Project Signing: World Bank Signs $250 Million Project to Make Existing Dams Safe and Resilient across India 

Pic: The Singda dam in March 2021 is one of the under-performed dams in Manipur (Pic by Jiten Y)

https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/08/04/project-signing-world-bank-signs-250-million-project-to-make-existing-dams-safe-and-resilient-across-india

The World Bank

NEW DELHI, August 4, 2021 – The Government of India, the Central Water Commission, government representatives from 10 participating states and the World Bank today signed a $250 million project, to support the Government of India’s long-term dam safety program and improve the safety and performance of existing dams across various states of India.

The Second Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP-2) will strengthen dam safety by building dam safety guidelines, bring in global experience, and introduce innovative technologies. Another major innovation envisaged under the project, that is likely to transform dam safety management in the country, is the introduction of a risk-based approach to dam asset management that will help to effectively allocate financial resources towards priority dam safety needs.

The project will be implemented in approximately 120 dams across the states of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu, and at the national level through the Central Water Commission (CWC). Other states or agencies may be added to the project during project implementation.

The Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance stated that “Dams provide critical infrastructure for power generation, flood moderation, and water supply for drinking, agriculture, and industrial use. Strengthening their structural safety and operational management will help in building better resilience to handle the effects of climate change. The Government of India has committed financial resources for a National Dam Safety Program including phased project support from development partners”.

The agreement was signed by Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India; representatives from the state governments of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu; and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India on behalf of the World Bank.

“This is the world’s largest dam management program. Its objective is to break the costly cycle of ‘build-neglect-rebuild’ which characterizes the operations and maintenance of infrastructure across sectors,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India. “The expected outcomes will be game-changing: sustaining the livelihoods and food security of millions of Indians who depend on irrigated agriculture and enabling farmers to shift out of pumping groundwater, thereby, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This program can act as a lighthouse for other countries tackling the challenge of managing hydraulic infrastructure.”

India is home to over 5000 large dams with a storage capacity of more than 300 billion cubic meters. Rainfall, which occurs mainly in intense and unpredictable downpours within short monsoon seasons, is of high temporal and spatial variability and does not meet year-round irrigation and other water demands. Considering this, storage of water in dams is essential for the country’s economic growth and for the millions of people who rely on their waters to sustain livelihoods. With average annual cost of floods in India estimated at US$7.4 billion, many dams are critical in mitigating floods. Their failure could pose serious risks to downstream communities.

World Bank support to dam safety in India includes the recently closed DRIP-1 ($279 million + $62 million Additional Financing) that improved the safety and sustainable performance of 223 dams in six states of India and one central agency.

“The DRIP-1 project helped to set-up institutions, build capacity, and put in place procedures for dam safety. To build on these achievements, further measures are needed to channel scarce funds towards the dams at highest risk,” said Chabungbam Rajagopal Singh, Senior Water Resources Management Specialist, Halla Maher Qaddumi, Senior Water Economist, and Joop Stoutjesdijk, Lead Water Resources Management Specialist and the task team leaders for DRIP-2. “The DRIP-2 project will introduce risk-informed dam safety management, establish sustainable mechanisms for financing dam safety, and enhance the capabilities of institutions to manage dam assets.”

Other important measures that DRIP-2 will support include flood forecasting systems and integrated reservoir operations that will contribute to building climate resilience; the preparation and implementation of Emergency Action Plans to enable vulnerable downstream communities to prepare for and enhance resilience against the possible negative impacts and risks of climate change; and the piloting of supplemental revenue generation schemes such as floating solar panels.

The $250 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a maturity of 13 years, including a grace period of 6 years.

ADB-financed Imphal Town Ring Road and violations of rights

Jiten Yumnam

Imphal Free Press, 26 September 2021

https://www.ifp.co.in/9954/adb-financed-imphal-town-ring-road-and-violations-of-rights

The health and social crisis unfolding amid the Covid-19 pandemic situation during 2020 and 2021 in Manipur is also accompanied with aggressive push for large infrastructure and energy projects in Manipur, such as the Imphal Town Ring Road project financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project, envisaged for financing by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Pic: Selected Houses marked for eviction by ADB financed Imphal Town Ring Road project at Tharon Village, Imphal Manipur :

Forced eviction during Covid-19 pandemic is an obvious reality in Manipur, which heightened the risks of community infections. Indeed, at least 66 Kuki households were evicted by the Deputy Commissioner of Tengnoupal District, Manipur from November 3 to 13, 2020 in villages along M Chahnou village till the Integrated Check Point, Moreh  to construct the Moreh Integrated Check Point (ICP) ByPass Road as a component of ADB-financed Imphal to Moreh road.

The Imphal Town Ring Road project caused wide controversy in Manipur with threats of forced eviction, again amid the Covid 19 pandemic. Villagers of Tharon village were forced to organise a protest amid the Covid-19 on June 26, 2021, when the daily Covid-19 cases stand close to around 700 cases, a high number given Manipur’s low population density. The Sub Divisional Order, Lamphel, Imphal West District, Manipur issued an eviction order on August 27, 2021 under the Manipur Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1976 to establish the project corridor for the Imphal Ring Road Project.

Background:

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, aiming 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 Public Works Department (PWD), Manipur 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 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 District, Manipur and the PWD issued notifications on September 7-8, 2020 to commence demarcation of road 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 District, followed by eviction order for Tharon village.

