“The State Government of Manipur has started burning down floating huts, Khangpokshang, built over Phumdis (floating plant mass) of the fishermen living in Loktak Wetlands in central Manipur from 15 November 2011 up to the present. The officers from the Loktak Development Authority and the Manipur state police carried out the deliberate burning down of the huts. The Loktak Development Authority had issued an eviction notice to the residents on 11 November 2011.
Nearly 200 floating huts were already burnt by November 17, and the remaining 1,132 floating huts are to meet a similar fate. There are about 5,000 persons living in the floating huts located in Khuman Yangbi, Nambul Machin and Karang Sabal within the Loktak Lake. The burning down of the floating huts is in accordance with the provisions of the much controversial Loktak Lake (Protection) Act, 2006, in particular Section 19 and 20 of the Act, which divides the 236.21 sq.km Loktak Lake into two zones – a core zone comprising 70.30 sq.km, which is a ‘no development zone’, or ‘totally protected zone’, and a buffer zone of other areas of the lake excluding the core zone.
A vital aspect of this division is the prohibition on building huts or houses on Phumdis inside the lake, or Athaphum fishing, a destructive form of fishing using vegetation enclosures in the core area. This however, will adversely affect over 10,000 people living in Phumdi huts, as well as others dependent on the Lake. The burning down of nearly 200 floating huts has led to the displacement of nearly 950 community members so far who has been living in these floating huts for generations.
The number of affected families is expected to increase since the burning down of huts is continuing. The victims, including women, children and the aged have sought refuge at the Ningthoukhong Makha Leikai community hall in Bishenpur district, Manipur. The fishing gears and nets of the communities, their only means to catch fish from the Loktak wetlands were also burned and this has left the community having no means to find food for survival. Having lost all their belongings, including books, uniforms and school bags, many children can no longer go to school. With the winter already setting in Manipur, the displaced villagers are left to fend for themselves during the harsh weather.”
-November 18, 2011 ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION