By Our Staff Reporter
IMPHAL, May 10: Villagers near Khoupum Dam are in a panicky state as the dam has developed cracks at many places over the years, said chairman of Khoupum Area Villages Authority Council, Athon Remei.
Speaking to The Sangai Express, the chairman said that the cracks are a result of prolonged lack of proper maintenance. The dam if it breaks will submerge and destroy over 1,875 acres of agricultural land and properties worth crores, he said.
The foundation stone for the Khoupum Irrigation project in Noney district, erstwhile Tamenglong district, was laid by late former Chief Minister RK Dorendro on October 18, 1975. And late former Chief Minister Yangmaso Shaiza inaugurated the Rs 198 lakh project on July 26, 1978, he said.
In addition, Khoupum Dam Project Canal System was inaugurated by late former Chief Minister Rishang Keishing on May 4, 1982 and began supplying irrigation water for agricultural use, he added.
The irrigation project proved to be a boon for the farmers in Khoupum area when the agricultural yield reached 730 metric tonnes and facilitated double cropping. But after four years of successful service, the canal system stopped working in 1985. The canal system has been lying idle since, he said.
The dam over Mengchean River has withstood many earthquakes in its more than 40 years of existence. With lack of proper maintenance and assessment of the structures, the dam now has many cracks which may compromise its strength, Remei said. There are cracks in the retaining wall and other structures, he added.
The villagers had appealed the authority concerned and the Government for assessment and renovation of the dam but no action has been taken up, Remei asserted and added that the Khoupum Area Villages Authority Council had also submitted a memorandum demanding renovation of the dam to IFC Minister Letpao Haokip last year. So far there is no action on ground, he said. If renovated and put into use properly, the project will provide ample water for double cropping and elevate the farmers in the area, Remei said urging the Government to initiate and renovate the dam and canal system by May. With the Government turning a blind eye to the project for years, Khoupum Area Villages Authority Council, with the support of the villages, has decided to take up stringent democratic form of agitation if the Government fails to renovate the project by May, Remei said.
The water in the dam is fed by streams including Ningshel Lok, Duichung Lok, Luigum Lok and other small streams and springs. Khoupum area has about 24 villages mainly inhabited by Rongmei tribe. The villages have a combined population of over 30,000 people with 11,900 eligible voters. Earlier, the villages had successfully harvested orange but, the yield has decreased drastically owing to change in environment and climate condition, said Thakhuimei Malangmei of Duithanjang village. Now the villagers have turned to Chilli King (U-Morok) plantation, he said and added that a family produces about 300/400 tins of Chilli King and earns about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000. The villagers said that they are not certain of their future in case the dam breaks. Their only hope is 'the Government will soon take up measures to renovate and put the dam into proper use'.