How two indigenous communities in north Sikkim united in their anti-dam movement


Sikkim: Voice against Teesta low dam project gains momentum

Dichen Ongmu, East Mojo, 1 September, 2019


Gangtok: Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) and Save Dzongu held a meeting at Hee Gyathang Panchyat Ghar in North Sikkim on Friday to register protest against the implementation of 510-MW Teesta Stage IV hydroelectric project.

Gyatso Lepcha, general secretary of ACT, expressed gratitude to those who came from outside Dzongu to support the cause and reiterated that ACT has been fighting against the project for the past 12 years.

“Our battle against the project started in 2007. Since then we have faced lot of challenges and learnt from it too,” he said. He further informed that a rally will be organised soon in Gangtok and appealed all the young generation to come forward and “help in saving our ancestors soil of Dzongu.”

Kalzang Dorjee Lepcha, CLC president Dzongu cum Save Dzongu member, said, “We are gathered here to save our motherland and we are ready to die for the cause.” He recalled that during elections, a petition was submitted to chief minister PS Golay, minister Kunga Nima Lepcha and minister Sonam Lama. “They had promised us to scrap it once their government is formed but till today no action has been taken to stop NHPC stage IV. If the government fails to stop this project then I am ready to resign from the post of CLC president Dzongu constituency, as this post is not compared to the protection of my land and ancestors.”

Tenzing Lepcha, ACT member, added that in 2007 students were accused of being anti-government for supporting the cause, which was very unfortunate. “Lepchas are nature worshipers and dependent on rivers, lakes and mountains. We cannot let such projects destroy our present and future,” he added.

The meeting started by offering puja at Ring Khola by Bongthing (faith healer) Tshering Lepcha to appease the guardian deity for the safety of Dzongu and its people.

Dam & disaster: How Mapithel changed course of lives in Manipur

Introspecting renewed hydropower push in Manipur

The Imphal Free Press, 27 August 2019

By Jiten Yumnam

Pic: The Leimatak River and the Irang River flowing free in Western Manipur where dams are planned

On 11 August 2019, media reported that at least Thirty-Two (32) potential sites for Hydropower development has been identified in a “Potential Mapping” over Rivers in Manipur. The report continued that out of the 32 identified sites, proposals for the Eight (8) most feasible Eight sites will be submitted to the Ministry by the concerned authorities of the Government of Manipur.

The Managing Director of the Manipur State Power Corporation Limited (MSPCL), Mr. N. Sarat explained that a consultancy firm from outside Manipur conducted studies and confirmed the potential for power generation at 32 sites. He said fresh appraisal and feasibility study was carried out due to the fast-changing state of environment and climate change in Manipur and the proposed dams cannot be based on the previous feasibility assessments . The fresh move for hydro power projects in Manipur sounds a bit absurd given the adverse implications of dams lacking accountability, unusual performances of dams and the changing landscape of energy generation within India and beyond.

Manipur prioritized hydropower as a key thrust area for development and envisaged to generate more than 2,000 MW of power under the Manipur Hydro Power Policy, 2012. The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) are key Multinational companies involved in dam building processes in Manipur. The NHPC already signed an agreement with Government of Manipur to construct the 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project on 28 April 2010 reaffirmed on 22 October 2011. Additionally, NEEPCO signed agreement with the Government of Manipur on 28th August 2014 for construction of 190 MW Pabram Dam, the 67 MW Khongnem Chakha Dam, 60 MW Irang Dam etc over the Barak River and Irang River and 51 MW Tuivai Dam over the Tuivai River . The Chakpi Dam, the 70MW Nungleiband Dam are other key dams proposed over the Chakpi River and Leimatak River.  The fresh push for hydropower projects in Manipur recently by MSPCDL needs serious introspection for its relevance and feasibility as most dams are either delayed or abandoned due to the lack of environmental feasibility or commercial viability in addition to social, environmental and other Impacts.

Dams and Impacts: Mega dams are much controversial in Manipur for inflicting social, environmental and other set of impacts in Manipur. Much has been published as to how the Mapithel dam destroyed 595 Hectares of forest and submerged more than 2000 hectares of agriculture land, impoverish communities depending on such land and how the 105 MW Loktak Project led to submergence of more than 50,000 Acres of agriculture land and led to loss of several faunal and floral species unique to the Loktak Wetlands ecosystems. The colossal implications of the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project on land and forest in Manipur is confirmed when the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, recommended the rejection of “Forest Clearance” for the mega project in its meeting from 11 – 12 July and 13-14 August 2013, observing that the forest land required for the project is simply disproportionate to the power generation plan of the project and the per-megawatt requirement of Sixteen (16) hectares of forest land for the project is extra ordinarily high. The total loss of trees and bamboo groves in both Mizoram and Manipur due to the submergence by Tipaimukh dam is estimated at over 8 million trees and over 4 million bamboo groves, which is a disturbing and unacceptable figure by any count. A revised MoU was signed with the Government of Manipur, the NHPC and Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited on 28th April 2010, reaffirmed on 22nd October 2011, without the consent of affected communities. The pursuance of 32 dams will significantly disturb the fragile ecology of Manipur falling in high seismic Zone V, to further increase chances of dam break and major landslides. The livelihood of indigenous peoples will significantly be affected as these dams will almost submerge agriculture land along the banks of these Rivers, undermining their livelihood and survival.

