Sustainable Loktak Lake

Conserving the bioresources of the Loktak Lake using spatial and Biotechnology approaches.

Rajiv Das Kangabam

Age 32, India

PROJECT: Conserving the bioresources of the Loktak Lake using spatial and Biotechnology approaches.

Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
I have been involved in a number of research projects for bioresources conservation in North East India, a mega-biodiversity hot spot since 2006. At present, I am working on the bioresources conservation of Loktak Lake, a wetland of international importance through research, awareness and training programs. The Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the north-eastern India and plays a vital role in providing ecological and economic security to the region. The lake is rich in biodiversity and has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990. The lake is one of the 48 sites under the Montreux record, a record of Ramsar sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.

The Loktak in the present era has been greatly depleted and degraded mainly due to the anthropogenic activity and global climate change, largely due to conversion to pisciculture and agricultural field, construction of the barrage, alteration in the hydrological cycle, exotics invasions and poor management policies. This has led to the destruction of the wetland habitat. This calls for a time base approach for wetland management in order to meet the multitude of human and ecosystem needs essential for socio economic development and poverty alleviation.

The ongoing research work is trying to answer some of the major issues and problems of Loktak Lake including land use cover changes, human impact on the wetland ecosystem, water quality and impact of climate on flora and fauna. Another important study presently taken up is to study the population ecology of Rucervus eldii eldii in Keibul Lamjao National Park located on the southern part of the Loktak Lake, the only floating national park in the world. The Eldi species is only found in this park and the total population is only 204 species (Census 2013). The approaches for this study are to quantify the genetic diversity and inbreeding of the endangered eldii for sustainable conservation as till date very limited work has been carried out.

What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1. Study the present issues and problem of Loktak Lake
2. To study the land use land cover changes in the Loktak Lake and its impact on Loktak Lake
3. To identify the impact of climatological factors in wetland ecosystem
4. To study the pollution level of Loktak Lake using water samples, sediment and biota
5. To provide training and awareness program among the stakeholders for the conservation of Loktak Lake

What are five (5) of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1. To conduct regular study on the impact of anthropogenic activities and local climate on the flora and fauna of the Loktak Lake
2. Population estimation and quantifying genetic diversity and inbreeding of the endangered Rucervus eldii eldii
3. Build capacity and facilitate community-based management of natural resources of Loktak Lake
4. To document the flora and fauna of the Loktak Lake and identify the resources which required urgent conservation program and share the information with various agency for collective approaches for sustainable development and management of the Loktak Lake
5. To develop a spatial database using remote sensing and Geographic Information System with detail information on the Loktak Lake for real time monitoring and long term conservation planning strategies.

How can others help you accomplish these goals?
I belong to a region which is has rich biodiversity in terms of cultural and natural resources. Different people have their own tradition and customs which are distinct from others. So there is a need for a collective approach to the different communities, as the aim of my research is to make people aware of the importance of the local natural resources and protection of it for sustainable development. I am a learner and I need guidance and suggestions from well known people in this field so as to increase my knowledge and skills to handle the different community to meet the objective of sustainable development through conservation of natural resources. This calls for a collaborative approach with people from other regions who have been working on a similar field.

How can the public get involved with your project/work?
The main component of my research work is the interaction with diverse stakeholder in decision making and conservation of natural resources. School and college students, community leaders, self help group and local NGOs were engaged to share their problems, understand and come with a suitable solution. I have been engaged with the public since 2007 when I have the opportunity to involve myself with the school students in the Department of Biotechnology Natural awareness Club where we provided awareness and training program to the students to increase their knowledge and understanding on natural resources. I am presently associated with a number of organizations in Manipur including North East Center for Environmental Education and Research (NECEER) and Manipur Research Development Society (MRDS) where we are training the youth and stakeholders to increase their awareness on the importance of conservation and sustainable management of the bioresources.

What have been some successes you have had?
My research work has been acknowledged by various international organizations. The following are list of the success.
1. I have been awarded with Ramsar Research Grant from the Society of Wetland Scientists, USA in recognition of my research work on Loktak Lake during 2013-2014.
2. International travel award from the Society of Wetland Scientists for presenting a paper entitled “Environmental Impact of Anthropogenic Activity on Loktak Lake- A Case Study, India” in the Joint Aquatic Science meeting, Portland, USA 2014
3. The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has awarded the International Travel Grant 2013 for presenting a paper entitled “Conservation of Endangered Eldi deer in Keibul Lamjao National Park, India” in the 11 International Mammalogical Congress at Belfast, United Kingdom
4. The Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong has sanctioned my project proposal entitled “Study on Population Ecology of Rucervus eldii eldii in Keibul Lamjao National Park, Indo Burma Biodiversity Hotspot” under conservation and research grant 2014-2015
5. IDEAWILD has supported my research work by providing equipments

What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
The lessons which I have acquired during the course of the time are to understand the problem first and try to share the outcome using scientific data and discuss the possible outcome of the affect so that the people can easily understand. Another important thing is listening the problems and issues of a community to find a solution by involving people actively. There is a need to impart awareness among the different communities, particularly those living in and around the lake to make them aware of the importance of the Loktak Lake and the need for conservation (which I have been doing through a people perception study using information communication and technology approaches for the last few years).

There is a need for a collective approach to the different communities, as the aim of my research is to make people aware of the importance of the local natural resources and protection of it for sustainable development.

School and college students, community leaders, self help group and local NGOs were engaged to share their problems, understand and come with a suitable solution.

There is a need to impart awareness among the different communities, particularly those living in and around the lake to make them aware of the importance of the Loktak Lake and the need for conservation.