Loktak Lake : The only floating lake in the world

Loktak Lake

Loktak lake is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India. The beautiful lake is located in Bishnupur district in Manipur at a distance of 53 km from Imphal. Loktak Lake is a natural treasure for Manipur adding to the exotic natural beauty of the state. It is the only floating lake in the world and is known for its circular floating swamps (called phumdis in the local language).The term phumdis refers to a collection of heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matter at various stages of decomposition. Resembling miniature islands, these phumdis are found in various forms, floating on the lake.Loktak LakeThis ancient lake plays an important role in the economy of Manipur. It is considered to be the lifeline for the people of Manipur due to its importance in their socio-economic and cultural life, besides influencing the climate of the State. It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who lives in the surrounding areas and on phumdis. The traditional fishermen stay on these phumdis by constructing khangpok (huts). Nearly 100,000 people depends on the lake for their livelihood. Considering the ecological status and its biodiversity values, the lake was initially designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on March 23 1990.Loktak LakeThe Sendra Tourist Home, located on a large phumdi island, provides a breathtaking perspective of this amazing lake. The lake is home to 233 species of aquatic plants, more than 100 species of birds, and 425 species of animals, including the Indian python,sambhar and barking deer.W hat makes the Loktak Lake even more special is the Keibul LamjaoNational Park located at the south western part of the lake. It is the world’s only floating national park and is home to the endangered Manipuri brow-antlered deer, Sangai – Cervus eldi eldi. Sangai is the state animal of Manipur. Its hooves are adapted to walk on the phumdis. Apart from the Brow-antlered deer (Sangai), some other animals found at this national park are the Hog deer , Wild boar, Large Indian Civets, common otter, fox, jungle cat, golden cat, Bay bamboo rat, musk shrew, common shrew, flying fox and Sambar, Keel back Tortoise, Viper, Krait, Cobra, Asian rat snake, python, Threatened Hooded crane, Burmese sarus Sarus Crane, Indian white breasted water hen and Crimson-breasted pied wood pecker.

This park, which was initially declared as a Sanctuary in 1966, was subsequently declared a National Park in 1977. Loktak is a birder’s paradise. The most commonly sighted birds in the region include black kite, northern hill myna, East Himalayan pied kingfisher, lesser skylark, lesser eastern jungle crow, Burmese pied myna, and more.

The lake is now endangered, with innumerable threats like pollution, decline in diversity of birds and thinning of phumdis. All this, in turn, threatens the Sangai deer. Phum Shang, an investigative documentary directed by Hao Bam Pabankumar, which examines the serious environmental concerns facing Loktak Lake, won the Golden Conch award for Best Documentary in the Mumbai International Film Festival recently.Loktak LakeThe best view of Loktak Lake can be had from a small hill top. From here one can see the lake and the hills beyond them too. In the crimson evening haze the lake water glistened and a canoe kept appearing and disappearing on the vast plain of the lake. At most places the Phumdis had been removed to save the lake from shrinking. Over the past years the lake has shrunk considerably because of human encroachment and the Phumdis filling up the lake. An initiative was taken by the government to save the lake and conserve the unique biodiversity. New hotels have mushroomed around the hill. Below, few houses float on Phumdis and you can hear the screams of children playing around just like a normal neighborhood while their parents manned the Chinese fishing net also called the Cheena Vala.

The sun was fast fading out of the horizon and as the bluish light cast over the lake, Loktak looked most serene than ever. It was just like a small paradise.

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