Consultation mulls on impacts of dam construction on people

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IMPHAL, September 29:A one day consultation on dams and development in Manipur was organized by the Citizen Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) at Manipur Press Club to review the trend of introducing of policies and mega development projects in Manipur.

The first session of the consultation was marked by the sharing of views among representatives of various communities affected by different mega projects in the state.

Initiating the consultation session, Aram Pamei, co chairperson of CCDD deliberated on the possible impacts of the Tipaimukh dam on the Zeliangrong people residing around the area.

Further speaking on the issue, she elaborated on the threats to the livelihood of the people, caused by the submergence of fertile agricultural land along the Barak river and its tributaries due to the construction of the dam.

She further stated that people’s consent and opinions were not taken into consideration by the government prior to and during the construction of the dam.

“The government has only insisted with the forceful construction of the dam”

Kinderson Pamei, representing Committee on Land and Natural Resources and attending the consultation as a resource person mentioned that the state government has continued to sign MoUs with project authorities regaring various dam projects despite the peoples’ opposition.

“The process of taking free and prior informed consent of the people likely to be affected by the construction of the dam as endorsed by the World Commission on Dams and UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples as a key process before any dam construction, have been repeatedly ignored by the government”

There is no impact assessment conducted on Tipaimukh Dam and the public hearings represents a fraudulent process where even the Indian military is involved in some of the hearings at Tamenglong, he added.

Another speaker, Honreikhui Kashung representing Mapithel Dam Affected Vilagers Oranization further mentioned that the Mapithel Dam will submerged the only valley and cultivable land of the Mapithel valley along the Thoubal River, which produces rice and many other seasonal vegetables.

“. The state government also violated the agreements and has been insisting on dubious efforts to divide the affected villagers”, he further alleged.

He further mentioned that the process maintained by the government lacks transparency and it has failed to listen to the affected peoples wishes.

Thanmi Kashung of MDAVO further stressed upon the need for a full review of the Mapithel Dam and opined that many dams like Khuga Dam is a failure and has already failed to serve its purpose and the people cannot be intimidated and treated in an inhumane manner by the government.

Later, Letsei Mate, coordinator, Mapithel Dam Affected Ching Tam organization in his observation mentioned that the Mapithel Dam affects the downstream portion of the Thoubal River inhabited by different communities including Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis

“The project authorities confiscate the land at such minimal rates. The government has also committed serious rights violations of the affected people”.

Oinam Rajen, representing the All Loktak Lake Areas Fisherman Union during the discussion mentioned that the Ithai Barrage has submerged nearly 83000 hectares of land, used for cultivation and grazing, several indigenous rice and food species have disappeared from Loktak Lake areas after the Ithai barrage.

He said that the state government has failed to fulfill the promises to provide free electricity and irrigation etc, to the people who have been left impoverished after the Loktak Project.

“The Ithai Barrage has upset and devastated the Loktak Wetlands ecosystem. The natural processes of rivers and wetlands’ sustaining the environment integrity and diverse species of Manipur is completely disturbed after the barrage. Several fish species are lost completely, many plant species like Heikak, Yelang, are lost already.”

He further maintained that many medicinal plants are lost during the phumdi clearance process, which is environment unfriendly as the government has failed to realize the contribution of Phumdis to the health of Loktak wetlands.”

The Loktak Protection Act, 2006 has again threatened the survival of people along the Loktak Lake as this act will prevent them from accessing the sources of the fish and seasonal vegetables, he added.

In the meantime, Haobijam Joy, of Lotak Project Affected Areas Action Committee further supplemented that, the Loktak multipurpose Hydroelectric project has caused widespread impact on the people of Manipur.

“The Ithai Dam from its commissioning in 1984 has rendered the prime agricultural land in and around the Loktak Wetlands uncultivable and has undermined the food sovereignty of Manipur. The Loktak HEP project has caused more devastation and loss to the people than providing benefits.”

The National Hydroelectric power Corporation (NHPC) has so far failed to provide any form of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement for the devastation and violation caused by its project to affected people, he added.

Tongbram Gunadhar, JAC against the Eviction of Lamphel Yaipha Leikai also shared how the villagers of Lamphel Yaipha Leikai were evicted mercilessly by the state government without providing any rehabilitation and resettlement.

Ninghtoujam Thoiba, a resident of Chingmeirong Lei Inkhol, Imphal East, also shared his experience on how the state government made repeated attempts to evict the residents of Lei Inkhol for construction of Capitol Complex, High Court and Mini Secretariat ever since 2004. The affected villagers continue to resist the government more relying on different forms of protest. There is no effort of the government rehabilitate and resettle the affected people of Lei

Further Bikramjit Oinam representing United Peoples Front, mentioned that, people are forced to take to the streets and resort to violence by such undemocratic and destructive development and further stressed the need for unity among all who suffers from destructive development and to assert people’s rights.

The consultation meeting concluded this afternoon with an affirmation by the participants to be more sensitive and understand the dubious design of the government to undermined peoples’ rights, livelihood in the name of development and to collectively strive to defend people’s land and resources.

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