Several Environmentalists and stakeholders have expressed serious concern over the proposed construction of the 67-MW Khongnem Chakha Dam and 190-MW Pabram Dam in Manipur, fearing that it will submerge a massive tract of agricultural and forest land and villages inhabited by the Liangmai and Maram Tribes in North Manipur.
“The construction of 67 MW Khongnem Chakha Dam and 190 MW Pabram Dam will submerge a massive tract of agriculture and forest land in areas inhabited by the Liangmai and Maram Tribes in North Manipur,” Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRA) secretary Jiten Yumnam said on the occasion of International Rivers Day at Lairouching village in Manipur.
The 67-MW Khongnem Chakha Hydroelectric Power Plant and the 190-MW Padram Dam, along with 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, are being planned to be set up over the Barak River.
Amid the increasing concern expressed during the global event, Jiten also stressed that “indigenous peoples’ rights should be fully recognised before introduction of any kind of development processes affecting the land, river and forest in Manipur.”
The concern was also expressed by Lairouching Village Authority member Solomon, even as several concerned members take to the Barak River, the biggest river in Manipur, raising their voice against the proposed dam constructions.
“The consent of the villagers should be taken before undertaking any project over their land and territories,” he said.
Solomon expressed the fear the dams will affect as many as seven villages in the area.
“The proposed 67 MW Khongnem Chakha dam will affect at least seven villages belonging to the Maram and Liangmai tribes in Maram, Chakha and Willong areas,” Solomon said.
Sharing the same concern, environmentalist Themson Jajo also emphasised the importance of valuing the role of rivers, saying that rivers are life.
“Rivers have the right to flow freely and the right to perform their role to promote the ecosystem and the right to be free from pollution,” Jajo said.
Jajo pointed out that the construction of large dams like the Mapithel Dam disturbed the natural flow of Thoubal River.
“The Mapithel Dam severed the intrinsic relationship of indigenous peoples with the river for fishing, collection of sand and stone and for access to the water, etc,” he said.
Mothel Saka from Thawai village also said that the social and cultural relationship of communities in Mapithel valley has been severed by the Mapithel Dam.
“Dams, instead of benefiting the people, unleashed suffering and miseries to the people,” he said, adding that “dams are promoted in the pretext of development but caused impoverishment and worsened inequality in Manipur”.
Dams led to submergence and deposition of sand and silt in agriculture land in Mapithel areas, he pointed out and called on communities not to sacrifice land for projects that will entail suffering to them.
According to Loktak Fisheries Welfare Association secretary Heisnam Chaoba, the protection of rivers in Manipur is crucial to promote the health of wetlands, such as the Loktak Wetlands in Manipur.
“The rivers and wetlands provide fish and other seasonal food. However, the construction of hydroelectric dam projects destroyed the livelihood of people in Loktak wetlands,” he said.
Chaoba also mentioned that corporate bodies like the National Hydroelectric Power Project only benefited from dam building while communities in Loktak suffer.’
Meanwhile, several concerned locals gathered by the banks of Barak River at Lairouching in observance of International Rivers Day under the theme, “Let all the Rivers Flow Free in Manipur”. It was organised by the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM) along with the Lairouching Village Authority and the Loktak Fisheries Welfare Association on March 14.
“The International Rivers Day is being celebrated to protect the intrinsic relationship of rivers with people and to ensure that rivers are free from pollution and to prevent dam building that can kill rivers,” CRAM secretary Jiten Yumnam said.
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