By RS. Sakathan
It is said that Mapithel Dam is a prestigious project of the state. But very sorry to experience that no authority sincerely dealt with its related matters. The social turmoil in and around the Chadong Village Ukhrul District is directly or indirectly related to the Mapithel Dam and its Rehabilitation and resettlement problem. The state government has failed to address the grievances of the affected people.
The initial survey of Mapithel Dam, Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose Project, was done in early part of 1970s. The feasibility report of this project was submitted to the Central Water Commission(CWC) in September 1976. The planning commission of India approved the project in May 1980 at the cost of Rs.47.25 cores. Initially the work began in August 1980 and was targeted to complete in 1987.
The height of the Dam is 66 meter and the length is 1074 meter. The submergence area by the Dam reservoir is estimated to 1215 hacters. Almost all the submergent area lies in Ukhrul District.
The main objective of this dam is to impound water for irrigation of 17500 hectors of cultivable land and creation of annual irrigation potential of 26500 hectors with three crops in the Valley District of Thoubal and Imphal area. Another important purpose of the project is to supply 10 mgd of drinking water for Imphal town after its completion. It will generate electrical power to the extend of 7.5 MW.
The people to be affected by the Dam and the government or project agency started clashes since the early part of 1982. The main causes of the differences was due to the absence of free prior informed consent of the people which is mandatory under customary law. Series of agitation and protest have been witnessed. After numerous and unwanted incidents have occurred, the Government of Manipur vide order no.2/1/90-IFC (Pt) dt 7th August 1992, constituted a High Level Committee known as The High Level Thoubal Project Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee for the purpose of implementing, monitoring and reviewing rehabilitation program in connection with the project. The constituted committee and the affected people represented by an organisation called The Mapithel Dam Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose Project Affected Villages Committee (MDTRVMPAVC) had 16 round of negotiation in the span of 3 years and finally entered a Memorandum of Agreed Terms on 19th June 1993. As per the agreed terms, the rate of land compensation are negotiated in three categories:
In the agreed terms 1(d),it is said that, the amount compensation shall be paid to the land owners in installment within the years 1993-94 and 1994-95. Interest on the amount of compensation shall be paid if the amount of compensation are not paid within 1994 to 95. In the point ix of the agreed terms, the Dam of the Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose project shall be known as The Mapithel Dam. Contrary to the agreed terms the GOM, IFC Deptt. Paid the land compensation to the land owners in the following piece meal manner.
1st – March 1996 – 30%, 2nd – January 1998 – 14%, 3rd – March 1998 – 7%, 4th – March 1999 – 5%, 5th – February 2000 – 14%, 6th – March 2002 – 3%, 7th – February 2003 – 7%
In 8 years time 7 times installment, a total of 86% was paid. The affected villagers became so irritated to the GOM,IFCD for altering the agreed term as these smaller amounts cannot be used purposefully.
In the meantime, shri N. Kunjaraj Singh, the then Superintending Engineer of IFCD, served a notice on 21st Aug 2003 for final payment of land compensation. On the 3rd Sept 2003, a general body meeting of the MDTRVMPAVC, the former name of the Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organization (MDAVO) was held at Thawai/ Thoyee villages Ukhrul District. The meeting resolved to reject the offer for final payment of land compensation untill and unless the Memorandum of Agreed Term of 1993 is properly implemented. The meeting further decided to demand to constitute an Expert Review Committee(ERC) for proper settlement of R&R of the Affected people.
Since September 2003, the affected villages organized series of Public Rally, agitation, strike, sit-in protest demanding to constitute an Expert Review Committee (ERC) for the final settlement of Resettlement & Rehabilitation programme. After nearly 5 years of agitation, the Government of Manipur constituted an Expert Review Committee (ERC) on the 18th January 2008. In the committee, various Govt. Departments including representative from the affected villages of Thawai/Thoyee, Riha, Ramrei, Ramrei Aze and Chadong village. The first meeting of ERC was held on 19-2-2008. Since then the various Experts from different line Departments have visited the area to be submerged. There were 7 rounds of ERC meeting held till 11-2-2011.
