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Humans of wanderlust #26: Suresh Singh – Boat paddler at Loktak Lake

Suresh Singh is 23 years old. He is pursuing his degree in computer science from Moirang college. He belongs to Thanga village.

When he is free from his studies, Singh takes people around Loktak Lake for sightseeing. His family has a tourism business of providing guides to the tourists and local sightseeing via a boat ride in Loktak Lake.

Singh is the youngest son of his family. He has one elder sister who is married and has settled down in
Moirang. He lives in Thanga with his father and mother. Recently, the family started the only floating homestay in Loktak Lake.

Manipur

He was born and brought up in Thanga village therefore he knows mostly all the fishermen around Loktak Lake. From an early age, most people who live in Thanga know how to catch fish and row a boat. It is in the blood of every Meitei who lives in Thanga.

When asked about the start of his career, Singh replied, “I used to row the boat from early childhood and used to go to places around Loktak Lake. My father works as a local guide around Thanga. From the start of my childhood, I used to see tourists coming here wanting to explore Thanga. Majorly, I used to go with my father around Thanga to see life around Loktak Lake. That’s how I grew up. Later, I joined college in Moirang.”

Loktak lake floating house boat

Singh said that he used to study and take people local sightseeing for a one day tour around Loktak Lake. “I was 15 when I went for my first sightseeing tour in Thanga. The tourists were a family group and good friends of my father. Hence, it was less stressful for explaining. After that, depends on the availability of me and my father, whoever is available takes people for a local boat ride over Loktak Lake.”

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How has tourism helped you grow?

Loktak Manipur home stay

“Tourism has always been part of my life from childhood. Majorly researchers come to this area for their research about Loktak Lake. They want to experience the local life of the Meitei community in Thanga. I mostly interact with people from different parts of the world. It has helped me improve my communication skills as well as the lifestyle of my family. We have recently started the only floating homestay over the phumdi on Loktak Lake. It gives the experience of staying over Loktak Lake. This is something not everybody is giving here in Thanga,” he said with glee.


According to you, what is the future of Loktak Lake?

“Recently, a hydro-power plant has been installed in Ningthoukong which passes Loktak Lake’s water to the other side of the mountain in the Yarik river. This has been installed by the government in order to generate hydro-electric power from the passing water. Much marine life has been affected due to this change. Even the earning of the fishermen is getting affected as there’s less fish in the lake. Many people have protested against this change but no actions have been taken by the government. This has affected even the thickness of the floating biomass which we call Phumdi in our local language,” he said.

The phumdi’s thickness is getting lesser year by year which is dangerous for all people who are living by the lake, he feels.

“The lake will not be able to sustain the phumdi after a while. Such major changes are happening in recent years over Loktak Lake. Other than this, the land is developing and becoming more mainstream and popular as more and more people are settling here. Initially, there were more than 500 phumdis back in the 2000s but now it has reduced to just 356 phumdis in recent years. Such changes are damaging our local lifestyle in many ways. This should be stopped,” Singh said.

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How are climatic changes happening in Thanga?

“Due to unusual activities like deforestation, the rain pattern has changed in the past years. The summers are also becoming hotter year by year. The villagers have been trying to plant more and more plants in their homes so that the place maintains its ecological balance. There’s a big business going on here of transporting rocks from the mountain to the construction companies in the cities which are also creating an imbalance in the natural environment of the place. I believe as a good human being, we can stop all these things happening and making our place good enough to live,” he ended.

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