By Sobhapati Samom
Imphal, Apr 3 : Global environmental network International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed 15 fish species including seven from Manipur as ‘Endangered’ freshwater fish species.
This was stated in their recently released Red list of threatened species report on the status and distribution of freshwater biodiversity in Eastern Himalaya which covers the entire NE States and parts of eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Manipur’s seven fish species in the IUCN red list are Ngakha Meingangbi (Puntius Manipurensis), Ngatup (Schistura Kanjupkhulensis), Ngatup makhal ama (Schistura minutes), Ngatup manba nga (Schistura reticula), Ching-ngakra (Pterocryptis barakensis), Ching-Ukabi (Badis tuivaiei) and Nung-nga (Psilorhynchus microphthalamus).
A six-member research team headed by fish researcher Prof Waikhom Vishwanath of Manipur University’s Life Science department conducted the research on the status and distribution of freshwater fishes of the Eastern Himalaya region which comprises Ganga delta and plain, Ganga Himalayan foothills, Upper Brahmaputra, Middle Brahmaputra, Chin Hills-Arakan coast and Sittang-Irrawaddy eco-region.
The other co-researchers were Heok Hee Ng of National University of Singapore, Ralf Britz of The Natural History of Museum, London, L Kosygin Singh of Zoological Survey of India (Orissa), Shivaji Chaudhry of BG Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development and Kevin W Conway of Texas and A&M University.
“It took one year to compile the report by studying 115 fish species out of 520 species found in the Eastern Himalaya region”, Prof W Vishwanath said.
According to the IUCN document, half of fish species (263) in Eastern Himalaya are categorised as ‘Least Concerned’ while 27 per cent (141 species) are under Data Deficient category. Only one per cent of the species (5) are Critically Endangered including one Nemacheiline loach, Schistura papulifera is endemic in eastern Meghalaya’s Krem Synrang Pamiang cave system in Jaintia Hills, while Endangered species occupy hardly three per cent species (15). Besides, nine per cent of them (46) are categorised as Near Threatened category.
Though no species was categorised as globally Extinct or Extinct in the wild in the Eastern Himalaya assessment region, Manipur’s State fish Pengba (Osteobrama belangeri) was reported to be regionally extinct in wild as the route of this Myanmar origin minor carp has been disturbed with the construction of Ithai barrage across Manipur river for the operation of Loktak hydro-electric project 28 years ago.
Drying up of wetlands due to siltation and conversion of Loktak, largest freshwater lake in NE India (40,000 hectare), into a water reservoir after commissioning of the above project, has caused drastic change in Manipur’s aquatic environment forcing many species vulnerable. Manipur has more than 200 fish species.
“Pollution,habitat loss, damming, over-exploitation besides species invasion are the major threats in Manipur,” Prof Vishwanath said when enquired. “Fishes in Chindwin basin in Manipur particularly Imphal river and its tributaries are so vulnerable unlike the Bramhaputra basin where the species may find similar habitat for their survival.”
Besides the development of Moreh(India) and Tamu (Myanmar) – both border townships for 16 year-old Indo-Myanmar border trade has impacted on the aquatic environment in Lokchao river in Manipur and Yu river in Myanmar.
Barak basin in south western Manipur is also under threat, the IUCN report added.