Implications:

An initial assessment indicates that the Imphal Ring Road project will affect over 1000 acres of agricultural land in Kongba, Langol, and Lamphel in Imphal West and Imphal East districts. Over 500 families will also be affected in the villages of Tharon, Thangmeiband, Tarung villages, etc. The project will destroy part of sacred hills, Langol, Langthabal, etc and adjoining forests areas.

The eviction order of August 27 was based on a prior notification of the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal West district, July 28, 2021, that leveled villagers of Tharon villagers as illegally encroaching on the Langol Reserve Forest Areas. The Tharon villagers decried the eviction notice levelling them as encroachers, maintaining that records of Royal chronicle (Cheitharol Kumbaba) in Manipur confirming their village as established nearly 500 years ago during the reign of King Lamgramba (1512–1523). The villagers confirmed settling in the Langol Hills and Forest areas for generations before enactment of Forest Conservation Act, 1980 of the Government of India and before declaration of Langol Reserve Forest by the Forest Department, Manipur. 

The proposed eviction plan will affect around 20 households of Tharon Village belonging to the Kabui Tribe.  The villagers expressed concern that the pursuance of the proposed ADB financed Imphal Town Ring Road with a width of 100 feet, will uproot the Tharon village. The construction of the ring road will create an artificial gorge which will cause disconnection of 40 households residing above the road. The excavation of earth and forest for the ring road will render most of the households close to the road unfit for settlement. The eviction and road building will directly affect over 300 villagers in the village. 

The eviction notice for selected Tharon villagers is despite the fact that the detailed project document, the rehabilitation and resettlement plan, Indigenous Peoples Action Plan, Social and Environment Impact Assessment were not finalized and concealed from the communities. Definition of alternative measures in consultation with affected communities is still lacking too.

The proposed Ring road will involve destruction and removal of many graves and tombs of ancestors, which is a taboo to the Kabui customs and traditions in Tharon village. The road building will lead to destruction of temple of Tingkao Ragwangh Chapriak Phwam, which is an ancestral worship of the Kabui people, besides destruction of church close to the road. The proposed road will lead to filling up of the only village pond and removal of a hand pump in the middle of the village that serves as the main water source of the village. This will affect water sources and cause water shortage in the village.

The project proponents failed to apply the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which makes it mandatory to seek the consent of the traditional village institutions of the Tharon Villagers for any diversion of their village land. The eviction order caused mental and psychological problems on fear of losing their land and livelihood, which violates the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.  

Additionally, residents of Khurai Konsam Leikai in Imphal East District, who opposed the project stated that Ipum Pat (wetland) which is being utilized by the locals for access to water, fishing, seasonal food collection and other purposes will be affected if the ring road is constructed. The Meitei and Meitei Pangal communities who settled near Ipum Pat filtered the water from the lake and consumed it since there is no regular supply of tap water in the locality. Besides, a community hall which is being used by the locals in different occasions and hundreds of homestead land will also be affected if the ring road is constructed.

The forced eviction plan without the consultation and consent of villagers and absence of rehabilitation plan will impoverish the affected villagers. The affected villagers are worried that any amount cannot compensate the loss of their land, property and heritages. The eviction will also affect their livelihood and threaten affected peoples indigenous culture and identity. 

The construction of the Imphal Town Ring Road will also pose additional problems of air, noise pollution due to the increased vehicular movement in their village, causing safety and health problems among the affected communities. The construction process will also involve land and mudslides in the area, besides dumping of excavated earth and rocks in the area.

Further, a serious concern is the feasibility of Imphal Ring Road plan with its route concentration in congested areas of Imphal city, such as in Thangmeiband and Chingmeirong areas.  The ongoing plan for Imphal Town Ring Road to pass through one of the most congested part of the town in Chingmeirong and Tharon areas with important landmarks such as Manipur High Court, Manipur Capital complex, Legislative Assembly, etc lacks rationality and defeats the objectives of the Imphal Town Ring Road to decongest the traffic in the Imphal Town.   

Human Rights Implications:

Several communities who eke out their livelihood through farming, fishing and small-scale economic activity will lose their livelihood and constitute a clear violation of right to life, as guaranteed both by Article 21 of Constitution of India, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Any forced displacement is violation of Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The impact of displacement will be consequently followed by the loss of economic activities with no ways and means of settlement and basic services. It will create social turmoil to those evicted families as there is mechanism for rehabilitation and resettlement.

The proposed project clearly failed to take the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous communities of Tharon, Khurai, Kongba, etc as required under the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 and even under ADB’s own safeguard policies. There is no room to suggest alternatives by affected communities.

The issuance of eviction order violates the ADB safeguard policy that requires the consultation of the affected indigenous communities and to advance their rights, besides violating Forest Rights Act, 2006. The eviction order at Tharon Village caused mental harassment of Tribal Kabui Villagers of Tharon, which violates the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.    

Community Responses:

The proposed Imphal Town Ring Road plan already provoked wide concerns and objections from affected communities in Imphal West and Imphal East districts. The residents of Khurai Sajor Leikai, Kongba, Wangkhei in Imphal East District, Manipur already expressed objection to the proposed Imphal Town Ring Road project based on concerns of significant impacts on their land and livelihood means. The lack of information on the project, lack of consultation with affected communities and the lack of clarity on the rehabilitation and resettlement of affected communities are other concerns. Locals of Khurai Konsam Leikai and adjoining villages in Imphal East District, Manipur staged protest and blocked roads on December 17, 2020 in protest against the construction of Imphal Ring road that will pass through surrounding areas of Ipum Pat. The JAC against the construction of the ring road was formed to protest the ring road and resolved to protest if the state government failed to respect their demands.

Due to concerns of impacts, Tharon villagers also resolved to stand against the Imphal Town Ring road project in their village. The residents of Tharon village staged a sit-in protest at a community hall of the village against the proposed Imphal Ring Road project on June 26, 2021. Affected locals staged protest, raising demands, ‘Government Should Respect Human Rights’, ‘No Road Through Our Home’ etc. The villagers also organized a democratic call to stop forced displacement of Tharon villagers on 17 June 2021. The villagers filed a petition with the Manipur High Court in August 2021, which passed an interim order on 10 September 2021 to suspend the eviction order till the next hearing. 

Conclusions:

Indigenous peoples of Manipur need development, but it should not be at the cost of their survival, identity and culture. Respect of community rights and involvement in all decision making and finding alternatives is critical for just and sustainable development. The pursuance of large infrastructure plan and the move of the project authorities to evict communities during the height of Covid-19 pandemic in Manipur is highly unfortunate, as it further heightened the risk of further infection and community spread. The Imphal Ring Road Project should not be constructed in Tharon village without the villagers consent.

The Government of Manipur should desist from pursing forced eviction and acquisition of agriculture land, homestead land, wetlands, and forest of Manipur for the project. The Government of Manipur should withdraw the eviction Order issued by Sub Divisional Officer, Lamphel, Imphal West, Manipur on August 27, 2021 and the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal West on July 28, 2021. Feasible alternatives should be defined with rightful participation and acceptable to affected communities.

The development process in Manipur needs to respect the needs and rights of affected villagers. The Government and ADB should implement the Safeguard Policy of ADB, 2009 for the project. The direct implication of increased loans and indebtedness of Manipur and its people to ADB and other International Financial Institutions, including the loan for ADB-financed Imphal Town Ring Road project, Kangchup to Tamenglong road, etc need be fully assessed. With a range of loan and financings by these financial institutions, Manipur is simply destined to be trapped in a vicious circle of debt, conflict and an uncertain future, besides myriad impacts on communities and its fragile environment.

Proposed Ring Road: Villagers demand to keep Tharon unaffected

The Imphal Free Press, 27 June 2021

By IFP Bureau |Updated on: June 27, 2021, 10:50 a.m.

https://ifp.co.in/8130/proposed-ring-road-villagers-demand-to-keep-tharon-unaffected

(PHOTO: IFP)

Locals of Tharon village, Thangmeiband, Imphal West demanded the state chief minister and other MLAs to keep Tharon village unaffected while constructing the proposed Ring Road under ADB funding in the Greater Imphal area. In connection with the demand, the locals under the supervision of Tharon Village Authority staged a sit-in-protest at the community hall of the village on Saturday.

Speaking to the media, one of the locals, named Athon Gangmei said that the village was established about 500 years ago during the reign of Maharaja Lamgramba. The village has been an example in the history of Manipur of people of the hills and valleys living in harmony and unity since centuries, he added.

He said that the people of Manipur and villagers of Tharon village welcome the coming of Ring Road. However, there is an apprehension that the road will greatly affect the mass area of the village. If the village has been affected with the coming of Ring Road then there is no alternative place to shift the village. Shifting of Tharon village would have much impact in the history of Manipur, they said.

“In the past, more than 10 families had sacrificed their valuable agricultural lands during the construction of NIT, Lamphelpat. The proposed Ring Road would also affect many homesteads and plots and no more lands will be left for their resettlement and the new development would be another human tragedy,” said Athon. The locals staged the protest with placards written, ‘Government Should Respect Human Right’, ‘No Road Through Our Home’, ‘Government Intends By Hook Or By Crook To Remove Our Village’ and others.

Govt should arrange for alternative livelihood or return lands to Monbung, Muozawl and Sejang villages’

The Sangai Express, 24 September 2021

https://www.thesangaiexpress.com/Encyc/2021/9/24/IMPHAL-Sep-24The-Centre-for-Research-and-Advocacy-Manipur-CRA-expressed-serious-concern-with-t.amp.html

IMPHAL, Sep 24: The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRA) expressed serious concern with the arbitrary transfer of land by the Government of Manipur to the Power Department, Manipur on June 23, 2021 without the consent of land owners of Mongbung and Muozawl Village in Jiribam district.

CRA in a press release stated that the villages contended that the Government transferred land to the Power Department in favour of Manipur Renewable Energy Development Agency (MANIREDA) without their consent. Stating that such an act is violation of indigenous rights, CRA maintained that the Government should stop pursuing any project on the land of the villages without the consent and fresh agreements with the villagers.


It may be noted that the Chiefs of Monbung and Muolzawl villages donated 600 acres of land in favour of Agriculture Department for Manipur Plantation Crops Corporation Limited (MPCCL) under an agreement on January 2, 1981 solely to establish tea plantation to improve job and livelihood of the villagers.
The land was neither on sale nor acquired under Land Acquisition Act with compensations, added the release.


The villagers were expecting alternative arrangement for their land or the return of their donated land as the Tea Estate became dysfunctional since 2004. However against the expectations of the villagers, the Government transferred the said land to MANIREDA without the consent of the villagers which is highly condemnable. Hence CRA demanded that the Government should arrange alternative livelihood arrangement or return the lands to Monbung, Muozawl and Sejang villages at the earliest.

