Several experts expressed serious concern over unsustainable and neoliberal development processes, including dam building, mining, oil exploration, road and railways and oil palm plantations that worsened the loss of land, forest and wetlands, at a consultation programme on Climate Change in Manipur & COP 27 of UNFCCC” at Paona Bazar, Imphal Friday.
"The government should stop counting mega dams as renewable energy to mitigate climate change," Jiten Yumnam, secretary of Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRA) said while speaking at the consultation programme, which was organised by the CRA Manipur and the Youth Forum for Protection of Human Rights in Manipur (YFPHR).
Expressing concern over the false climate change solutions pursued in Manipur and efforts of corporate bodies to seek profit by plundering natural resources of the state, he said all climate change mitigation and adaptation related initiatives and policies should ensure compliance with indigenous peoples’ rights as per UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, 2007.
YFPHR general secretary T Sadishchandra raised concern over the shrinking civil society spaces and the increased targeting of human rights defenders striving for land rights and for climate justice.
“All development processes and efforts for climate change solutions should be rooted in the respect of the rights of indigenous peoples and consider the development alternatives forwarded,” he said.
Calling for serious review of the government’s push for palm oil plantation, he said the plan should not be pursued arbitrarily.
YFPHR representative, Jennison Urikhimbam shared that climate change and crisis is an obvious reality in Manipur that already impacts the most vulnerable. International financial institutions increasingly finance unsustainable projects, such as mining, extractives, dam building, infrastructure projects, which will only worsen climate impacts.
“Climate crisis has already induced displacement and impoverishment of communities,” he said.
Expressing concerns that the efforts to find solutions to the climate crisis are corporate oriented, while marginalizing the poor and the vulnerable, he said a people centric development approach is crucial. “Development process should be people oriented and not for the corporate,” he said.
Environmental activist Cecil Thounaojam stressed on the importance of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples over their land and resources and to ensure their rightful participation in all development decisions affecting their land.
“The sustainable management of land and natural resources, including the role of women, youths etc and their low consumption and carbon-oriented way of life must be promoted in all development decision making processes that can affect their land and lives,” he said.
The participants in the consultation adopted resolutions that the Government of India, corporate houses and international financial institutions should protect and promote indigenous people’s self-determined rights over their land and resources and should take their free, prior and informed consent before targeting their land and resources.
According to the resolutions taken, all MoUs for mega dams, oil exploration, mining, agri-business (viz. Palm Oil) pursued without their consent should be revoked for possible adverse impacts on environment, people and climate in Manipur. The MOUs granted to Rourkela Private Ltd, Sarvesh Refractories, Gulf Natural Resources for mining and to Jubilant Oil and Gas Pvt Ltd and to Oil India Limited for oil exploration in Manipur should be revoked, they stressed.
It was also resolved that all neoliberal policies, such as the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, Manipur Hydro Power Policy, 2012, North East hydrocarbon vision 2030, Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006, the Mining and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2015 etc, EIA Notification, 2020, that facilitated the plunder of peoples’ land, forest, rivers and mineral resources should be repealed.
Dam building companies, viz, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) should stop building 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric project and other dams that will destroy forest, agriculture land, river and peoples’ livelihood. All MoUs with NHPC and NEEPCO for dams should be revoked. The government should review and rescind its plan to promote palm oil plantation in Manipur and North East given its documented adverse impacts on people, environment and climate in other places.
It was also resolved that international financial institutions and corporations should stop financing unsustainable development projects and false climate solutions with social, environment and climate impacts. Climate finance should desist funding social and environmentally damaging projects. Rescind all false climate change solutions that violate indigenous peoples’ human rights and their self- determination over their land and resources. COP 27 of UNFCCC should desist from any decisions that serve corporate bodies interest for profiting by plundering peoples land and resources.
All climate change mitigation and adaptation related policies should ensure compliance with indigenous peoples’ rights as per UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, 2007. To support the global call for concrete commitments and dedicated resources to address the loss and damages due to impacts of climate change.
Indigenous peoples’ traditional sustainable management of land and natural resources, including the role of women, youths etc and their low consumption and carbon-oriented way of life must be promoted in all development decision making processes that can affect their land, lives and future. The Manipur State Action Plan on Climate Change and other climate policies should be reviewed to ensure its compliance with human rights and sustainable development goals in its implementation, according to the resolutions.
Various civil society leaders and environmentalists shared experiences on climate change and related issues in Manipur at the programme.