Manipur: Where the Islands Float

From space, Loktak Lake, located in Manipur, India, looks unlike any other lake. It appears like a luscious sapphire-colored fabric with velvety green polka dots of varying sizes. Loktak Lake is a one-of-a-kind wetland ecosystem that has been designated a Wetland of International Importance through the Ramsar Convention treaty of 1960. The numerous green circles that cover nearly two-thirds of the lake’s 236 square kilometers are actually phumdi, or floating islands comprised of vegetation, soil, and other organic matter. Unique to Loktak Lake, phumdis change shape according to a season and move around the lake surface, playing a critical role in water cleansing, nutrient absorption, flood control, and carbon sequestration. Phumdis are home to some 425 species of animals, including the endangered “dancing deer,” over 100 species of birds, and 233 species of aquatic plants. They have been home and a means of livelihood to over 1000 indigenous families.

In 1984, the Indian government commissioned the Loktak Hydroelectric Project which threatened to destroy of this unique wetland ecosystem. In 2011, the India began dredging the lake and evicting indigenous people that inhabit the phumdis.

Using images and video vignettes, Neeta Satam documents the story of the conflicts between development, indigenous communities, and the environment against the backdrop of Loktak Lake.

Manipur: Portraits of Resilience

Portraits of Resilience takes viewers up close to nine individuals to understand the delicate relationship between the Meiteis and the Loktak Wetland as well as their fight for survival.

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