‘Imagine standing on a piece of land that floats on water. Now you can experience that in real life at Loktak Lake’
For any visitor to Manipur, in the northeast corner of India, the principal attraction is the Loktak Lake. Located in Bishnupur District, about 50 kms from Imphal City, it is the largest fresh water lake in the Northeast India. A beautiful stretch of water resembling a miniature inland sea, a day spent here can leave memories for a lifetime. The lake is covered by numerous green circles called phumdis floating on its waters. The floating phumdis are used for constructing huts and artificial circular enclosures for fish farming. These floating islands are made of matted vegetation, organic debris and soil with a thickness that varies from a few centimeters to two metres. Only 20% of a phumdi’s thickness can be seen on the water surface, while the rest of it is submerged.
The lake is home to 233 species of aquatic plants, over 100 species of birds and 425 species of animals including the Indian python and sambhar. The lake is also a birder’s paradise. Over 57 species of water birds and another 14 species of wetland associated birds can be found in its premises. This includes over 25 species of migratory waterfowl, most migrating from different parts of the northern hemisphere beyond the Himalayas. Also recorded were over 400 species of animals — over 240 vertebrates and over 160 invertebrates. Considering its biodiversity values, on March 23, 1990, the lake was designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. It was also listed under the Montreux Record on June 16, 1993, “a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur”.
Powering the economy
While Loktak Lake is primarily a tourist site, it also serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking supply for the locals. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen. You will find families of more than 3,000 fishermen living in huts built on the phumdis, which are built out of bamboo, rocks, metal plates and rods. India’s first floating school can also be found here. The fish yield from the lake is reported to be over 1,500 tonnes every year. What makes the lake even more special is the Keibul Lamjao National Park, world’s only floating National Park. Home to the last of the brow-antlered deer – one of the most endangered deer in the world – the population of the sangais (locally called) are in danger of losing their habitat. A multitude of factors like invasive plant species have taken over the vegetation in the phumdis, farming practices are encroaching on the park territory, as well as poaching and illegal fishing are the reason for their demise. A glimpse of the deer in this unique wetland ecosystem is a must for any wildlife enthusiast.
The Indian National Army Martyrs’ Memorial Complex in Moirang stands as a testament to the men who fought against the British rule for India’s independence. On April 14, 1944, the Indian National Army, led by Subhas Chandra Bose, unfurled the first Indian flag on Indian soil here at Moirang. Since then the INA Memorial Complex has become a symbol for the bravery and valour exhibited by the INA. Today, the complex, consisting of five main units, is managed and maintained by the State Government of Manipur. The Netaji library, built in memory of Subhas Chandra Bose, was opened in 1968 and has a huge collection of books, documents, manuscripts and periodicals focused on the freedom movement and the history of India. The INA Museum is also attached, which features objects and paintings from World War II and the liberation movement, educating visitors about the history of the INA and in turn, interpret the role of the INA during the campaigns against the British government.
When to go
This valley gets huge rainfall throughout the year barring the two dry months of February and March. So these months are ideal for you to plan a trip to Loktak Lake. Moreover, the months of February and March also provide stable temperatures, allowing you to experience nature at its best form.
Words: Avika Kashyap