LOKTAK WETLAND COMPLEX WITHIN MANIPUR RIVER BASIN
Manipur River Basin drains 30% of the entire state area including Manipur Valley. The hill areas of Manipur constituting catchments of Loktak and associated wetlands fall within Manipur River Basin covering an area of 6,872 sq km. This geographical area is inhabited by 76% of the entire state population.
The basin is characterized by the presence of several shallow lakes, locally called as Pat, in the central and southern part of Manipur Valley. These lakes covered about 4.95% (340 sq. km as observed in the Survey of India Topo Map, 1970) of the entire basin area. The important wetlands include Loktak, Pumlen, Lamjao, Khoidum, Kharung, Ikop, and Waithou. Loktak Lake is the largest lakecovering 61% of the identified wetland regime. These wetlands are essentially floodplain wetlands of Manipur River interconnected through a complex network of drainage system.
The characteristic feature of Loktak and associated wetlands is the presence of floating islands, locally called phumdi. They are a heterogeneous mass of soil, vegetation and organic matter at various stages of decomposition. They occur in all sizes and thickness, occupying almost half of the lake area. Southern portion of Loktak Lake forms the Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the one of the largest floating wildlife protected area in the world. It is composed of a continuous mass of floating phumdi occupying an area of more than 25 sq km. The park is the natural habitat of the most endangered ungulate species, the brow antlered deer (Rucervus eldii eldii).
These wetlands account for approximately 16% of the entire water available in the basin and hence play important role in the management of water resource in the basin. These floodplain wetlands absorb floodwater during monsoon and are used for agriculture during dry seasons. The wetlands support rich biodiversity, particularly fishery resources. Overall 45 villages and 29 towns are located in and around these wetlands. More than 3 lakh people depend on the wetlands and their resources for their sustenance