Manipur’s Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in the northeast, has become home to a first of its kind floating elementary school.
The school was inaugurated earlier this month at Langolsabi Leikai of Champu Khangpok village, about 50km from Imphal. It was opened under an initiative undertaken by All Loktak Lake Fisherman’s Union with the support of an NGO - People Resources Development Association (PRDA).
It aims to provide education to dropouts, who were rendered homeless due to the recent evacuation of phumdis or floating biomass of vegetation, soil, and organic matter at various stages of decomposition.
“As most of us are uneducated and mostly depend upon on fishing as a meagre source of income, we are unable to send our children to school to another place,” Oinam Rajen Singh, a local, said.
“Once the programme is successful and provides quality education to students, we will expand our project and increase the classes as well. Based on India government drive on free education to all, we will increase the classes up to 8th standard so that opportunities are also given to the drop-out students,” he added.
It will not only cater to the needs of the children but illiterate adults will also be taught. It will accommodate around 25 students and two teachers from the community.
The honorarium of the volunteers will be sanctioned by the PRDA, under the project “Empowering vulnerable local communities for sustainable development”, which is funded by Action Aid India.
The Loktak Development Authority had removed more than 700 floating huts as part of clearing the lake after the introduction of Loktak Lake (Protection) Act 2006, about five years go, displacing the fishing community.
The lake is referred as the “lifeline of Manipur” as it is highly productive and is a source of livelihood for the rural fishermen, who live in the surrounding areas and on phumdis also known as phumshongs. It is also an Important Bird Area as it is a potential breeding site for waterfowl and a staging site for migratory birds.
It serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply.