E-Pao! Opinion - Controversial Hydro Electric (Multi-purpose) Project

Controversial Hydro Electric (Multi-purpose) Project

By: Namdingpou Kamei *

The proposed 162.8 metres high Dam at the estimated cost of about Rs 6714 crores to be constructed on the confluence of the River Tuivai and Barak at Tipaimukh in Churachandpur district of Manipur, will bring the following losses and destructions to the people of the surrounding areas especially to people of Tamenglong.

  • A total area of land 286.20 sq. km will be submerged forever.
  • Barak waterfalls and Zeilad Lake, which are connected with the history of the Zeliangrong people, will be forever underwater and all folklores and legends will have no monuments' proof and it will become a make up story for the next generation.
  • More than, 40,000 people will be rendered landless.
  • Eight villages situated at the Barak Valley will be completely underwater.
  • More than 90 villages mostly of Tamenglong district will be adversely affected.
  • About 27,242 hectares of cultivable land will be lost.
  • The township of Nungba sub-division Hqs. And the village along the NH-53 will be severely affected.
  • The dam will bring health hazard, water borne diseases, industrial pollution and other environmental and ecological problems due to increase of water surface.
  • Increase in salinity of ground water will be unsafe for drinking thereby causing a lot of problems to the people.
  • Possibility of frequent occurrence of destructive earthquake in the area.
  • The decision was taken without proper ecological studies. Such will create a big trouble in the future to the people.
  • The construction will directly affect the livelihood of the people. The natural product, which the people depend for every aspect of their economy, will be totally cut off so there will be economic and financial crises.
  • Consequent displacement and destruction of the people by implementing the project will pose a grave thread to the vibrant democratic system of people's right to live.
  • The project once installed will submerge the exotic flora and fauna and rich gene pools as Manipur falls under one of the genetic hot spot zones of the world where rare biodiversity resources exist.
  • There will be problem of displacement, resettlement, rehabilitation, repatriation and development issues.
  • The construction of Dam will be violation of our democratic form of Government's functioning where the indigenous voices are to be taken and considered.
  • It is a total disregard of our Zeliangrong ancient indigenous heritage and reflects partiality of the government.
  • Not only the Barak basin will be affected, it will also affect its tributaries.
I am very much surprised to see that, although there has been so many disadvantages of the Dam the Government is always trying to convince the people showing some good points. Government is for the people and should not go against the wishes of the people.

But our worthy bureaucrats and people's representatives are trying to convince the ignorant people of the District especially the affected ignorant ones by showing some good points leaving all the negative impacts behind the screen.

Aware of the negative impacts, people of Manipur particularly, the people of Zeliangrong are protesting the construction of the said Dam. They have submitted a number of memoranda to the Chief Minister of Manipur even to the honourable Prime Minister of India.

The Government is trying to convince people with all their might to understand the real benefits of the Dam but the people are also really aware that the merit points are much less than the demerits.

In fact, we all must work out merits and demerits before we take up any project. Though it is positive in one side, if the negative impacts are more, we should stop it immediately.

I honestly hope that honourable and respected leaders of Manipur Government will understand the feelings of his people. If they cannot understand and do not act according to the wishes of their people, they are unworthy to be called "the people's representatives" and incompetent to be called "the people's government'.

Manipur will get 182 MW or 406 million Units of electricity free of cost, which is 12% of 1500 MW to be generated from the project. And they also said that NEEPCO who is going to construct the Dam would give compensation to the people affected by the project unaware of the land to be lost permanently.

But I want to say that, we will lose our land forever because of only 182 MW of electricity in return. The compensation promised by the authority concerned will never be compensated with the value of the land, which is about Rs 5.8 lakh per hectare of land.

Job facilities promised by the government will be never for the affected inhabitants, because they don't have a capable person to get the job, the other educated person will take the advantage.

NEEPCO the authority who is going to construct the dam will never be aware of the land submerged since their land will not be affected.

Actually Manipur state and India have already enough dams for the purpose of generating electricity and irrigation. But many of the Dams cannot produce what was envisaged for the lack of proper management.

For instance Loktak Hydro Project could not supply enough power to the state due to poor management, but it has destroyed thousands of hectares of paddy field. Likewise, Khoupum Irrigation Project has become a total failure resulting in the loss of thousands of hectares of wet paddy fields.

It is said that except for the lack of proper management or maintenance, India has already enough dams, which could generate sufficient power for the entire country. Therefore, instead of constructing new dams it will be better to invest the money and technicians or workers in the existing project.

This will solve the problems and will not lose our land, which is the nation's most precious property to be inherited by our generation to generations. We must aim to construct less dam but to generate more power, because the more we build a dam, the more we lose our land forever.

Besides, water conflict has been in existence in many states of India due to the construction of dams without the indigenous people's concern like, Sardar Sarovar Dam (built on Narmada river), Tehri Dam (built on Bhagirathi river) etc. Tipaimukh dam should not be added to them.

One of the objectives of the proposed 162.8 metres high dam is to control frequent occurrence of flood in the Cachar plain of Assam.

However, this will affect a total permanent submergence of about 27,550 sq. kms of land surface in Manipur mostly in Tamenglong district which is against the people's right to live and national policy of Land use and this is also a policy of one sidedness. More land of Manipur will be submerged than flooded plain in Assam for the sake of flood control.

Until now the huge dams on the big rivers were considered very useful from the viewpoint of water utilization. But recent scientific studies have revealed that dams give birth to earthquakes. The soil irrigated by canals becomes infertile in the long run due to alkalization. The dams also restrict the free movement of marine life.

The site of Tipaimukh Hydro Multi-purpose Dam is also said to be highly seismic zone with the Taithu fault almost parallel to the selected location.

So if this dam is built and covered the land by water, there will be frequent occurrences of earthquakes in the region. The proposed site of the Dam falls under major mega bio-diversity zone of the world which will lead to the irreparable loss of natural resources of the mother earth.

Our future life will be threatened by the impact of the dam.

Namdingpou Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express. This article was webcasted on December 15th, 2006.

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