Commercial Unviability of Hydro Projects: The plan to further develop multiple hydropower projects in Manipur need to consider the increased unviability of hydropower projects in Manipur. Indeed, dam building companies already confirmed the unviability of hydropower projects in Manipur. Many projects are either delayed or abandoned due to lack of such viability. The 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project, whose MoUs was signed in 2008, has been delayed as the project proponent, the NHPC and the Manipur Government failed to agree to sign the power purchase agreement (PPA). The power tariff of Loktak Downstream Project would be around Rs 6.17 per unit which is comparatively high, prompting Manipur Government to desist from signing PPA with NHPC. The tentative cost of the project at 2015 price level is Rs 1300 crore  and in another four years’ time in 2019, the cost may even exceed 1500 Crores Rupees, further increasing the power tariff. The Manipur Government refused to sign the PPA contending that the power tariff is higher than admissible. The Chairman of NHPC, Mr. KN Singh pressured the Chief Minister, the Power Minister and the Chief Secretary of the Government of Manipur on 7 April 2017 to sign the PPA.  An alternative to seek necessary fund from JICA has been explored. The Government of India maintained that if the project is funded by JICA whose interest is very low, the power tariff can be reduced to Rs 5 per unit . The disagreement on power tariff still lingers and no PPA has been signed.

NEEPCO interestingly revealed that it is abandoning the 190 MW Pabram Dam, the 67 MW Khongnem Chakha Dam, 60 MW Irang Dam, 51 MW Tuivai Dam, which it signed MoU with Manipur Government in 2014, due to lack of commercial feasibility . On 23 April 2019, the NEEPCO in a response to an RTI, confirmed that the development of the Detailed Project Report, Environment Impact Assessment etc for these projects have been abandoned after the findings of the pre-feasibility assessment finalized in January 2015 indicated the commercially unviability with high tariffs ranging from Rs 11.86 per unit to Rs. 21.59 per unit, prompting the NEEPCO to decide that the projects are not investment worthy and discontinuing all activities on the projects. These are projects the MSPCL seeks to reactivate and pursue with the concerned ministries of the Government of India of late.

One need to ponder the commercial feasibility of a mega project like the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam that will requires heavy investment in terms of 10,000 crores Rupees. The Government of India for long, tried to construct the 162.8 meters high rock filled Tipaimukh dam, at about 500 meters downstream of confluence of Barak and Tuivai Rivers, at a revised project cost of Rs. 8,138.79 Crores at September 2008 price level and will substantially cross Rupees 10,000 Crores by 2019. In Manipur, dam building needs to consider the cost of constructing roads in inaccessible areas, security cost, rehabilitation and compensation for affected communities and loss of their land. The cost escalates thus affecting the cost of per unit of power generated.

Failed Dams of Manipur: A key factor that need serious introspection is the failure and underperformance of mega dams after commissioning. The Khuga dam, the Mapithel dam, the Khoupum and the Dolaithabi Barrage hits media limelight regularly for the wrong reasons of regular breach of canals causing floods, depriving farmers of irrigation waters for their fields, increased loss of lives in the dam Reservoir and for matters related to corruption in building these dams.

The Khuga Dam Right Side Canal Farmer Association (KDRSCFA) has stated that they will be launching an indefinite strike to protest the lack of water supply for their paddy field, around 500 acres for 150 farmers in the vicinity of Misau Lahvom village in Churachandpur District . Barely four months after its inauguration in November 2010, the left canal of the dam started breaching since February 9, 2011, at Kawnpui area. The right side of the Khuga canal collapsed on June 18, 2016, at Moulbem village, inundating the nearby fields. The eastern canal of Khuga dam breached during a trial run about 3.1 kilometres from the dam site on 9 July 2008.

The Khoupum dam in Western Manipur is also laden with unique features of lying defunct since commissioning of the project. The Khoupum dam project inaugurated by the then Chief Minister, Yangmaiso Shaiza on July 26, 1978 and the Khoupum dam canal project was commissioned by the then Chief Minister, Rishang Keishing in the year 1982-83. The Khoupum Area Farmer’s Welfare Association fervently draws the attention of the Government of Manipur in July 2014 towards the sufferings of the farmers of the Khoupum area due to non-functioning nature of Khoupum dam, which supposedly should be providing irrigation facilities to the farmers covering an area of 750 hectare of arable land for around 30 villages in Khoupum area. All hopes of indigenous farmers have been shattered by the failure of the Khoupum dam canal project since its commissioning.

The JAC on the Khuga Dam Project in July 2014 apprised the Prime Minister of India on the irregularities and misappropriation of funds to the tune of Indian Rupees 1.5 billion involved in Khuga dam construction and seek his intervention to investigate such misappropriations . The cost of the dam has been revised three times; INR 15 crores in 1980, INR 381.28 crores in 2002 and finally to 433-crores in 2011 price level.  The Dolaithabi Barrage inaugurated in January 2019 already ‘failed to serve its purpose’. Villagers complained that the tunnel under the Yumnam Patlou Maning Ching that leads to the main right canal are marred with defects. The water that should be flowing downstream from Dolaithabi Barrage to the main right canal passing through the tunnel to reach Yumnam Khunou, Sambei, Chingkhu, Tangkham, Haraorou, Khundrakpam and Waiton is flowing upstream in reverse direction towards the barrage due to ‘faulty levelling’ of the tunnel ground. The villagers who are hopeful of receiving water from the barrage are rather disappointed as their agriculture land are deprived of irrigation waters . A serious question which emanates from an introspection of underperforming dams in Manipur is why Manipur should waste public money in the first place for much mammoth structures that failed to serve its purposes, but rather devastate peoples land, lives and future and that inflicted unnecessary conflict and uncertainties among indigenous communities.

Undermining food sovereignty: There’s much optimism that mega dams in Manipur would irrigate agriculture land in almost all districts of Manipur and promote food sovereignty. However, there’s much dillusionment as these dams failed to provide water for agriculture fields close to the dam. The Khuga dam, the Dolaithabi Barrage, the Mapithel dam, the Khoupum dam, the Loktak Project and even the Singda dam are some of the mega dams, with key component to irrigate agriculture. However, these dams have failed to provide irrigation waters as reflected in the complaints. These dams rather submerged vast agriculture land. The Mapithel dam submerged more than 2000 hectares of agriculture land, the Loktak project submerged more than 50,000 Acres of agriculture land, the Khuga dam and Khoupum dam also submerged an extensive agriculture land, thus undermining the agriculture production from these areas. The forced submergence of agriculture land by Mapithel dam, the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Project and the ongoing process to submerge vast tract of forest and agriculture land by the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project, the 190 MW Pabram dam, Khongnem Chakha Dam, the Irang Dam etc will further undermine food sovereignty and destroys traditional agriculture in Manipur. Manipur will further be forced to import food for outsider, which are laden with harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides etc.

Dams as death trap in Manipur:  Hydropower Projects like Mapithel dam, Khuga dam, Khoupum Dam, Singda dam etc perform an abnormal function, of claiming the lives of people, especially those who are forced to cross the reservoir to eke out their livelihood or those who came for leisure and tourism in the dam reservoir. Nearly Thirty people already lose their lives in the Khuga Dam, mostly by drowning and capsize of their canoes. The latest incident occurred when a man named Demkholen Haokip of J Gamnom village drowned on the late afternoon of 29th June 2019. Mapithel dam, though lying useless like a White elephant already claimed Sixteen lives as of August 2019 since the blockade of Thoubal River to fill its reservoir, including the infamous case of loss of three lives on 28 April last. Many lost their lives in Singda dam, Khoupum dam and the reservoirs of Loktak project. Dams are already becoming a death trap in Manipur as the Government failed to initiate safety measures.

Power of Alternative Energy: The need for defining alternative energy needs and for development process is becoming crucial. The consideration of alternative energy is extremely crucial to minimize social, environmental, cultural, biodiversity impacts as efforts are being made to generate Manipur’s power requirements. With the prices of solar panel plummeting over the past decade, solar tariffs have declined considerably, from Rs 18 per unit to Rs 2.44 in 2018 . The price of solar energy continues to drop further.  The cost of generation of solar power is set to fall to as low as Rs 1.9 per unit over the next decade through 2030 in India with new technologies boosting efficiency levels, as revealed by a joint study of TERI and US-based think tank Climate Policy Initiative . Manipur has huge potential for micro hydel power projects, which can be promoted along with solar energies as alternate energies.

Building hydropower projects is no longer cost effective. Building a hydel plant can cost Rs 7 to 9 crore per MW, compared with Rs 3.5-4 crore/MW for solar energy. Hydel projects can also take around eight years to be completed, solar plants can be up and running in less than 2 years.  Time and cost overruns are much common for hydro projects. The Mapithel dam remains uncomplete till date since its approval in 1980 and commencement of work in 1990s. The Dolaithabi barrage takes almost thirty years for it to commission despite non completion of canals.  Hydropower has slowly becoming redundant as the main source of energy generation primarily due to the increased viability of other alternative energies, viz, Solar and Wind energy. Hydropower projects are also marred with land acquisition troubles, uncertainty over final costs as well as delayed completion, low tariffs etc.

Undermining Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals:  The aggressive push for hydropower projects as renewable energy will undermine all ongoing efforts to realize Sustainable Development Goals. The efforts to realize Goal 7 on Energy with hydropower generation, will directly affect other goals, viz, gender equality, sustainable forest management, access to land and water etc. The Mapithel dam envisaged for power generation, now directly affected access of communities to their livelihood sources. The access to energy in different goals cannot be ensured without ensuring land rights to communities. The Tipaimukh dam will submerge 25,822 hectares of forest in Manipur and envisaged to fell 7.8 million trees and 27,000 bamboo groves. The confiscation of forest and agriculture land by these multiple mega projects will undermine the food sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of Manipur and deepen impoverishment of communities, which will undermine Goal 1 and 2 of the SDGs, to reduce poverty and hunger. The impoverishment of communities and displacement, marginalization of indigenous peoples will further intensify the pattern of conflict in Manipur. The Government’s exclusionary move and decision to promote mega dams all over Manipur without consulting the indigenous communities is a violation of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007.

