Manipur activists say no to big dams

Imphal, May 4 (IANS) The death of two anti-dam activists in police firing at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh two days ago has put the spotlight on similar agitations in other northeastern states, especially Manipur.

A ‘public consultation meeting’ held in Imphal late Tuesday resolved that big dams will be opposed in the state.

The meeting also resolved to approach the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on these proposed big dams. The meeting was jointly organised by Citizens’ Concern for Dams and Development, North East Dialogue Forum and Centre for Research and Advocacy.

The main target of the activists is the proposed Tipaimukh dam which is to be constructed over the Barak river at the trijunction of Assam, Mizoram and Manipur.

Authorities have promised big benefits for the state once the dam is constructed. For instance, they say that of the 1,500 MW the project will generate, Manipur will get 15 per cent free of charge.

The same promise, however, was made while constructing the 105 MW Loktak project, activists point out. But Manipur is buying some power from the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation that is running the project.

The anti-dam activists have been pointing out that several tribal villages in Manipur and Mizoram will be submerged in the dam waters. Rare flora and fauna will be destroyed forever.

However, brushing aside the people’s concern the government went ahead.

Some activists told IANS that the central government has not learned a lesson from the Thoubal dam in Manipur.

There were objections from the people to this project which would generate power, provide water for irrigation and drinking. But the public demand was ignored by project officials and a new police station and an Assam Rifles camp were opened in the vicinity of the dam under construction.

Officials told IANS that several years back some persons came and asked the engineers and workers to leave. This was ignored as police and Assam Rifles personnel were present nearby. Some days later the persons returned and shot dead three workers and torched expensive machinery after which all the officials and workers fled.

They refused to return for many years though the government promised them cast-iron protection. The gunmen were never identified or caught and the dam is yet to give benefits to the people.

The Mapithel dam has also uprooted the tribal village of Chadong. All the houses, school and church building have gone under water.

The government has been turning a deaf ear to the activists, merely saying that all the villagers had taken compensation. Besides they were given alternative land for settlement.

Dominic, chairman of the Mapithel Dam Affected People, appealed to the villagers of Tipaimukh not to be swayed by the financial arrangements.

He said, “The villagers still regret the way they had been trapped in the misleading promises of the government.”

He added that the government and the local MLA and officials remain unconcerned about the plight of the Chadong villagers.

Phundro Konsam, chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, said: “The Tipaimukh dam will submerge vast agricultural and forest areas and deprive people in Tamenglong and Churachandpur districts of their means of livelihood.”



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