Mining and fraudulent clearances in Manipur

Jajo Themson,

E-Pao.net, 23 August 2021

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.opinions.Mining_and_fraudulent_clearances_in_Manipur_By_Jajo_Themson

Even though mining sector has good contributions to the Indian economy with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution varying from 2.2% to 2.5%, contributing a gross GDP of around 11% to the industrial sector, even small scale mining contributes about 6% to the entire cost of mineral production and mining provides job opportunities to about seven lakhs individuals, it encompassed with several marred and controversies in India.

The Mining Industry is also notorious on dimensional human right violations, forest and environmental issues and procedural lapses confronting legal frameworks as well as judgments of the principal courts of India. Numerous tussles are commonly involved in this sector where lack of proper consultation, undermining the rights of spontaneous and independent decision of indigenous land and resource owners, absence of transparency and accountability, lack of detail impacts assessments and deadlock over legal framework. Besides, the industry faced severe jolts of high profile mining scandals.

Pic: Rare flower at Shingcha area in Kamjong District, Manipur, which will be affected by mining

Additionally, explosion of methane gas, cold dust, carbon monoxide poisoning, dead blow to ecosystem and Environment like pollution of river water, ponds and surrounding, deforestation, impacts on human health and livelihood and animal habitation, social displacement due to wide area coverage or for safety on contamination of water and poisoning of nearby trees and threat of radiation and dimensional human rights violation on militarization are common issues related to mining projects.

Major discords in Mining

There have been several areas of confrontation between mining acts and court’s judgments in regard to ownership of mineral resources and implementation of Green laws. These contestations are the reasons why so many controversies intertwined the sector. Section 24A (2) of the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulations Act, (MMDRA) 1957 states that the tribal or indigenous peoples are the occupiers of surface of the land in the context of social, cultural, religious, economic, tradition and usufructs of tribal forested land.

On the other hand, constitution of India under Sl. No. 54 of the Central list in the VIIth Scheduled, circumscribes the states on legislation but will be bound by the Central legislation. Overall power of controlling and decision making for major minerals are vested with the Central govt. Rules 15 of the MMDR Act, 1957 also provides Power to the state Govt. to make rules in respect of minor mineral only.

Still in another noteworthy vein, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, in its Order dated 16th July 2013 stated that, “Ownership of minerals should be vested with the owner of the land and not with state govt.” It is also worth mentioning the SC judgment on Samata Bauxite Mining case, 1997, clearly recognized the rights of the tribal on land stating non-transferable to non-tribal and so cannot be leased or handed over for mining.

In another relevant case, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) halted the Odisha Bauxite Mining project based on forest rights of the Scheduled Tribe & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers in the line of socio-cultural and religious perspective. Moreover, as per provision of V & VIth Scheduled of the Indian constitution, Autonomous District Council (ADC) has the absolute right to decide in this regard.

Amendments of MMDRA, 1957 have been made in 2015 known as MMDR Act 2015. This act was countered for empowering central govt over states. State Governments are entitled to only clerical paperwork making the states more dependent on central govt. Also there has been various criticisms on introduction of MMDR Amendment Bill 2021. The act faces stiff opposition from quarters because of providing short cut system of mining license for mineral exploration and clearances.

It is also negated as it provided rights to take up any mining activities immediately as soon as gas, oil and other ores are discovered. The Act of 2021 diluted the powers of Gram Sabhas to give consent or stop mining in its respective areas. Thus, all the amendment acts of 2015 and 2021 enhanced the controlling attorney of the Central Govt., more freedom given to mining companies and casted out the rights of the communities who literally owned resources.

In another development, the Drafted Environment Impacts Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020 gave ample room for ease of doing business at the cost of environment and local communities. The notification gives a dead blow to the pro-people and pro-environmental legislation like the FRA, 2006 which upholds the community involvement in the protection and conservation of environment.

The defective points of drafted EIA, 2020 are power on the industries and project proponents to start works before obtaining environment clearances – post-facto clearance route, previous provision of holding public hearings have been diluted and complete exemption of such hearing in the projects like linear projects in the border areas including highways, dilution of the norms for post clearance compliances and lowered down standard of EIA reports from the existing system are some of the key areas where multiple objections are raised.

Mining push in Manipur without clearances

The Directorate of Trade Commerce and Industries (DTCI), Govt. of Manipur had granted Mining Lease in August, 2018 for Rs. 50 crores. Subsequently, GoM and Rourkela Minerals Company Pvt. Ltd. signed an agreement on 23rd February, 2019 for taking up chromium mining at Shingcha-Gamnom, Kamjong District, Manipur @ 85.0 hectares for twenty years.

The Gulf Natural Resources Pvt Ltd. based in Gurgaon signed an agreement for chromium mining with the Village Authority of Kwatha Village, Tengnoupal district on 5th October 2016 and GoM signed contract with the M/s Sarvesh Refractory Pvt. Ltd. to mine Chromite from Shirui – Lunghar Villages of Ukhrul District. The GOM has leased out limestone quarry to one Guwahati-based M/S Super Ores and Mines Pvt. Ltd. for a period of 20 years.

The DTCI conceded an area of 47 acre belonging to Hundung Cement Factory for lease to M/s. Ramung Enterprises, Imphal to set up a 400 TPD Cement Plant on 18 November 2018. Mailiang Village in Kamjong district, is also targeted for Limestone mining @ 50 sq km land area and for establishment of a factory at the Village.

Apparently, in the Pre-Feasibility Study Report prepared by Mining companies in Manipur like M/s Rourkela Minerals Company Pvt Ltd. from Odisha, M/s Sarvesh Refractory Pvt Ltd., M/s Gulf Natural Resources Private Limited and others, it is described that the entire mining lease areas in Shirui-Lunghar, Shingcha and Kwatha etc. are devoid of forest or agricultural land and the entire mining lease area are unclassed Govt. land.

It was a gross misinformation and trickery. The logic behind the report of non existence of forest in the mining lease villages implicates forest clearance unnecessary. In fact, land and forest areas are useful for different cultivation purposes basic to tribal communities’ livelihood since olden days. In reality, the right eastern portion of the Wuya-Kachui of Shingcha village, Shirui to Lunghar and Kwatha village in Tengnoupal district are thickly forested villages.

Interestingly, other than furnishing wrong information, the whole process of negotiation, Lease out and agreement were done without any knowledge and consultation to the concerned community people. The false and irrational Pre-Feasibility Study Report of the companies is nothing but taking lame excuses to exempt from mandatory clearances and for free hand mining execution. Absence of such mandatory clearances manifests frauds and illegality of the planned chromium and limestone mining in the hill districts of Manipur according to judgments of the SC and NGT mentioned above.

Clearances are mandatory

Forest and Environment clearances are mandatory for mega projects including mining. As per the judgment of the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Om Dutt Singh Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors. in O.A. No. 521 of 2014, dated 7th May, 2015, projects of vast magnitude and impact should be appraised in terms of its environmental impact. Mining, including underground mining is a non-forestry activity.

For any forest area, before the grant of mining lease (ML) prior approval of Central Govt. is essential. The Forest Act would apply not only to the surface area which is used in mining, but also to the entire underground mining area beneath the forest.

Moreover, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FCA, 1980), regulates the Diversion of forest for non-forest activities which requires prior clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest – Climate Change (MoEFCC). The FCA, 1980 & Forest Rights (Recognition of Scheduled Tribe & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers on forest) Act, 2006 (FRA, 2006) operate through corresponding rules and guidelines.

Section 2 of the FCA, 1980 provides certain guidelines which state Govt. cannot proceed without approval of the Central Govt. in the activities like De-reservation of reserved forest land, Use of forest land for non-forestry purpose and Assignment of forest land through lease or otherwise to any private person or any agency/corporation/organization which is not owned/managed/ controlled by the state govt. clearing of trees that have grown naturally in a forest land or portion of it, for the purpose of using it for re-forestation.

Basic procedures in acquiring mandatory forest clearance

While implementing the necessary conditions stipulated in FRA, 2006, one of the most important thing the project authority has to do is to seek Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affecting community people. As per the Union MoEFCC Circular of 3rd August, 2009 on FRA compliance under section 3(1)I, 3(1)e and 4(5), a series of documental evidence are required to be enclosed to prove the compliance of FRA.

It included- a letter from the state Govt. certifying that the complete process for identification and settlement of rights under FRA has been carried out for the entire forest areas proposed for diversion, record of all consultation and meetings held, a letter from the state Govt. certifying that such diversion (with full details of the project and its implications) have been placed before each Gram Sabha/Village Assembly, a letter from each of the concern Gram Sabha, indicating that all formalities have been carried out, and have given their consent to the proposed diversion and the compensatory and ameliorative measures, a letter certifying that discussions and decisions was taken at a quorum of minimum 50% of members of the Gram Sabha present, Obtaining the written consent or rejection, a letter from the state Govt. certifying that the rights of primitive tribal Groups and Pre-Agricultural communities, have been specifically safeguarded as per section 3(1)(e) of the FRA.

Series of community objections

There have been series of objections from Civil Societies organization and concerned villagers in Manipur especially in the hill districts against the proposed chromium and limestone mining. The main reason behind is either due to fraudulent clearance undermining the rights of the resource owners or due to complete absence of such mandatory clearance. The concerned villagers neither have detail knowledge about mining plan nor were consulted, confirming that no consent ever sought from the indigenous community so far.

This is the prime factor why the villagers of Shingcha, Kamjong district, in its Emergency Assembly held on 27 September, 2020, resolved to stand against the proposed chromium mining plan at Shingcha village. Further, the Rilram Area Maring Organisation (RAMO), Tengnoupal district on 3 October, 2020 unanimously resolved to prohibit any forms of No Objection Certificate (NOC) or agencies or departments related to mass mining of chromite.

Moreover, Village chiefs of Molnoi and representatives of students’ and women organisations, Tengnoupal district on 8th October, 2020 resolved to stand against any form of mining in Manipur without recognition of peoples’ rights over their land, resources and consent. In yet another development, the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) on 27th November, 2020 expressed its grave concern and called to desist mining in Ukhrul and Kamjong districts.

Conclusion

In the light of the above discussion, it is crystal clear that the proposed chromium and limestone mining in Ukhrul, Kamjong and Tengnoupal district in Manipur are without mandatory clearances. It is a fraud and illegal as per the NGT court judgment 7th May, 2015 as well as undermined the Supreme Court Order dated 16th July 2013, defeating the rights of mineral ownership of indigenous land and mineral.

It also violates the right and powers conferred upon the Autonomous District Council under the V & VI Scheduled of the Indian constitution. Further, the same also defeats the SC judgment on Samatha Bauxite Mining case, 1997 which clearly recognized the rights of the tribal on land and resources.

Therefore in conclusion, it is compelling that project developers and mining companies strictly adhere to the procedural norms, rules and guidelines of the Ministry of Environment and Forest-Climate Change (MoEFCC) and comply the relative judgments of the Supreme Court and NGT on mineral mining. Least impacts on forest and environment and their mitigating measures through standard Detail Impacts Assessment (DIA) are compulsive in the interest of safeguarding the fragile world ecosystem.