Conclusions: The renewed thrust to build hydro power projects over the Rivers of Manipur needs a serious introspection for its relevance and rationality. Specially, considering the myriad adverse impacts unleashed by hydro power projects, the loss of land and destruction of survival sources of indigenous peoples and the continued lack of accountability of dam building companies and the Government in dam building etc, the renewed thrust for hydropower projects requires a serious review and rethinking. For long communities are forced to sacrifice their land for mega hydro projects, that will only entail loss and devastation of their land. The colossal amount squandered in failed hydropower projects like Khuga dam, Dolaithabi Barrage, Mapithel dam, Khoupum dam etc, including the cost of maintenance and payment of salaries to officials manning these projects could have been better utilized to improve the lives of the villagers, to improve and diversify their livelihood means and promote alternative energies.

The increased unviability of pursuing hydro power projects and the changing energy scenario with availability of stronger and more viable options from renewable energies like Solar and other feasible options like micro projects should be integrated in the pursuance of energy generation in Manipur, especially considering the fact that solar power cost per unit is declining drastically. Accordingly, the Government need to conduct options assessment and promote alternative energies in Manipur.

The construction of more than Thirty-Two (32) hydro projects in Manipur will unleash colossal impact on the land and forest in Manipur. Some of the mega dams proposed will entail widespread environment, climate and social impacts. Manipur falls in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, a globally recognized area with rich and diverse flora and fauna species and the Tipaimukh dam and other projects will have direct impact on the endangered faunal and floral species. Indeed, the Forest Advisory Committee of MoEF, Government of India classified the proposed Tipaimukh dam as one of the most destructive projects in India as its forest submergence alone will be equivalent to 497 other hydel projects across India. The submergence of extensive forest and agriculture land will undermine all efforts to realize commitments to Paris Agreements and Sustainable Development Goals of 2015.

The Government of Manipur should conduct a detailed investigation on the failure and under performance of several mega dams of Manipur, primarily with respect to Khuga dam, the Khoupum Dam and now the Dolaithabi Barrage. The increased voices from all nook and corners of Manipur to desist construction of mega dams, such as objection to Chakpi Dam, the Pabram dam, Tipaimukh dam etc should be fully considered by the Government. All MoUs signed between the Government of Manipur and dam building companies to build Tipaimukh dam, the Loktak Downstream Project, the 190 MW Pabram Dam, Irang dam etc should be revoked. The Government should stop wasting public money for hydro projects that failed to assess the cumulative impacts on people and environment. Ensuring full recognition of indigenous peoples’ self-determined rights over their land and resources, ensuring their rightful participation in development decision making in their land and territories, promoting corporate accountability and reversing the militarization in peoples’ land and territories is simply critical to foster sustainable development in Manipur. The Government of Manipur should really dwell deeper if hydropower projects are really helping the state to progress or to create more hardship for communities or destroying fragile ecosystems and biodiversity in Manipur and accordingly, the Government should rescind all plans to build new hydropower projects in Manipur.

Community meeting on impacts of ADB financed Road project at Phalong Village, Tamenglong

The E-Pao.Net, 25th August 2019

 Land destroyed in Phalong,  ADB kangchup to tamenglong road in August 2019
Pic: Land destroyed in Phalong, ADB kangchup to tamenglong road in August 2019

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur and the Phalong Village Authority organized a community meeting on “ADB Financed Road project in Tamenglong” on 23rd August 2019 at Phalong Village, Tamenglong District, Manipur.  The community meeting was organized to assess the implications of ADB financed road projects, especially the Kangchup to Tamenglong road project in Manipur. The villagers of Phalong (Bhalok) part I, II and III attended the meeting and deliberated on the social, environment and other implications of the road project in their respective villages.

 community meeting at phalong impacts of ADB financed road project on 23 August 2019
Pic: Community meeting at phalong impacts of ADB financed road project on 23 August 2019

Hutenkum Panmei of Phalong Village expressed that the villagers are elated and much hopeful with the road project to connect with Imphal and Tamenglong Town at ease, but he said the project rather destroyed villagers’ agriculture land, water stream, forest in massive dumping of the earth, rock and other debris from hill cutting for the road. With this, many villagers can no longer cultivate their agriculture land due to rocks and debris piling up on their fields.

Water sources are destroyed by the debris and streams are also deprived of fishes and crabs. Mr. Khiamthiuwang of Bhalok Village said Jhum field areas are destroyed and green landscape are turn into reddish slopes with vulnerabilities for landslides. Villagers offered land for dumping of earth & rock which project authorities ignored and directly dumped in villagers land and water sources.

 affected forest land at bhalok;  ADB funded road project  in August 2019
Pic: Affected forest land at bhalok; ADB funded road project in August 2019

Mr. Disinglung Panmei, Secretary, Phalong Village Authority expressed concern that the settlement area of Bhalok of more than 40 households of Phalong Part III will be displaced by the road project. Villagers are worried of the non-provision of information by the Government on the rehabilitation and resettlement of villagers to be displaced by the project.

Mr. Keiritong Panmei complaint that the meagre amount sanctioned for some of the affected villagers for loss of their crop is far too minimal and simply disproportionate to the damage inflicted by the company to their agriculture land. Guikindin Panmei, Development Chairman, Part III, said that Seventy percent of their land has been damaged in Bhalok village.

The development Committee submitted letter to the project manager of the road project and district administration to address villager’s grievances, but there have been no positive responses. Villagers are uncertain if the company will ever compensate the villagers for the loss of their land.

 affected agriculture land at bhalok  ;  ADB kangchup to tamenglong road in August 2019
Pic: Affected agriculture land at bhalok ; ADB kangchup to tamenglong road in August 2019

Ms. Kadidinliu, women representative of Phalong Village shared that the company and the government need to fulfil their promises to stop destroying water sources and to repair the water sources destroyed before the coming winter. The village women folks will be compelled to act against the company, especially in Part III.

Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy shared that the Government of Manipur and the corporate bodies involved in the ADB financed Kangchup to Tamenglong Road project should minimize all forms of social, environmental and other impacts on communities and emphasized the need for full compliance to the ADB’s Safeguard policies, especially to improve the lives of indigenous communities affected by projects financed by them as outlined in Indigenous Peoples Action Plan, prepared for the project.

The Villagers attending the meeting resolved to apprise the Government of Manipur and the Asian Development Bank to desist from direct disposal of earth, rocks and other debris from road cutting in their agriculture land, forest and water sources and to address their grievances.

The villagers also resolved to urge the Government to compensate for the loss of their land and other survival sources before acquiring their land and work commencement & to consult and take consent of villagers in the project implementation and in addressing the impacts and grievances of affected communities.

a bhalok elder sharing concerns with the massive impacts of the ADB road prjoect in Bhalok village  on 23 August 2019
a bhalok elder sharing concerns with the massive impacts of the ADB road prjoect in Bhalok village on 23 August 2019 

River rights as legal person

Jajo Themson, The Sangai Express, 22 August 2019

leimatak riverIMG_0074

Pic: The Leimatak River (top) and the Irang River (bottom) flowing freely in Western Manipur

Introduction:   Our mother earth has been severely wounded due to un-thoughtful human actions ever since its evolution down to civilization at different stages till modern age. Among the precious free gift of nature, rivers are the most essential being and development as well as the best host for enumerable living creatures but they are mostly victimized in return. Chris Finlayson, a lawyer rightly described the “River Whanganui as ancestor for the Moari people” in New Zealand. Rivers constitute everything for indigenous river based communities lives everywhere. Rivers have been key factor in the history of human civilization. Rivers and nature based tribal communities have inseparable cultural affinity, untold social attachment, pivot to their economic sustainability, agricultural practices, transportation, urbanization and raising up their living standard over generations.

But it is really saddening and quite alarming that everywhere rivers are conventionally made a fatality to unfathomed dimensions in the wake of modern civilization and in the competition of the so called development. Every mega developmental project like Dams & Hydropower projects, Railway constructions, factories and industries, minerals mining causing contamination, spoilage of environment, pollution of rivers due to inflow of chemicals and hazardous materials creating  irreversible casualty to our rivers. Almost all naturally free flowing rivers across the globe are either drying up, contaminated or lost their original conditions leading to perilous ecosystem, losing of bio-diversity and negative impacts on human being and other living creatures.
Universal Declaration of River Rights

Rights concern citizens of the world took up endless struggle to protect rivers to ensure their free flow all over the world with a chain move in the International Rivers Networking at different levels. Better late than never as the old saying goes, the world received a great relief when some nations passed laws in the parliament legalizing rivers as human entity, which consequently paved way for historic pronouncement of Universal Declaration of Rivers Rights (UDRR) on 29th of September 2017 by the Earth Law Centre (ELC) based in the New York City. It declares that -all rivers are entitled to the fundamental rights set forth in this declaration, which arise from their very existence on our shared planet – Further declares that all rivers are living entities that possess legal standing in a court of law. The declaration establishes five fundamental rights that all rivers shall, possess, at minimum, the following – a. Right to flow freely b. Right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem c. Right to be free from pollution d. Right to native biodiversity and e. Right to restoration. Thus just like human being, rivers have been granted their own rights today implicating that any infringement on rivers are serious violations. As per this declaration, river is not a mere river but as a living human being therefore, contravention of its fundamental rights and corresponding freedoms are made enforceable by law courts.

As mentioned above, the Earth Law Centre could have achieved this Declaration after long years of global movement for river protection. The same has lot of influence from the Parliamentary Legislation of New Zealand (NZ) Govt.  The NZ Govt. was the first nation to pass this law in the Parliament after about 140 years- long movement by the Maori tribe striving for legalization of Whanganui River as human being which was finally come to accomplished on 15th March 2017 when its parliament officially enacted as law.
This virtually becomes a good precedent to the entire world. Legalization of River Whanganui was followed by the River Ganga & Yamuna in India on 21 March 2017 and Atrata River in Colombia attained legal rights just as a juristic person. Thus, our rivers are no longer a mere river like we used to see but just like a legal person, who has freedom to free flowing without any hindrances, freedom to retain its essential functions of ecosystem,  free from pollution, right to host biodiversity and freedom to be restored when required. Therefore, any infringement to river is a violation of law today.

UDRR & Our Challenges
Most of the mega dam building nations such as China, USA, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Canada, South Africa, France and Spain are now on the process of decommissioning and dismantling such projects on realizing the relative low outcomes and multiple negative impacts to environment which had led to loss of bio-diversity, collapse of ecosystem, disruptive and dislocated communities life, losing ground of original socio-cultural identities, depleting history and dignity of the indigenous communities. Contrary to this, many nations are still on the mad race towards river based activities like dams & hydropower under Triangular push such as – target to meet the energy requirements, searching for carbon free, renewable, clean and green energy and still rising of the so called Third global factor i,e, evolution of several profit motives drives Multi-Millionaires/Billionaires who are looking for avenue for their investment growth.
In the context of Asia,  there has been a strong push of dams & hydropower in the Himalayan region especially Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Bangladesh, Indian states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand including the North Eastern states being the region constitutes Water Tower in Asia possessing big potential for development of such projects. Among the countries and states in the Himalayan range, Manipur, a small state in the North East corner of India bordering Myanmar, has intensified pushing towards building of above 70 dams in the state under the Manipur Hydro-Power Policy (MHPP) 2012. The same is aggrandizing the past bitter experiences of disfigurement of its major rivers like Khuga, Singda River, Imphal, Khoupum and Yangwui Kong/Thoubal River.  Rights of these rivers have already been subjugated, deprived of their fundamental rights for the dam projects which are all futile.

Imphal River, Nambul River, Iril River, Khuga River, Ijei River, Yangwui Kong/Thoubal River, Tuivai River, Maklang, Tuyungbi, Irang, Barak River, Chakpi River etc are some of the important rivers of Manipur. Like mentioned above, history unfolded that some of these rivers are brutally raped, some are under victimization and still some rivers are being distorted if implemented the proposed construction of tens of dams in the state under MHPP 2012. The same happen to be quite controversial and apprehended that the proposed plan marked a high potential destruction of almost all free flowing rivers in the state.

In conclusion, I would like to assert it is worth rethinking with serious concern that protection of mother-nature especially river, really does matter. The time has come our law makers, Ministers, high profiled officers and general public to initiate stern action steps to recognize and revere the fundamental rights of the rivers for their long run sustainability. It is mandatory that the rights stipulated in the UDRR, 2017 be fully respected at all cost. Besides, all citizens have due responsibility to raise voice against any plan that hinders free flowing of rivers. Let it not be made an easy prey for the profit mongering corporate companies in the name of development. The loss and devastation caused to our rivers in the past and present should not be easily taken for granted. Ignoring the irreparable and irreversible loss of land, forest, river, collapse of ecosystem and loss of biodiversity, would be a serious violation of law as well as an unforgiveable blunder mistake at last.

The writer can be reached at

Dissenting Voices from the Margins Mapithel Dam in Manipur

Ngamjahao Kipgen

Economic and Political Weekly, Journal » Vol. 50, Issue No. 39, 26 Sep, 2015

Ngamjahao Kipgen ( teaches at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.

With the onset of monsoon, large tracts of paddy fields have been inundated and villages have begun to submerge on account of Mapithel Dam on Thoubal River. Chadong village is one among the 16 villages that will soon be totally submerged or affected. On 10 January 2015 , the Mapithel Dam watergates were shut down and incessant rains recently (since the month of June 2015) drastically increased the water level of the dam thereby posing threat to the surrounding villages. Chadong village has been cut off as the only road (bridge) connection is submerged under water. The only means of conveyance are boats.

Chadong village, known for its soil fertility and its bountiful granaries is considered the “rice bowl” of Ukhrul district. In fact, a year’s harvest can last for the next couple of years. Besides, the organic food products of Chadong such as bamboo shoots, mushrooms and wild vegetables are supplied in the nearby markets of Yaingangpokpi and Imphal valley. The cultivable area of Chadong is under water, bringing nightmares to the villagers about their bleak future.

The rising water level of Mapithel Dam has increased and has gradually submerged both cultivable land as well as human habitats.  The helpless villagers along with the Tangkhul Women’s League (TSL) and Tangkhul Student Union (TKS) sit in peaceful demonstration since 9 July 9 2015 at the Mini Secretariat premises in Ukhrul, demanding the decommissioning of the dam.

