IBSD Initiated First Freshwater Floating Laboratory of India at Loktak Lake of Manipur
Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in north-east India, and it is now home to a floating laboratory that patrols its waters analysing pollution load to help conserve this biome. The 15-metre-long boat that can accommodate 10 people is a full-fledged laboratory made at cost of Rs. 5 lakh. It cruises on the vast waters of the Loktak Lake analysing the water quality.
The lake, which has shrunk by 40 sq km, is home to hundreds of massive circular rings of floating vegetation called “phumdis” or floating islands. Locals use them to culture fish, and about one lakh people depend on this massive lake. As a consequence, the pristine nature of the lake is getting lost.
The model of a floating laboratory ties into a larger initiative by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to monitor the health of aquatic systems in the northeast. Last September, the DBT announced plans to have multiple floating boats cruising the 3,500-km Brahmaputra river and collecting water samples to track its health.
The health of the lake also affects the Phumdis of the Loktak lake. These islands, made of a mix of vegetation and soil, coalesce to form a thick mat that, for centuries, has hosted huts and fishing settlements. “We are also studying the nutrient uptake of these vegetation and monitoring their health,” said Prof. Sahoo, Director, IBSD.
The pH of the lake, as per measurements so far, varies from 6.8-7.2 (ideally the pH of a healthy lake should be slightly below 7). “However studies of ocean acidification have shown that even a 0.1 increase in pH can cause (harmful) decalcification,” Prof. Sahoo added, “We shouldn’t wait for the lake to hit the intensive care unit before thinking of ways to save it.”