Full and legitimate clearances should be acquired. Necessary conditions provided in the FRA, 2006 in acquiring mandatory clearances should be fully complied so that there is transparency and accountability in the process.

In the absence of which, the initiative of chromium and limestone mining projects are not free from diverse angles of confrontation from environment, health, livelihood, land and resource ownership rights and other human rights complications. If mining is for development, be it a sustainable development that doesn’t inflict environment and victimize human being. Additionally, mineral mining should be pro-environment and pro-social perspectives so that the true terms of sustainable development could be achieved.

Land transfer commotion in Jiribam

Jajo Themson,

E-Pao.Net, 25 September 2021

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.opinions.Land_transfer_commotion_in_Jiribam_By_Jajo_Themson

For any infrastructural and other mega developmental projects, land acquisition is a cardinal part as they inevitably involve space occupation. It is one of the most contentious aspects where scuffles extended for a long time between land developers, social activists and the local population who are affected and the land takers.

Besides this, it is commonly associated with violation of rights over land and resource ownership, lack of proper consultation, issues of unjust compensation, involuntary social displacement or forced eviction and so on. Procedures involved in the process of land acquisition and its subsequent development are highly controversial.

Pic: Mongbung Village: By Jajo Themson

Land Acquisition Act, 1894 governed all acquisition of land for development initiatives in India until the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, (RFCTLARRA) 2013 was enacted. However, Land Acquisition laws in India still continue the basis of LAA, 1894, a colonial framework which conferred power for forcible land acquisition. The LAA, 1894 is an aggressive law introduced by the British Colonial Rule in India in order to serve their colonial interest.

Apart from these acts, there are other modes of acquiring land practiced in Manipur called direct purchase or land transfer with mutual agreement between indigenous land owners and state Govt. Land acquisition of more than 1000 hectares for construction of Mapithel dam, hundreds of hectares in Khuga dam and about 22 acres of land for Hundung Cement factory are some examples of such direct purchase deed.

And still there is another controversial area of confrontation regarding land ownership in the post project era when the original proposed plan is failed. Land issues at Yaithibi Loukol, Thoubal district and site of Yaingangpokpi Police Station are some of the glaring examples. Currently land acquisition tussle happens at Kangpokpi district in the proposed widening of Asian Highway No. 2, discord over proposed land acquisition and eviction for construction plan of Imphal Ring Road and many more of such anomalies are occurring in the state.

Among the various issues of such related cases, issues of land between the villagers of Mongbung, Sejang Kuki & Muolzawl, Hmar villages under Jiribam Sub-Division, Central Jiribam District and the state Govt. is one of the most contentious and unique one. The same is a wrangle of arbitrary transfer of land threatening the land ownership right in the post project epoch, which is the core basis of discussion in this article.

It was in 1981, 40 years back, Mr. Seikhothang Haokip and Lunkhothang Hmar, Chiefs of Monbung Kuki and Muozawl Hmar villages donated 600 acres of land in favour of Agriculture Department, Govt. of Manipur for Manipur Plantation Crops Corporation Ltd. (MPCCL) under an agreement signed on 02-01-1981 to raise Tea plantation with the promise of providing petty job opportunity to the affected villagers. Donation of the said land was made without any compensation.

After 23 years of good quality tea production, the Tea Estate becomes dysfunctional since 2004 either due to mismanagement or negligence of the state Govt. Therefore, being the project is defunct; the concerned villagers expect either alternative arrangement for their livelihood or to hold back the ownership of the land area in order to build up alternative community livelihood like rubber plantation or other economic activities for their survival.

However, in-stead of retuning the land to the original owners, Govt. of Manipur has undergone a series of transferring the mentioned land area. This sequential transfer of land was carried out arbitrarily without any knowledge of the original land owners. State Govt. in free hand transferred the land area from Agriculture Department to the Revenue Department vide Cabinet Meeting 7th July, 2014, this was later transferred to Department of Textiles, Commerce and Industries (DTCI), Govt. of Manipur. The said land portion was finally transferred to the Power Department, Manipur Renewable Energy

Development Agency (MANIREDA) for development of 100 MW Solar Photo Voltage Power Plant under the 15th Finance Commission, Vide State Cabinet Meeting at Cabinet Hall of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, dated 23rd June, 2021.

Originally, the two tribal villages along with Sejang village donated the mentioned land area to MPCCL for the sole purpose of tea plantation. Therefore now, being the plan project of MPCCL has ceased and the agreed conditions have been terminated too, it is pertinent the donor villages re-posses the donated land. It is a clear stand of the concerned villages that any agency, corporation and Govt. department should not implement any new projects on the said land without fresh negotiation and agreement with the stakeholders.

It is apparent that no act of land acquisition and even direct purchase system of land acquisition can be applied in the case of Jiribam because villagers neither conferred land for sale nor in lieu of any compensation.

It was a free donation in the larger interest of tea plantation project just in the name of providing few job opportunities to the affected villagers. In all the populace of three villages, only three persons of Mongbung and four persons of Muolzawl were given workmanship as care taker in the tea farm. Employment to villagers as per the deed made in 1981 has been terminated along with the end of the tea project, so should the land return to the original owner because the conditions of the agreement have expired. It is the claim that the land owners have every right and deserve to reoccupy the land in question. Arbitrary transfer of land ownership without consulting the legitimate land owners constitutes a severe violation.

