canoes, security personnel have not been able to surprise the bivouacking insurgents.

The government paid compensation of Rs. 50,000 to each of the families occupying over 2,000 shacks in the 250-sq.km lake. So far the LDA pulled down and burnt 829 shacks. The displaced fishermen and their families were put up in community halls.

At Sunday’s meeting, several fishermen claimed that despite a court injunction for status quo, many shacks were pulled down. They planned to approach the Imphal Bench of Gauhati High Court seeking contempt action against the government.

However, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said the fishermen should vacate as they had accepted compensation.

Referring to provisions of the Loktak Lake (Protection) Act 2006 — Section 20 allows fishermen to continue catching fish but Section 20(3) prohibits them from using implements or accessories — the angry fishermen asked whether they were supposed to catch fish with bare hands.

They complained they were unable to send their children to school in the absence of a source of living.

However, LDA officials, with the help of armed police, are reportedly asking fishermen to pull down the remaining shacks.

  • LDA has pulled down 829 shacks of fishermen

    Chief Minister says they should vacate as they have taken compensation