Did You Know About The World’s Only Floating National Park?

Did You Know About The World’s Only Floating National Park?
The Loktak Lake in Manipur Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Discover the only wildlife sanctuary floating on a lake

Labanya Maitra
October 17 , 2019
03 Min Read

Afloat on the waters of the Loktak Lake in Manipur, the Keibul Lamjao National Park is the world’s only floating wildlife sanctuary. Known for the patches and rings of biomass called phumdis, the park is a wetland ecosystem. A phumdi is a carpet of dead and decaying flora, which floats on the surface of the lake—about a fifth of it is above the surface. Tall reeds and grasses grow on these phumdis, often reaching up to 15ft in height.

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The Keibul Lamjao National Park is also the world’s sole habitat for the sangai, or brow-antlered deer, in the wild. It’s the state animal of Manipur. The population of the sangais are in danger of losing their habitat as the phumdis are no longer able to carry their weight. This is due to a multitude of factors—invasive plant species have taken over the vegetation in the phumdis, farming practices are encroaching on the park territory, natural drainage of the old vegetation has been hampered, as well as poaching and illegal fishing.

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The roughly 240-sq-km lake provides these phumdis nutrition as the living roots reach the lakebed during the dry season. Come monsoon, they rise again. However, this natural process was interrupted in the 1980s with the construction of the Ithai Hydropwer Dam. The water level of the lake now remains high throughout the year, preventing the phumdis from sinking and absorbing the nutrients they need to stay thick enough to support the deer. They are now depleting and falling apart.

The lake provides livelihood for as many as 4,000 fishermen and their families, who live along its banks in small huts. There’s also India’s only floating elementary school nearby, which was established in 2017. Only the largest phumdi was dedicated as a national park to protect the endangered sangai, of which only about 200 remain in the wild. Fittingly, the Meitei people of Manipur consider the lake to be their mother—the giver of life.

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