Zaimeng lake: A unique wetland ecosystem

The unique ecological values of the lake and its surrounding has been indicated by the presence of "tadui taku" a rare Salamander species in the lake.

THE ZAIMENG lake is a unique creation of nature. It is situated at an altitude of about 7252ft on the Maraobou Range which is an extended range of the Koubru range after the Thingbung Katia saddle.

Zaimeng is a Liangmai word. Its literal meaning in English would be something like this–lake perplex or lake puzzle ( Zailake, meng= perplex or puzzle ). It is believed that the name of the lake was given by the forefathers of the Thonglang villagers who passed by the lake but could not find their way to their destination as they used to return to the same spot again and again and sometimes circling the lake over and over again.

Zaimeng lake

About 30 years back the lake used to be surrounded by well trimmed Kalakbang (Leihao = Michelia champacca), Maga (Uningthou = Phoebe hainensenia), Zaimeng rapen (Uthambal = Magnolia), Karangbang (Thangji = Quercus sp.), thick growth of thorny bamboos and many other tree species of temperate zones. Many visitors are today reminiscing the sweet fragrance of Michelia flowers.

The greater part of the Zaimeng lake is basically a marshy mass of thick grass like weeds, mixed with reeds and green mosses.The thickness of the mass is immeasurable. The effort of the local people to measure the depth or the thickness of the marshy mass by piercing Chaki (Leiwa poles) inside the thick mass have not been able able to touch solid base below the mass. This clearly indicate that the marshy mass is immeasurably deep.

While the marshy mass is wet round the year it does not hold visible water, however, in the northern end of the marshy lake there is a clear water lake. The marshy area and the lake together resembles a huge crater. The water of the lake is so clear that the bottom of the lake can be seen from above. The most unique character of the lake is, that not a single leaf is found floating on the lake as there is a bird (not identified yet) which always swoop down to remove any floating leaf.

Zaimeng lake A unique wetland ecosystem 1

The marshy mass with the lake measures about 10 acres, and the clear water lake would measure to about 50ft by 60ft. The unique ecological values of the lake and its surrounding has been indicated by the presence of “tadui taku” a rare Salamander species in the lake. The unfathomable marshy mass act as the natural water conservation reservoir which supply water to smaller water holes, springs and swamps in the surrounding foothills. Incidentally and most importantly, the Zaimeng lake is situated on the hill ridge flanked by the catchment forest of two important rivers of the state namely the Irang river in the western aspect and Imphal river on the eastern aspect.

It has become a a very popular picnic spot for the local people who are residing in the surrounding foothills. NGOs and many nature lovers who visited the lake had advised the villagers to preserve the lake and its surrounding forest. In the past some senior Forest Department officials had visited and recently a team of Forest officials from the Northern Forest Division, Kangpokpi had gone for a preliminary spot enquiry along with a guide from the Thonglang Akutpa on 11 th. Feb, 2015.

The Environment Wing of the Forest Department has carried the picture of the Zaimeng lake in its annual calendar of 2015. It is hoped that the reports and technical inputs from the Forest Department officials, Academicians, Researchers and Nature lovers will help in the Forest Department and other relevant Departments to take appropriate actions for the conservation of this rare wetland located in the reaches of the hill range.

The importance of this lake as the source of water supply to two important state rivers and its environmental services have been discovered sadly, only after most of the valuable trees and wild animals have been wiped out due to anthropogenic activities. The surrounding of the lake is now completely bare and open. The water in the lake has receded so much that it is feared that the rare Salamanders may be parched to death.

As such Zaimeng lake does not require further introduction and emphasis on its ecological and aesthetic importance and about its role as a natural water conservation reservoir and efficient weather regulator. It has therefore become imperative for the concerned department particularly the Forest Department and its Environmental wing to take up appropriate steps to bring the Zaimeng lake under the ambit of the National wetland Conservation Programme or declare the Zaimeng lake and the surrounding forest which is an integral component of the unique environment. A thorough scientific research on the unique character of this unique wetland will help in demystifying the myths connected to the Zaimeng lake.

Needless to say the luxuriant Uningthou – Leihao forest of the Thonglang Forest which comes under 16 Block of the Manipur Forest Management Plan was put on auction by the Govt. of Manipur in 1952 and consequently the forest was heavily exploited by successive timber contractors from 1952 till 1970. The forest of Thonglang areas was the home of Royal Bengal tigers, wild elephants, bears, Hoolock gibbons, wild dogs, etc. etc. The last tiger of the area was killed in 1976 in the vicinity of Thonglang Akutpa village.

Zaimeng lake A unique wetland ecosystem 2

Appreciably the Thonglang Akutpa village had positively responded to the call for nature conservation by adopting a firm resolution to protect the forest surrounding the Zaimeng and Aten wetlands since ten years back. The restriction on potato and cabbage cultivation on the higher hill slopes has helped in rejuvenating the forest cover.

It will be worthwhile for the concerned authorities to take cognisance of such positive activities of the local villagers. The timely intervention of the authorities will help in rebuilding the deforested areas into a beautiful lush green forest, of course by invoking the active participation of the local people.

It will be a good thing if the concerned authorities after thorough study of the field survey reports can come up with a viable conservation strategies by giving appropriate legal status under the provision of the Wild life Protection Act 1972 or any relevant act enforced in the Country.

Every little action taken by responsible authorities and citizens for conservation of our highly threatened ecological heritage will help in reversing the impending colossal impact on our earth due to Global warming or Climate Change.

Mani Charenamei

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