The protestors resorted to sloganeering and demanded, “Don’t evict us by force,” “review Mapithel Dam first, construct later.” The protestor said that they will fight to ensure their rights and safeguard their ancestral land. Chadong village chief lamented, “In the name of development, the government has cut off the livelihood of the villagers and we are dependent on the seasonal products of the forest and the river resources—we are losing all our traditional ownership rights over our resources.” The Naga and Kuki tribals have inhabited the Mapithel Dam site for the past generations. They are agricultural communities practicing jhum cultivation and wet rice cultivation near the river bed. Besides they also depend on forest and fishing for their livelihood. The river and surrounding forest land has been an intrinsic part of their socio-economic and cultural life.

Component of the Project

The construction of Mapithel Dam, initially conceived as Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose Project (the Kukis calls it Maphou while the Nagas name it Mapithel) has spanned over three decades now. The first investigation and survey of the project was done in the early part of 1970. A feasibility report of the project was submitted to the Central Water Commission (CWC) in the month of September 1976. The aim was to utilising water from the Thoubal River for irrigation, drinking water and electricity. The Planning Commission of India approved the proposal of the project in the month of May 1980 at Rs 47.25 cr (later it was revised in 1994 to Rs 223 cr and the latest revised cost stands at Rs 390 cr). The Government of Manipur’s Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD) has undertaken the project with the approval of the Planning Commission and assistance from the central government. The main components of the project are: (i) an earthen dam at Maphou village, 66 m high and 1074 m long (ii) 9X6.78 m vertical gates 17 km downstream of the dam site to discharge a maximum peak flow of 2,250 m3/s, (iii) main canals on the left and right of the barrage for a total length of 57 km and a distribution system for a total cultivable command area of 21,860 hectares, and (iv) a power house for generating 7.5 MW installed capacity (Government of Manipur 2011). Essentially, the dam will have a multipurpose utility—generation of electricity, irrigation, flood control and supply of potable water (10 million gallons per day) to the valley areas.

Once commissioned, the project will displace over 12,000 people (16 villages) while an estimated 777.34 hectares of paddy fields, 110.75 hectares of homestead, 293.53 hectares of jhum land and 595.1 hectares of forest land are expected to be submerged by the dam. The construction will also have multiple impacts on the villages in the downstream area of dam site along Thoubal River. Most of the village communities in the downstream have been living by fishing, collecting sand and stone from the Thoubal River. The construction will lead to water shortage, affecting agriculture and other allied activities both in the upstream and the downstream areas, threatening the food sovereignty of the communities dependent on land, forest and river.

Decades of Protests and Government Apathy

Amidst heavy protests, construction of the dam began in 1989. A number of reasons accounted for their disapproval. In the 1970s when the government officials informed the locals of a “project” and of “benefits” that were apparently meant for them, construction of “dam” was not in the picture. However, with the approval of the project in 1980, the construction of a mega-dam was conceived. Ever since the inception of the project, the indigenous communities (belonging to Naga and Kuki ethnic group) consider it to be a source of environmental destruction and threats to their cultural identity. They held the view that the project will destroy their resources, cultivated/ancestral lands, and fishing grounds. Apprehensive of the adverse impacts of the project and worried about their future, the affected villagers began protesting against the dam since the early 1990. No free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) was sought from those to be affected and displaced by the dam. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA), vital for any developmental projects were not conducted. The affected people had demanded that the project should not be taken forward till the public scrutiny of the project is accomplished.

In 1990, villages that fall within the vicinity of the dam formed a body called the Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organisation (MDAVO). The MDAVO spearheaded agitations and submitted a number of petitions to the concerned authority. After much protest and talks, the Manipur government finally agreed to sit down for negotiations in 1993. On 19 June 1993, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between the affected villagers, represented by MDAVO, and the Government of Manipur (GoM). According to the MoA, the process of Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) was to be completed within two years of signing the agreement. In the agreement, rates of compensation for the affected lands by the construction of the dam were also categorically decided according to the nature of the affected land.

According to clause (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Para I of the agreed terms and conditions of the MOA signed between the MDAVO and GoM, the amount of compensation had to be paid to the landowners in installments within the years 1993-1996. However, after a lapse of three years no compensations were given, violating the terms and conditions of the agreement signed. Against such violations of the previously agreed terms and conditions, several representations and memorandums were submitted to the GoM and the affected villagers also launched a series of bandhs and agitations. In response to it, only a few were compensated, that too in seven installments from 1993 to 2003, amounting to only 85 % of the total amount. The installments spread over a decade long left the affected villagers in a helpless situation, incapable of procuring alternative lands for their means of livelihood. Compensation in the form of cash often put the landowner in a problematic situation as it replaces a familiar asset (land) with an unfamiliar one (paper assets), thereby destroying the value of the asset-specific skills.

Serious turn of events unfolds the controversial Mapithel Dam. Following a complaint filed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) constituted at the behest of the Supreme Court that no forest clearance or environmental clearance was obtained for Thoubal Multipurpose Project since the days of its inception. The Manipur State Forest Department banned the project under a directive of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). In 2007, the Forest Department of Manipur notified a letter to halt the construction activity of the project. A case related to the clearance is pending in the Manipur High Court. During the past years, the IFCD did nothing to obtain the mandatory clearances.

