Chadong villagers left in a lurch as government maintains silence

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The bridge connecting Chadong village to other villages lay submerged in water.
The bridge connecting Chadong village to other villages lay submerged in water.
Photo: IFP

 

By Grace Jajo

IMPHAL, June 25: The issue of Mapithel dam affected population remains unattended from the State government`s side even as Chadong villagers witness submergence of their village along with all its priceless identities and history.

Such involuntary displacement of indigenous people from their habitat amounts to various aspect of rights violation by the State going by the UN statutes.

For almost three weeks, the rising water level has cut off all routes connecting Chadong Village with the outside world as the bridge connecting the village with other villages remain submerged in water.

The government`s developmental design has created another island in the State by submerging the erstwhile fertile plains of village of Chadong.

`This year our farm land was submerged with the onset of monsoon and we have been trying to survive from our homestead products. And we await our dire future lamented a widow from the village.

A single boat handled by two amateur oarsmen help the villagers cross the flooded water, the villagers said.

`If there is a case of child delivery, sick people or emergency cases, we are in a dire situation,` one of them said.

On the other hand, hordes of people irrespective of age and sex from the other side of the river flood the river bank trying to find some amusement.

`It is unfortunate that the insensitive picnickers are enjoying our misery,` said an elderly villager.

He also told this reporter that the elders in the village are helplessly watching the increasing water level. `Some of them would cry while some compose wailing folk songs in despair` he said.

The Mapithel Dam Project was halted by the National Green Tribunal as it did not have the necessary forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

In 2010 the first stage project clearance was granted by MoEF later the second stage clearance was obtained unfairly, alleged a member of the Mapithel Dam Affected Village Organisation(MDAVO). MDAVO has appealed against the clearance to the National Green Tribunal.

A case is also pending with the Manipur High Court.

Another member of the organisation added, the project is a clear violation of indigenous communities` rights over our ancestral land and forest.

It is a classical case where the woes of the affected people are completely ignored by the State, imposing its policy by hoodwinking some people with compensation and militarizing the area to continue with its `anti-people` project, he alleged.

The State government has also insisted on this compensation as inclusive rehabilitation without settling the rights of the affected people. Now our farms are submerged and soon our habitation and our church will also go underwater, he said.

He continued that this was after aborting the Expert Review Committee which was meant to develop a State Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy for development induced displacement of indigenous people.

About I57 households who refused the compensation and demanded the State to legally process through the Expert Review Committee stayed back in their village despite the State employing even men in uniform, he said.

The security personnel stationed near the school scared the children and there was no academic session in the village school this year. Yet the teachers posted in this school continue to draw their salary, said one of the parents.

Another woman who was selling her products on the bank of the flooded water said, it has been more than a month since the water submerged our connectivity. Each day and each night we anticipate our fate with fear yet the government seems to be least bothered. Nobody had come to check on our welfare, the concern Minister, MLA and administrators are all keeping silent. We are shocked at their attitude, she said.

Another young teacher from Ramrei Ato adds, the government told us that the river will be blocked to use the water for downstream irrigation and for generating hydel power but neither have they initiated the irrigation process nor the machinery setup for the same.

It is a forceful displacement. Even the new settlement site that the government proposed has not progress beyond initial ground leveling, said a student activist from the village.

He said we cannot shift there yet nor build temporary shelters since even the basic facilities like water and electricity are missing.

The dam water has been blocked since January 15 changing the whole physical façade of the downstream areas too.

The Mapithel Dam Project was approved by the Planning Commission in 1980 and construction had started since 1989 through the State IFCD department without obtaining the required clearance and without adhering to required procedures.

The Dam will submerge 1,215 hectares of land which includes 595 hectares under forest cover. According to the CAG report, the project has annual irrigation potential of 33,400 ha, with a cultivable command area of 21,862 ha. It will increase drinking water supply to Imphal city and surrounding areas by 45.46 million litres a day and generate 7.5 MW hydel power for rural electrification, according to the CAG report of 2003-04.

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