In a joint stakeholder’s meeting at the Cabinet Hall, CM’s Secretariat on Friday morning, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh led a deliberation on ‘Modernisation of Loktak Hydro-Electric Project - Sustainability of Loktak Lake.’
Attended by key ministers, MLAs, and authorities, the meeting delved into the adverse impacts of the project, particularly focusing on the consequences of the Ithai Barrage construction.
Key attendees included Minister Forest and Environment, Power and Agriculture Th Biswajit Singh; Minister Public Works and YAS K Govindas; Minister Water Resources Awangbou Newmai; Minister PHED, CAF and PD L Susindro Meetei; Minister Fishery and Labour H Dingo; Chairman, Loktak Development Authority M Asnikumar Singh; MLAs of Thanga, Moirang, Mayang Imphal, Wangoi, Oinam, Kumbi, Chief Secretary, Pr CCF cum Chief Wildlife Warden, Administrative Secretaries and HoDs of concern Deptts (Power, Agriculture, Fishery, Revenue, Environment and Ecology, LDA), etc.
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The highlight of the meeting was the comprehensive presentation by the Loktak Development Authority, outlining the severe impacts of the Loktak Hydro-Electric Project, with a specific emphasis on Ithai Barrage’s consequences. This included stagnation in the lake’s water level to a higher regime, land inundation beyond the confines of the lake, and the critical ecological, social, and economic challenges faced by local communities.
Recognising the significance of Loktak Lake and Associated Wetlands in ecological, socio-economic, and cultural aspects, N Biren Singh expressed deep concern over their deteriorating state, terming it as alarming.
Strategies for the cleanup of rivers flowing into the lake were discussed, and CM Biren directed the LDA and Environment and Ecology department to expedite the clean-up promptly.
Loktak Development Authority (LDA), chairman M Asnikumar Singh highlighted the loss of large agricultural land, community displacement, and ecological losses due to the Loktak Hydro-Electric Project.
He proposed the initiation of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by constituting a Committee, putting the modernisation of Loktak Hydel Project on hold until the ‘Environmental Clearance’ is issued. Further, he informed that the appraisal of the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) for Loktak Lake is complete and likely to be approved by the MoEF and CC which will be vital in the conservation mission.
In response to the gravity of the situation, N Biren proposed a decisive plan of action. This includes deploying an Expert Team from ADB or constituted by state authority which deem fit to assess the project’s impact, conduct a thorough review, and secure necessary environmental clearances at the earliest.
Additionally, there was an agreement to undertake the boundary demarcation of Loktak Lake in consultation with concerned MLAs, entrusted to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Boundary Demarcation on Loktak Lake.
Forest and Environment Minister Th Biswajit Singh recommended acquiring extra power alongside the complimentary power allocation for Manipur through a new power purchasing arrangement.
Works Minister K Govindas Singh underscored the critical issue of sedimentation, stressing the necessity for a comprehensive conservation approach. Additionally, he advocated for conducting an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) while halting the modernization efforts.
CM Biren suggested renegotiating the power benefits granted to Manipur for a higher percentage. Additionally, there was a recommendation to explore water level optimization to balance ecosystem health, especially in the Sangai Habitat, and address various human demands, including power.
N Biren emphasised on the need for overall ecosystem restoration and conserving the Keibul Lamjao national park, the only natural habitat of world famous Sangai Deer.
A joint involving Ministry of EF and CC, Power, Jal Shakti, Central Water Commission (CWC), NHPC Ltd , WISA , State Govt Depts’ concerned, at Imphal under the chairmanship of chief minister.
Reaching out to those living on the periphery of the lake, CM Biren urged active engagement in the conservation initiatives spearheaded by the Loktak Development Authority.
Assuring trust in governmental processes, he encouraged citizens to rely on thorough environmental impact assessments conducted by relevant agencies regarding the modernization of the Loktak Hydro-Electric Project.
It may be recalled that People for Animals, PFA Manipur on Wednesday alleged that National Hydroelectric Power Project Company Limited (NHPCL) conducted no environmental impact assessment or paid mitigation costs to any state departments when the company launched the Loktak Hydro Power Project on June 1, 1983.
PFA Manipur Managing Trustee Lourembam Biswajeet Meitei filed an RTI application raising questions to NHPCL online upon hearing information on renovation and modernisation (R&M) of the project when extending it for another 25 years, PFA had stated a release. The revelations came following the same, it said.
The questions raised include whether the company consulted the Loktak Development Authority (LDA), and State Forest Department on renovation and modernization (R&M) of the project when extending it for another 25 years.
It was questioned whether Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted when the project was launched etc.
As per the answers received from the Company, there was no need for EIA as the EIA notification was issued only after the Loktak Hydro Power Project was commissioned in 1983 and no mitigation costs were paid. PFA asserted that no consultations were made with LDA or State Forest department on R&M of the project when extending it for another 25 years adding that the company gave no valid response on the same.