Contd from previous issue
Thus, commissioning of the dam during pendency of forest issue is a violation.
The case lies pending before the said Court till date.
Inconclusive R & R program
One of the most important and serious issues of a dam project is Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R & R) program for the affected people. It is the most controversial part which includes social displacement, relocation and rehabilitation of the affected people. There has been no comprehensive conclusion of R & R issue of Mapithel dam till date. Thus, inauguration of the project without solving the RR matter is untimely, inhuman and irrational.
Undermined rights of the indigenous people
The IFCD, Govt. of Manipur even fails to frame up rights safeguard policy in respect of the affected tribal communities of Mapithel dam over their land, forest, river and resources etc. Such traditional rights of indigenous villagers have not been ascertained. This exposes a flagrant violation which undermines the legal framework of India enshrined in Article 338A of the Indian Constitution. The whole process of conceptual framework, investigation, submission of feasibility report and inception of Mapithel dam construction were done without Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected communities.
Absence of alternative livelihood arrangement
The WRD, Govt. of Manipur as project agency blatantly failed to arrange alternative livelihood means for the affected villagers, who sacrificed their inter-generational important land, river, forest and resources that sustained their lives. The massive inundation unleashed adverse impacts on the livelihood and survival of villagers losing food sovereignty in the affected area. At the same time, community people living in the downstream villages suffer from shortage of water, curtailing livelihood such as fishing, agriculture and seasonal collection of sand and stone from the River.
It is fine the Mapithel dam project has been commissioned now even inspite of numerous hue and cry of the public in general and the affected villagers in particular. However, in addition to irrationality of commissioning this project like discussed above, there is still another big question mark regarding responsibility and accountability of the project.
Who is taking responsibility for completion of the immature project parts while the project is already commissioned ? Who will account for success or failure of the dam project ? It is highly suspected Mapithel dam follows the same living examples of previous dams which were left unattended after inauguration.
Or, is Mapithel dam creating another story of previously failed dam projects like Dolaithabi Barrage commissioned in August 2019 which remained fruitless, total flopped Khoupum dam in Tamenglong, rusted Singda dam and gross ineffectual Khuga dam in Churachandpur district which were either left abandoned in complete futility or marooned after commissioning them. Crores of Rupees have been spent, consumed 40 years in its construction, indigenous villagers have surrendered their right over their invaluable land, forest, river, resources loving ancestral homes for the project, their principal livelihood sources have been sacrificed, the dam had caused unfathomed dimension of hardship to land donors and still they don’t have hope of betterment in the future.
What is expected by the general public is not the name sake commissioning of project, but the positive outcomes. Making development projects as a gamble for getting political mileage as well as construing achievement records ought not be appreciated by public.
If it is not functioning and harnessing the targeted benefits, why should public money be wasted and people made to suffer for such unsustainable project ! It is quite irrational and unfair that the affected people face undue suffering and a devastated environment for the project like Mapithel dam which is not functioning. If it is not serious, let the Yangwui Kong/Thoubal River return to its natural flow. These are the core concerns why the affected villagers along with the right wings have been relentlessly striving since 1990s. It is right to assert that Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose Project has become another history of White Elephant project installed in Manipur. Time has come, public realise the unsustainability of such dams and hydropower projects from the past and present Mapithel case.
Moreover, decommissioning all the unsustainable futile dams projects including Mapithel dam would be the right solution towards sustainable and development justice in the State.
The writer may be reached at [email protected]