Friday 11 January 2013

The only floating lake of the world

It is one of the largest freshwater lakes of the region. It is also home to the endangered Sangai or brow-antlered deer.  However, its fame rests on the fact that it is the only floating lake in the world.
Welcome to Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater or sweet water lake in Manipur in northeast India is spread over 286  square kms. The lake floats every day because of its floating mass of phumdis-  a  heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition.
Some of the phumdis or floating islands are populated and people live on them. Of course the animals too live on them and some are endangered such as the Sangai or the Manipur antler, which is one of the three sub-species of Eld’s deer. 
Many of these phumdis are located near Moirang. The phumdi on which the Keibul Lamjao national park is situated  covers an area of fifteen square miles and it is on the southeastern shore of the lake. This is the largest of all the phumdis in the lake.
This ancient lake, whose origin goes back to several centuries,  plays an important role in the economy of  Maniur. It also serves as a source of water for hydroelectric generation, irrigation and drinking water supply.
The lake is also a source of livelihood for the fisherman who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”.  People living on the phumdis use canoes and boats to move around the lake and to the mainland. Unfortunately, human activity has led to severe pressure on the lake ecosystem and today there are 55 rural and urban hamlets around the lake with a population of  125,000 people.
The lake is one of the few Indian water bodies to be designated as a wetland of international importance. The Ramsar convention of  23, 1990 has also ratified this decision.
The Lake is divided into two zones-Core zone which is fully protected and the Buffer Zone. There are 14 hills of varying sizes and shapes within the lake and on its periphery.
The northern zone of the lake is separated from the central zone by large phumdis, varying thickness of  0.4 to 4.5 m or 1.3 to 15 ft. During the period of  January to March, phumdis in this area are usually burnt for construction of  fish and paddy.
The Loktak lake is fed by the Manipur river and several tributaries. The Ungamel channel (Ithai barrage) is its only outlet now.
The lake’s rich biological diversity comprises 233 species of aquatic macrophytes of emergent, submergent, free-floating and rooted floating leaf types.
Apart from the deer, 116 species of  birds have been sighted,  including 21 species of migratory waterfowl, most of them migrating from different parts of the  northern hemisphere.
Also recorded were 425 species of animals-249 vertebrates and 176 invertebrates, including rare animals such as the Indian python, Sambhar, wild bear, Indian civet, Rhesus monkey, Hoolock Gibbon, Stump-tailed macaque, Marbled cat, Temminck’s Gold cat and barking deer.
The floating lake is well connected by road and air and Imphal, the capita of Manipur, is just 39 kms  away. The phumdi islands of  Sendra and Phubala offer tourist facilites.
The Sendra Tourist Home with an attached cafeteria in the middle of the lake is an ideal  tourist spot. Another attraction is in  Moirang town whish is on the fringes of the  Loktak.
Moirang has the INA ( Indian National Army ) Museum which exhibits include letters, photographs, badges of ranks and other articles associated with the INA. A bronze statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in uniform stands on the lawn.
Since you live on the lake, there are no timings, wow. You can stay day and night at one of the many facilities.

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