Chief Minister N Biren released one lakh fingerlings of Pengba in Loktak Lake with an aim to rejuvenate population of Pengba (Osteobrama Belangeri), the state fish of Manipur, and also distributed inputs (cage nets and fish feeds) to fish farmers at Sendra in Bishnupur district on Wednesday.

Speaking at the event, CM Biren appreciated the concerted efforts and schemes of ICAR-CIFRI, Barrackpore taken up in collaboration with local fishermen and the fishery department with the aim of reviving the indigenous fish variety of the state.

He lamented that out of 54 indigenous fish species, the state now has only 35 in existence.

While expressing concern over the environmental hazard caused by human negligence, he also made strong remark against the public habit of dumping garbage into rivers, which in turn fall into Loktak Lake and making it hard for the fish and other organisms to survive.

“Now is not the time for speeches, it is the time to act”, the CM said while stressing on the importance of acting on the government’s promises and assurances.

“Sometimes, we seem to forget that there is a democratically elected government formed with the mandate of the people,” he said, highlighting obstructions given to developmental projects from some quarters.

He said that the present government was formed with the full mandate of the people, and further appealed to the people against obstructing developmental schemes.

Explaining the story behind implementation of Loktak Livelihood Mission in 2018, the CM said that during his air travels, he noticed a vast tract of swampy area around Loktak Lake lying idle.

This gave him an idea to utilise the area for rearing fish by means of pen culture after clearing the phumdis, which could be turned further into organic fertiliser, he said.

The CM also said that altogether Rs 15 crore has already been sanctioned for developmental works to be taken up in the peripheral area of Loktak Lake out of which only about Rs 2.5 crore has been utilised so far.

Maintaining that shortage of fish production in the state is due to lack of releasing fish in the lake, the CM said that the government is releasing one lakh fingerlings, and aim to release around one crore during the month of May.

He also made an earnest appeal to the fish farmers to create awareness among the public as well as to stop catching fingerlings.

The CM further appealed to the fish farmers against using electric current to catch fish.

Biren also spoke strongly against encroachment on forest land and Loktak Lake.

Pointing out that out of 12,344 pattadars around the lake, 379 illegal encroachers were found, he said that after the Loktak Protection Act was implemented in 2006, no new patta could be issued.

Stringent actions will be taken up against all encroachers and government officials involved in issuing illegal pattas, he added.

The CM also warned against illegal drug business and illegal poppy plantations.

Calling upon all to preserve and save Loktak Lake, the CM said that Manipur’s own existence rests on the existence 6f Loktak Lake and Koubru range.

So it is very important to safeguard Loktak Lake and Koubru Range.

He further stressed on the importance of safeguarding forest cover and added that the present generation has to meet all challenges for the future generation with conviction and commitment.

Earlier, around Rs 400 crore were utilised for importing fish into the state annually, however, in the past 4-5 years, the government has managed to bring this down to around Rs 300 crore.

The CM further said that the government needs the support of the people.

“We need support and sincerity from the public, government as well as officials to bring development,” he added.

Biren also assured that any developmental project to be implemented in and around Loktak Lake will be taken up by properly maintaining the ecological balance as well as with proper consideration of the local population.

At the same time the public should ensure that the ecological balance of the Lake is properly maintained and that there is no illegal encroachment in the area, he said.

He further stressed the need to construct a ring road around the lake to ensure that there is no encroachment around the lake and to improve tourism in the area.

Reiterating that the government will not work against the law, the CM appealed to all to support in the surveys operations taken up by the revenue department and LDA.

Meanwhile, Fisheries director H Balkrisna stated that due to overfishing in the Loktak lake, the population of fishes are depleting and to supplement the depleting population, and as Pengba is declared as the state fish of Manipur, one lakh fingerlings are being released into the lake.

Asserting that the fingerlings will need at least six months before it is fully grown, the director appealed to local fishermen to and allow them to grow fully in an undisturbed habitat.

Once these fingerlings grow and start breeding, it will help in improving the local economy as well as in preserving the state fish.

According to ICAR-CIFRI Barrackpore director Dr BK Das, the population of Pengba is gradually declining in Loktak Lake and as such ICAR-CIFRI is trying to regenerate its population in the lake.

He said that they will mark this day so that this fish can establish its population within 2-3 years in the lake, and at the same time increase the livelihood of the local fish farmers.

Fisheries minister H Dingo, Thanga MLA T Robindro, Mayang Imphal MLA K Robindro, Keirao MLA L Rameshwor, Moirang MLA Th Shanti, and Loktak Development Authority chairman M Asnikumar also attended the function among others.

The programme was organised by ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barrackpore in collaboration with the department of fisheries and Loktak Development Authority.