IMPHAL, May 31: The Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organization has appealed to the chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to intervened into the plight of tribals affected by the Maphithel Dam.
In a letter sent to the national commission signed by its chairman, the organization has appealed for the commission to intervened and suspend the construction of the dam until the rehabilitation and resettlement programmes of the affected villagers are implemented.
The letter has stated that the Mapithel Dam (Thoubal Multipurpose Project) was approved by the planning commission in 1980 and construction of the dam commenced in the 1990s. However the letter further maintained that the dam will affect as many as 11 tribal villages directly`”with some of them completely submerged.
It has also stated that a Memorandum of Agreement was signed on June 19, 1993 between some of the affected villages and the government of Manipur (GOM) wherein the GOM agreed to pay certain amounts of compensation to the affected villagers within a stipulated time. However, the GOM reneged on the agreement by not paying the compensation within the stipulated timeframe.
It has further stated that the state government had prepared a series of rehabilitation and resentment programmes for the oustees without consulting the affected villagers which had resulted the various rehabilitation and resettlement plans suffered from various defects and limitations.
It also maintained that the affected villagers had submitted several representations to the concerned authorities, to constitute an Expert Review Committee (ERC) tasked with the responsibilities of reviewing the rehabilitation and resettlement programmes for those affected by the construction of the dam.
According to the letter sent to the chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, the demand for constitution of the ERC had been taken up at the Chief Minister level as early as 2004. This fact is borne out by the letter of Wungnaoshang Keishing, MLA dated 26 March 2006 to the Chief Minister wherein it is clearly stated that the `Chief Minister had assured the delegation of the affected area that all possible assistance would be provided by constituting an Expert Review Committee.
However despite of the assurance, the ERC was not constituted, it stated and added that it was only after numerous reminders and democratic forms of protest that the GOM came out with a notification in January 2008 to the affect that it is constituting an ERC to `examine the rehabilitation and resettlement programmes of the affected villagers as a result of the construction of the Thoubal Multipurpose Project.`
In this regard, the Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organisation (MDAVO), in the 1st Meeting of the ERC on January 18, 2008, had submitted a document proposing Terms of Reference (TOR) for consideration by the ERC within which the ERC should function. The same document was also forwarded to the Chief Secretary, GOM for consideration and information.
In this regard, the GOM responded on 11 April 2008 that the State Cabinet has decided to refer the matter to the ERC for detailed examination of TOR.
Despite this assurance, the ERC had not arrived at any decision regarding the TOR submitted by MDAVO. The ERC in its last meeting on February 11, 2011 resolved that after re-examining the TOR submitted by MDAVO, it would submit its findings to the Government for obtaining approval, it maintained.
The letter further reminded that the GOM has announced, in response to a starred question (Starred Question No. 577 dated March 11, 2011) during a Manipur legislative assembly session that the Mapithel Dam would be commissioned on March 31, 2012. As one of the legitimate demands of MDAVO is that all processes and implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement programme should be completed a year before the commissioning of the dam to ensure that the needs and requirements of affected villagers are taken care of, this attempt of the GOM to commission the dam before the completion of the rehabilitation and resettlement programme would adversely impact the affected villagers. And particularly in light of the fact that the ERC, which was constituted to review the rehabilitation and resettlement programmes for those affected by the construction of the dam, is yet to submit its report, it maintained.