Contrary to the process of ERC,, Mr H. Ibomcha Singh, Commissioner, IFCD issued an Office Memorandum on the 13 June 2011, stated that the finalization of R&R packages is left for Lamlai Khunou and Chadong village. In the same memorandum, it is stated that the Chief Engineer, IFCD will directly contact the representatives of the said two villages only. This Office Memorandum created chaos to all the Affected villages and to ERC members in which the Commissioner himself was the Convenor. On the next day, i,e, the 14th June 2011, Mr TH. Indramani Singh, Chief Engineer,IFCD referring to the Office Memorandum No.20/1/2005,IFC-dt 13th June 2011, invited the Headman/Chairman of Chadong and Ramrei Aze/Lamlai Khunou to attend the office of IFCD on 17th June 2011 to finalise the R&R program.
Rejecting the 13th June 2011 Office Memorandum, an Objection letter was submitted to the then Hon’ble Minister, IFC-Mr. N. Biren on 20th June 2011 by Shri P. Pirei, the then Joint Secretary of MDAVO. In the midst of objection, on 15th July 2011, a new committee was set up at Tampha Hotel, Imphal by few people of Chadong village led by James Kasar, the present Headman of the village with the villagers of Lamlai Khunou. Mr. M. Ngaranmi became the leader of the newly set up Committee for two villages-Lamlai Khunou and few people of Chadong village. On the 21st July 2011,the Chadong village Authority led by the village Secretary submitted an application to the Hon’ble Minister IFC Dept, stating that the R&R programme to the Affected villages be settled only through ERC with MDAVO. The application further clarified that the newly formed committee, the Mapithel/Thoubal Dam Multi purpose Project Displaced villages committee (MTDMPDVC) has no public mandate and Legitimacy. Again on 30th August 2011, a petition was submitted to the Hon’ble chief Minister of Manipur, Shri O. Ibobi by the Chadong village Authority. The contain of the application was objecting the newly formed committee to represent in negotiating R&R for the said villages. Inspite of all these various objections and rejection, Shri N.Biren Singh and the newly formed committee of the two villages MTDMPDVC led by M. Ngaranmi held a meeting on 1st September 2011 and took the decision for R&R of the two villages i.e, Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages. A total of Rs.105.44 crores was approved by the state Cabinet on 13-9-2011 and entered an agreement on the 24th September2011. A very surprise element in the Agreement is the mention of 455 and 241 affected families in Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages although the current number of families is around 230 and 110 respectively. The question is how more than 100 families are added to the actual number. In these matter, the then SDO,Phungyar and Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul will be responsible for any consequences on the no. of families of the two villages. Till today, the IFCD, SDO and DC offices refused to show the family list to the villagers. Due to the lack of transparency and sincere approach in implementing the R&R to the Affected villages of Mapithel Dam, the social turmoil in the affected area occurred. Misinformation fed by the project agency to the state authority also added problem in dealing the R&R programme. Unless the R&R programme is properly settled through ERC, the completion of the dam will be difficult as any misadventure by the government will result in a repeat of 1993. Now it is not the matter of giving final payment but the concern is about the involuntary social displacement issue due to the construction of Mapithel Dam. In this matter Mrs Aruna Sharma,the then Joint Secretary, National Human Right Commission on her DO no.9/01/2007 PRP&P dated 25th August 2008, had instructed to Shri Rakesh, the then Chief Secretary, Govt of Manipur that,the NHRC deeply concern about the rights of persons displaced on account of development project. On 25th May 2012,Shri T.K.A. Nair,Advisor to Prime Minister directed to D.S. Poonia , Chief Secretary,Govt of Manipur on R&R programme for appropriate action(a copy to MDAVO for information).
A group of land owners of Chadong village, village authorities and house holders filed a case in the Guwahati High court Imphal Bench, stating that the newly formed committee MTDMPDVC is a bogus committee which has no public mandate. The Hon’ble High court issued a Stay Order on24-5-2012 of the agreement made between the IFCD and the new committee till returnable date. Our Hon’ble Chief Minister,O.Ibobi Singh has completed 10 years of ruling the state but never visited the Dam affected villages. Not only the C.M but also no IFCD Ministers ever visited. It is observed that absence of responsibilities and sincere approach from the state authority will only create the prestige’s project like Mapithel Dam fail. The undersigned, appeal to all right thinking citizens to suggest the best way to the state authority to solve any issue in a holistic manner.