Feasibility of Loktak Downstream Project discussed in Public Hearing

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Katapou Pamei, general secretary Loktak Downstream People Welfare Association participating in the discussion during public hearing of Loktak Down Stream project held at Thangal village, Tamenglong district on June 7.
IMPHAL June 8: A public hearing on the feasibility of the Loktak Downstream Project was held yesterday at Longjang (Thangal) village in Tamenglong district.
The public hearing was chaired by K Panmei, deputy commissioner, Tamenglong and PP Singh, chief engineer, Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporation.
N Dwijen Singh, superintending engineer of the state power department, Huri Golmei, divisional forest officer of Tamenglong, N Minaketan Singh, senior environmental engineer and member secretary of the Manipur Pollution Control Board K Jagdishwor Singh also attended as panel members among others at the public hearing.
K Panmei, in his deliberation, appealed the gathering to actively participate in the public hearing with a positive approach as it is mandatory to take consent of the public to expedite the Loktak downstream project.
Stating that the public hearing was conducted for the public to give their views regarding the draft project, he said the project will be carried out by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and the government of Manipur as per the agreement signed on September 26, 2008.
Member secretary of MPCB, K Jagdishwor, in his deliberation, said the project has been proposed to provide cheap power supply to the general public adding there can be no development without electricity.
He further stated that the public hearing has been carried out in adherence to the norms laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forest in 2006 that before building of any dam, it is deemed necessary to implement certain steps regarding the process such as screening and scooping the project, to conduct a public consultation and finally for appraisal at the conclusion.
He said that the public has been informed about the project as notifications have been given in the local dailies and via the Internet so that they may be prepared well ahead of time.
Chief environmental engineer of NHPC, Dr Sahid  also gave a power point presentation on the salient features and benefits of the project.
He explained that the Environment  Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) reports were prepared by Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment, Delhi University.
He further informed the public that there are two important issues for the implementation of the Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project. One is environmental clearance and the other, forest clearance out of which the later has been given clearance by the concerned Ministry.
It is a joint project of the Government of Manipur (26%) and NHPC (74%) and  an agreement was signed on September 26, 2008.
It is a run on the river scheme on the Leimatak river and the dam will have a height of 28 meters and envisages generation of 66 Megawatts from the tail race discharge of the Loktak Power Station. The project is estimated at a total cost of Rs 867.77 crores on October 2006.
The project in its wake is also supposed to provide overall economic development by providing medical, educational, infrastructure development and employment opportunities. The benefits will be tendered by the different concerned state departments and by the NHPC, and committees will also be instituted to monitor the schemes, he said.
At the latter part of the public meeting, several voices of discontent were raised against the implementation of the project from the attendees. Katapou Pamei, general secretary of the Loktak Downstream People Welfare Association charged that the land compensation is not updated and requested that the compensation process be expedited and payment be made at a single time, he also questioned whether the local populace will be awarded the labor works contractually and to spell out the job opportunities.
Jangamlung Panmei, ex MLA voiced that the public meeting may be a futile exercise. He further stated that initial support for the project was there from the public, but it seems that the propose of the NHPC and the state government is just to earn profits.
“ The hills have been classified as a no man’s area, but it must be understood that every inch of the hills has an owner, the compensation amount offered to us is unjust, at no cost will we allow ourselves to be exploited, we are not prepared to be sacrificial goats at the cost of the NHPC and the government, if we see any dishonesty, we will rally to oppose the project”, he said.
Akhon Rianmei , president of the JAC on construction of Loktak Down Stream Project also submitted a public grievances memorandum and proposal to the hearing panel highlighting issues of deforestation, construction of link roads, development of tourist park, rest house, administrative office, jobs and contract works to be given to the locals, provision of free electrification. He said that the construction of the Barrage is said to be under a highly seismic zone and will also lead to the irreparable loss of natural resources, submerge a large number of paddy fields apart from exploiting cultivable lands and other forest products.
G. Ningthaodai  of Thangal village regretted that MOU has been signed twice with NHPC without maintaining time schedule regarding compensations matter. The EIA and EMP have not been furnished in advance and the project area is a risk zone.  He wondered whether any seismic study has ever been done to the project. He also opined the public hearing should be re-conducted at the Taousang village as the proper notification of the project which should be done in the local dialect has not been done and majority of the villagers are unaware .
Pamei Tingenglung of Thangal village enquired about the rate of compensation to be adopted for the project. He also expressed apprehension whether the botanical development activities envisaged in the EMP and EIA report have been given due care by consulting experts. He also demanded more public hearing before commencement of the project stating that the meeting does not correspond to the norms of a public meeting on such a sensitive issue.
Martha Pamei of Leishok village desired that job opportunities should be given for women of the affected village. She also complained that even though she is a resident of Loktak, she is not getting electricity from Loktak project. She also contended that promise made by NHPC were never kept. She expressed the opinion that all promise shall be made in writing in order to ensure that they are kept and that the Zeliangrong women may agitate if the situation goes out of hand.
Meidinlung Pamei of Thangal village and Majangbung Gangmei, Social workers, opined that panel members should have included representatives of the local people.
During the public hearing, written representations were received from chairman of Zelaingrong Students Union, attorney powered Khubu and land owner of Toushang Village, Chairman of Soubung village authority, representatives of Chakanglong Peidai, Khullakpa of Taoshang village authority court.

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