Thus, it is true that villagers of Mongbung, Sejang and Muolzawl together with the President and Secretary of All Jiribam Tribal Union raised series of objection against the Cabinet decision transferring the land on 23rd June, 2021 without their knowledge. Memorandums were submitted to the Deputy Commissioner, Jiribam district on 28th June, 2021, to the Chief Minister of Manipur on 29th June, 2021 and the issue was raised before the President, International Human Rights Association (Manipur) and Coordinator, Myanmar on 12th August, 2021.

As per the opinion of the land owners, fresh negotiation and agreement can be made but, arbitrary transfer by state Govt to different departments without consulting them shall never be happened. Besides this, the issue of land alienation was even augmented when state Govt. attempt to install a Police Rehabilitation Centre at Mongbung village in 1998 without any concern and consent of the villagers.

This enhanced apprehension of the innocent villagers. Moreover, to the total dismay of the villagers, an eviction notice was served to the villagers in the year 2000 by the Deputy Commissioner, Jiribam District to vacate the settlers from their own land where they have settled since 1950. The same has aggrieved the indigenous community people with untold insecurity.

It is worth maintaining that land acquisitions in India are done in the guise of “Public Purpose” inculcated in section 3 of the LAA, 1894 as well as in the RFCTLARR Act, 2013. In US, property rights are protected by explicitly mandating compensation and used the term ‘public use’ which is defined along the lines of public safety, health, interest or convenience. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom common law system, eminent domain allows for land acquisition for ‘public purpose’, and this concept is applied throughout the Commonwealth countries, including India.

The word “Public purpose” becomes the most heated chapter of debate in India. As per provision of this section, if any piece of land is required by state Govt, it can be acquired in the name of public purpose without assessing the value of uses for public. It is this law framework that ailed the common people due to forced acquisition on the pretext of public purposes.

In conclusion, I would like to draw the attention of public for indigenous people concern that it is imperative land acquisition be based on the so called informed and consent of the land owners as per the section 26 (1) of the UN Declaration on Rights of the Indigenous people. Usage of the word Public Purposes in the Land Acquisition Acts needs amendment.

This very word in the Land acquisition acts has been a parasite through which indigenous communities who owned land and resources are continuously inflicted. Moreover, direct purchase system of land acquisition in case of Manipur is yet other venom for the indigenous people which incite permanent land alienation paralysing their sustained existence. It is an area of serious concern that the loss and damages caused to an indigenous people at a stage due to land acquisition usually extended through many generations beyond repair.

There has been heated debate in the courts that a property once acquired by the State after payment of just compensation and its possession as per law, the property belonged to the people. The “people” here means state or national Govt. However, such mechanism is not applicable to the land issues like happening in Jiribam because there was nothing of such compensations paid to the affected villagers.

It is a cardinal point of serious concerns that deed or agreement on land acquisition for any developmental project need to be specifically meant for one project and land automatically return to the owner after the life of the project. The same is significant for upholding the rights of the tribal or indigenous people’s social, economic, cultural, land and resources and their security. Lastly, it will be a bad precedent in Manipur or elsewhere in the North East if the state Govt. handled land ownership free hand even after collapse of project at such cases of Jiribam is taken for granted.

Solar plant must not affect Mongbung tea garden: Chairman

The Peoples Chronicle, 29 June 2021

http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=23..300621.jun21

Jiribam, June 29 2021: While welcoming the decision taken by the state cabinet on June 23 to develop a solar plant at Jiribam near tea garden, Mongbung village chairman Jannsat Haokip has, however, made it clear that the proposed project should not affect the tea garden of Mongbung.

Speaking to media persons on Tuesday, Jannsat informed that 40/60 families residing in Mongbung tea garden have been settling and surviving on land inherited from their forefathers.

It was very surprising that the government of Manipur has decided to gift away the land of Mongbung tea garden area to other people as if the land belongs to the government, he said and maintained that no land of Mongbung was presented to the government at any point of time though the land for tea garden was provided to Manipur Plantation Crop Corporation (MPCC) .

Villagers have been taking care of the area after MPCC got defunct, and so it would be not be right if the government alone decides to allot the land to other parties without consulting the village, he said and warned that peace and tranquillity in the area could be disturbed if government takes unilateral decision on the matter.

Appealing to the government not to create tension and torture innocent people in Jiribam, Jannsat stressed the need for reviewing the state cabinet’s decision. He further said that Mongbung villagers welcome the proposed solar plant project but it must not affect land of Mongbung.

The agreement inked with MPCC in 1981 with the government as the witness is still in possession of the villagers, he said and expressed serious concern over the claim that the agreement is in the hands of those who were not party to the agreement. He said that the land of tea garden automatically belongs to Mongbung villagers ever since MPCC got defunct.

Mongbung village chief condemns arbitrary transfer of land by Govt

The Sangai Express, 8 September 2021

http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=8..090921.sep21

Jiribam, September 08 2021: The Chief of Mongbung village, Jiribam has condemned the arbitrary transfer of land by the Government of Manipur to the Power Department on June 23, 2021 in favour of MANIREDA without the consent of the land owners of the village.

A press release issued by the Chief of Mongbung village informed that the chiefs of Mongbung and Muolzawl villages donated 600 acres of land in favour of Agriculture Department, Government of Manipur (GOM) for Manipur Plantation Crops Corporation Ltd (MPCCL) under an agreement on January 2, 1981 solely to establish tea plantation.

