Villagers affected by Trans Asian Railway ProjectAttention of Najma, Biren drawn

By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, May 9: Authorities of 12 villages which have been affected by the Trans Asian Railway Project in the State and representatives of various CSOs, submitted a memorandum to the Governor and the Chief Minister today urging them to address the grievances of the affected villagers which are caused by the said railway project.
The memo which highlighted different grievances of the affected villagers and the injustice meted out to the same villagers, was submitted after the authorities and the CSOs organized a one-day people’s consultation on the “Impact of Trans Asian Railway Project” at Manipur Press Club, today.
Some of the major points emphasized in the memo include contamination and destruction of water sources, environmental impacts due to the leakage in the boring of railway tunnels, adverse impacts of railway works to the agricultural sector and violation of right to free, prior and informed consent.
The organizers of the consultation programme included Youths’ Protection Forum for Protection of Human Rights (YPFHR), Environment Conservation Network (ECO Network), Youth Action Committee for Protection of Indigenous People (YACPIP) Young People for Social Reformation (YPSR), Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM) and the affected villagers.
Speaking at the programme, YACPIP member Kiran Thokchom highlighted the effects of the Trans Asian Railway Project in the State and its people and asserted that many of the water sources and land, including paddy fields in the affected villages, have been contaminated by the release as well as leakage of cement and chemically treated waste liquids from the ongoing project.
This has led to a large number of villagers in both the hills and valley areas suffering huge loss in agriculture, shortage of consumable water for drinking, cooking etc.
Claiming that there were instances of multiple National companies coming to the State in the past and exploiting its natural resources, he stressed on the need for sensitizing the public about the secret ploy of the outsiders and the Government to extract minerals and crude oil from the State.
The consultation is an initiative to sensitize all the affected villagers and the public about the hazardous effects of railways construction in the State as well as to act as a wakeup call to prevent exploitation of natural resources in the State.
There is a need for making a collective effort by all sections of the society to stop the construction of railway projects without proper assessment in the State. This can be fulfilled only when the public are fully sensitized to the adversities of railway construction works and exploitation of natural resources, he added. He also decried the social and environmental impact assessment of the ongoing railway projects in the State adding that it was done in a very secretive manner without even consulting the affected villagers/indigenous population.
Such an act of the Government and the authorities concerned with the railway projects amounts to violation of the Right to Free Prior Informed consent (FPIC), he alleged.
On the other hand, Nungba Area Women Welfare Organization secretary, Asim Kamei, lamented that the villagers residing along the stretch of Rengpang to Khoupum have been compelled to suffer untold miseries which resulted from the destruction of the source of livelihood by the railway project.
Informing that cultivation of horticulture crops, particularly banana and papaya, is the main source of livelihood for many of the villagers residing along Rengpang to Khoupum stretch, she claimed that the railway project has immensely affected many of the villages located along the said stretch.
The affected villagers are now facing a hard time in finding means to sustain their family.
The affected villagers had allowed the construction of railway tunnel in the Rengpang and Khoupum stretch as Government pacified the affected villagers and assured to compensate them properly for their loss.
However, the Government has only managed to deceive the affected villagers as nothing has been given to them till date, she added. Many of the water sources in the surroundings of Rengpang and Khoupum areas have been contaminated leading to the development of many skin diseases among the villagers, apart from causing water scarcity.
Villagers can no longer earn income from fishing or collecting snails from the affected areas, unlike the past, the secretary decried.