Updated on 17 Oct 2021, 4:21 pm
Imphal, Manipur (Representational Image: IFP)
The Imphal Ring Road project, which is a part of Asian Development Bank (ADB) south Asia sub economic cooperation (SASEC) road connectivity investment programme, has caused fear among villagers of the possibility of facing forced displacement and losing their lands.
In this regard, the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM) and the Youth Forum for Protection of Human Rights (YFPHR) organised a consultation programme at the Manipur Press Club on Saturday. It was organised to discuss the ongoing move to construct ADB financed Imphal Ring Road amid COVID-19 pandemic and raise the concerns of affected villagers.
During the programme, the participants resolved that the government of Manipur and the Asian Development Bank must not build the Imphal Ring Road project without the consent of all the indigenous communities who will be affected by the ADB financed Imphal Ring Road Project.
They resolved that the government should withdraw the eviction notices served to villages of Tharon, Langthabal Chingthak and other villages affected by the project. The affected villagers also resolved to submit representations to the state and Central government and Asian Development Bank to consider their rights and to seek alternatives for the project.
CRAM secretary Jiten Yumnam said that the consent of all indigenous peoples need to be taken for the said development work and sustainable alternatives must be sought. All projects financed by Asian Development Bank (ADB) such as Imphal Ring Road, need to conduct detailed impact assessment and apply safeguard policies.
Chairman of Tharon Village Th Ramei shared that eviction notice has been served on villagers on August 27, 2021, labelling the villagers as encroachers in their own village. “The villagers are in fear of losing their land and face forced displacement. The project authorities failed to consult or seek their consent and the Tharon village will cease to exist if the Ring road passes through the village,” he said. The ongoing plan for the Imphal Ring Road to pass through congested parts of Imphal Town such as Chingmeirong, Sangakpham near Manipur High Court, Manipur Capitol complex, Legislative Assembly etc. lacks feasibility, he added.
Nongpok Leingak Apunba Nupi Lup secretary Nongthombam Radhamani expressed that the Imphal Ring Road will affect the residential areas in Khurai Konsam Leikai and historic Ipum pat, which is also a sacred cultural site, revered by the Meitei community. “Affecting Ipum pat and displacing villagers is unacceptable. Development should not be forced on people. Ring roads should not be built in residential and congested areas,” she maintained.
Langthabal Chingthak affected group representative James Gonmei said that eviction notices are also served in their village. Raising concern that the villagers are also labelled as encroachers, he stressed that any compensation can never compensate for the loss of their ancestral land and livelihood. “Creating Imphal Ring road near Manipur University is unreasonable. Development cannot be pursued by hurting peoples' sentiments and by violating their fundamental rights,” he added.
The Imphal Ring Road Project is a part of ADB’s South Asia Sub Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Programme. Manipur is one of the states targeted for US$ 300-million loan agreement signed between the Government of India and the ADB on March 26, 2015, with the aim to improve road connectivity and increasing domestic and regional trade along the North Bengal-North Eastern region international trade corridor.
Two roads in Manipur envisaged for construction under the Project are Imphal-Kangchup-Tamenglong Road and the Imphal Town Ring road. The project proponents reasoned that India's Act East Policy and trade expansion with South East Asian countries would enormously increase traffic volume, thus requiring the Imphal Town Ring Road.
The project was first pursued in the year 2014. In September 2014, the state Public Works department issued a tender, inviting consultants to take up a feasibility study and prepare a detailed project report with support from ADB. A team of experts from the Erieye Ground Interface Segment (EGIS International), France subsequently inspected roads and crossings in Imphal city.
However, affected communities from Langthabal, Patsoi, Tarung, Kongba etc. objected to the survey due to alleged lack of consultation, limited impact assessment, and faulty assessment of their assets. The affected villages submitted complaints to the Office of the Compliance Review Panel of ADB on December 15, 2014. The Project was thus delayed for years till the government resumed the project in 2020 after meeting with ADB on January 17, 2020.
The Survey works for the Imphal Ring Road again resumed in September 2020. Series of notifications for survey and land acquisition followed. The Deputy Commissioner, Imphal East and the PWD issued notifications on September 7-8, 2020 to commence demarcation of roads in the villages to be affected by the road. The Deputy Commissioner, Imphal West also issued notice on July 16, 2021 for direct purchase of land along Langjing to Ghari via Lamjaotongba and FCI Godown in Imphal West followed by an eviction order for Tharon village.