It was neither on sale nor acquired under Land Acquisition Act with compensation but a clear donation to improve the job and livelihood of the villagers.

The release mentioned that as the Tea Estate became dysfunctional in 2004 due to alleged mismanagement of the Government the concerned villagers were expecting either alternative arrangement for their land or the return of the original land, which is a major asset for their livelihood.

However, instead of returning the land to the original owners, GOM transferred the land from Agriculture Department to the Revenue Department on July 7, 2014, later to Textiles Department, Commerce and Industries, Manipur and finally to the MANIREDA, it added.

The Mongbung villagers reiterated their objection to the arbitrary transfer of land without the consent of Mongbung, Muozawl and Sejang villages.

Moreover, the Mongbung Village Authority urged the State Government to stop any project on the land without the consent of the villagers while adding that any forceful transfer of land without consulting the land owners shall be opposed by the villagers.

States CMs urged to stop oil palm plantation mission in Northeast India

The Imphal Free Press, 8 September 2021

https://ifp.co.in/9620/states-cms-urged-to-stop-oil-palm-plantation-mission-in-northeast-india

Representational Image (Photo: Unsplash)

All chief ministers of Northeast states should take up urgent action to stop and withdraw the centrally-approved large-scale oil palm plantation project across the region under the National Mission on Edible Oil–Oil Palm (NMEO-OP), the Eastern Himalayan Youth Coordinating Committee on Climate Change has said.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 18, gave its approval to launch the NMEO-OP as a new Centrally Sponsored Scheme with a special focus on the Northeast region and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Taking serious note of the project as “yet another project of destruction” for the people of North East India, the committee submitted a memorandum to all the chief ministers of North Eastern states on Monday. 

Stating that large-scale oil palm plantation is not people friendly and environment friendly, the committee pointed out that several countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia, have witnessed large-scale negative impact of oil palm tree plantation.

The committee also stated that the Sri Lankan Government has banned oil palm tree plantation and import and export of the same. It also stated that it is important to learn from the bitter experience faced by the people in Mizoram.

“As there is no solution proven by experts to curb the negative impact of oil palm tree plantation, we request all the chief ministers to stop and withdraw the proposed oil palm plantation in all the NE states under the NMEO-OP,” the committee stated.

The committee requested the governments to withdraw all the laws passed by the respective legislative assemblies with regard to oil palm plantation in Northeastern states of India. It also requested to encourage farmers to produce large-scale vegetable oil by taking up mustard farming on a large scale.

The committee stated that the biodiversity of the Northeast region is a genetic treasure of various forms of plants and animals. The region comes under the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot which ranks sixth among the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world. Most of the North-Eastern states have more than 60 per cent of areas under forest cover.

Large-scale forest areas have disappeared due to construction of mega dams, mining, oil exploration, expansion of highways, etc. giving serious negative impact on the inhabitants in the region, environment, animals, flora and fauna, etc, the committee mentioned.

Oil Palm Project: Manipur government to finalise acquisition of 30 hectare land in Jiribam soon

The Imphal Free Press, 8 September 2021

https://ifp.co.in/9632/oil-palm-project-manipur-government-to-finalise-acquisition-of-30-hectare-land-in-jiribam-soon

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday said that the state government had constituted a Sub-Committee, Oil Palm Manipur, to ensure successful implementation of the Oil Palm Project under the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil palm (NMOOP). He said that identification and acquisition of 30 hectare land for raising of Oil Palm nursery in Jiribam was in progress and likely to be finalised soon.

“To test the suitability and economic viability of the crop, adaptive trials of 0.25 hectare had been conducted in 22 different locations,” Biren said, addressing a virtual conference with Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar with chief ministers of states on initiatives and schemes for farmers’ welfare.

The objectives of the conference were to highlight salient features of Atmanirbhar Krishi for Atmanirbhar Bharat strategy and role of states, setting up of dedicated state teams with strong leadership to implement national programmes with state’s specific inputs, enabling states to enhance farmers’ incomes and state GDP and knowledge sharing amongst states and centre of new and innovative initiatives and develop a spirit of collaboration, the Agriculture Ministry said.

N Biren thanked the ministry for all the support extended to the state. He said that the state government had been putting in all possible efforts in the past few years to ensure the effective implementation of flagship schemes in the state for the welfare of the farming community

Also Read: States CMs urged to stop oil palm plantation mission in Northeast India

Regarding the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF), he extended a proposal that if the fund could be made available to the state, then it would be easier to uplift the agricultural entrepreneurs as the state government had started providing loans to Start-ups on agriculture.

Biren also informed that only one agro entrepreneur from the state had applied for the scheme so far as applicants had to apply directly to the Central Government and many were not aware of the application procedure. He also stressed the need of technical and financial support from the Central Government in successful implementation of schemes taken up for the welfare of farmers.

Speaking on the Pradhan Mantri Kihan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) and saturation of Kisan Credit Card (KCC), he said that the total beneficiaries under the scheme in the State was 6,04,300 and a total of 30,284 KCCs had been issued. He further added that a proposal for matching 8,179 PM-Kisan beneficiaries had been sent to the bank concerned for grant of KCC loan. On the National Farmers Database with connectivity to state land records database, he informed that digitization of land records in the state was in good progress and also placed the status of computerisation for certain districts.

The virtual conference was attended by Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Piyush Goyal, chief ministers and agriculture ministers of different states. State Agriculture Minister Oinam Lukhoi and commissioner (Agriculture) M Joy also attended the conference.