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Dams proving unviable, environmentally unsustainable, says expert

Mapithel dam

A consultation and awareness on the “Protection of Land, Rivers and Forest in Leimatak Area” was held at Luangjeng (Thangal) village, Manipur on November 14, 2021.

TFM Desk

A consultation and awareness on the “Protection of Land, Rivers and Forest in Leimatak Area” was held at Luangjeng (Thangal) village, Manipur on November 14, 2021. Environmentalist Gunrei Kamei, Social Activist Themson Jajo,  Secretary to Centre for Research and Advocacy Jiten Yumnam and JNU faculty member G Amarjit provided resource sharing during the consultation.   

Gunrei Kamei said that land, forest, rivers and other resources are the source of livelihood and culture of the indigenous peoples of Manipur. Land sustained their inter-generational survival. The pursuance of unsustainable projects such as dam building, mining, infrastructure projects etc has led to loss of land. He said many villagers along the Leimatak River are highly vulnerable to losing their agricultural land and forest due to the proposed 66 MW Loktak downstream hydro-electric project.  

Jiten Yumnam of CRA, Manipur shared that multiple Rivers of Manipur, such as Irang River, Leimatak River, Barak Rivers etc are targeted for building of dams, viz, 66 MW Loktak downstream Hydroelectric Project, the 70 MW Nungleiband dam, 190 MW Pabram dam, 60 MW Irang Dam etc, which will lead to submergence of forest and agriculture land, besides disturbing the natural flow of these rivers.

He said large dams have been controversial in Manipur for their failure, for undermining food sovereignty, failure to rehabilitate affected communities, for causing climate change and human rights violations. Dams are proving unviable and environmentally unsustainable. The plan for the 66 MW Loktak downstream project needs a comprehensive impact assessment and review of their viability and rationality.

Social activist Themson Jajo shared how the Mapithel dam displaced thousands and destroyed the livelihood of communities in Mapithel valley by submerging their land, forest, river etc. Jajo stressed the need for review of the plan to construct the 66-MW Loktak downstream hydroelectric project and the 70MW Nungleiband dam over the Leimatak River for their multifaceted impacts and feasibility.

JNU faculty member Amarjit explained that development should serve the needs, priorities and interest of the people. Dam building economy tends to serve the interest of corporate bodies while impoverishing communities by destroying their land and resources. The State and project authorities of dams should share all information on planning and dam building including survey reports with the people, he added.   

Documentary films, “Wall of Injustice” and “Dams and Discontents” were also screened at the consultation. The youth participants of the consultation emphasized the importance of land, forest, river as source of intergenerational survival for communities. The participants also stressed the need for free flow of Leimatak River and to rethink unsustainable development processes.

The participants also stressed the need for transparency and accountability from project authorities of proposed 66MW Loktak downstream hydroelectric project and to provide project documents, viz, detailed project report, rehabilitation and resettlement plan, social and environment impact assessments to affected communities.  

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