Remarkably, the first stage clearance for the project was granted by MoEF only in 2010. However, construction of the dam began in 1989 without obtaining the required forest clearance from the MoEF. Even though MoEF accorded the final stage II Forest clearance for Mapithel Dam, it did so without conducting any visit to assess the site and affected areas. The twist in the project came with the decision of Union Environment Minister, M Veerappa Moily on 31 December 31 2013 to grant final stage II Forest Clearance for the construction of Mapithel Dam contradicting the letter sent by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 26 November 26 2013 which laid out the enforcement of the Forest Right Act (FRA), 2006 to “correct historical injustice” done to the tribal communities as part of the ongoing case in the NGT. Denouncing the earlier statement, the Ministry says that FRA should not apply to the acquisition of land from the Tangkhul and Kuki tribals as a “rare and unique” exception. The project violates the rights of the tribal communities over their ancestral land and forest and also violates the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. Under the Forest Rights Act, consent of the local people through the gram sabha or village council is mandatory.

On 28 September 28 2012, the GoM had issued an order constituting a Joint Verification Team (JVT), comprising officials drawn from IFCD, Deputy Commissioner of Ukhrul District and Tribal Department of the GoM, to identify families affected by ongoing Mapithel Dam construction at Chadong and Lamlai Khunou villages in Ukhrul District. Mention may be made that forced verification was conducted by imposing 144 CrPC with full security at Lamlai Khunou and Chadong Village as the villagers protested. The forced verification process conducted by the JVT also constituted violation of the stay order given by the Gauhati High Court. The mandate of the JVT is very limited as it intends only to verify the number of families, landless agriculture workers family and number of graves to be exhumed for reburial. Strong objections were already registered by the MDAVO which for long, calls for recognition of rights of communities affected by Mapithel Dam. MDAVO reasons the Governors order arbitrates the Expert Review Committee (ERC) process constituted on 18 January 2008 to assess the impacts of Mapithel Dam, including the rehabilitation and resettlement issues for affected communities. The ERC, with members drawn from representatives of affected communities, Agriculture department, IFCD, Forest Department etc., already had several rounds of meetings till February 11, 2011. However, the Commissioner (IFCD), also the Chairman of ERC, issued an office memorandum on June 13, 2011, bypassing the Government’s ERC formation order of 18 January 2008. R.S. Sakhathan, Chairman of MDAVO, in a  press release (15 March 2015) stated, “Mapithel Dam was constructed forcibly without taking prior consent of the affected communities. The state adopted forceful construction of Mapithel Dam with militarization of their land and resources and further adopted divide and rule tactics among the affected communities.”

Based on the assertion of the affected peoples and leaders of various civil society organisations, they had appealed to the GoM to consider and relook into the approach and policies of implementation by adhering to the principles of FPIC and adherence to the Forest Right Act (2006), in acquiring forest clearance. Several rounds of demands were made to the authority to review the whole project holistically. Despite the many agitations against the project and demands for addressing the concerns of the affected villages, the state government is adamant and has apparently decided to go ahead with the project. The construction work is now on the verge of completion.

An activist bemoans, “Our voice and struggle has become so powerless”, as he cites how the government continues to use different tactics to suppress their movements, to the extent of threatening activists. Surprisingly, the project site is heavily militarised and affected villagers cannot do much about their villages going underwater. This is conspicuous with the deployment of five military companies in the vicinity of the dam site. The security deployed here includes the Assam Rifles (AR), the Indian Reserve Battalions (IRBs) and the Border Security Force (BSF).

A statement of the MDAVO indicated, “Resorting to military deployment to aid construction of the dam is in derogation of all democratic principles and practices upheld nationally and internationally, and an absolute violation of the human rights of indigenous people of the state”. On 3 November 3, 2008, more than 40 people protesting against Mapithel Dam were brutally tortured by the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) prompting the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples, James Anaya, to express strong reservation against the militarisation of the site. James Anaya, expressed strong reservation with the militarization associated with Mapithel dam construction in the context of promulgation of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 in Manipur. He also expressed concern that the deployment of security forces in Mapithel Dam site area resulted in the intimidation of affected communities and the suppression of their democratic demands.

The violation on the part of the state and the central government went beyond violations of forest laws. The social turmoil and economic impoverishment have been coupled with militarisation of the project site in order to put down the resistance from the affected villagers. The aggressive use of force by the law enforcing agencies following a protest by the affected villagers in 2008 can be best exemplified. Responding to the Human Rights violations in Ukhrul, the UN Special Rapporteur strongly urged the Government of India to fully take into account the provisions in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as well as other relevant provisions and respond to the articulated, demands and acts of protest by tribal communities in relation to Mapithel Dam.

However, the State has ignored the recommendations of the UNDRIP and stayed indifferent to the plight of the tribal communities. The continued militarization of land and suppression of voices of affected indigenous communities for a just rehabilitation and resettlement is a clear instance of injustice due to Mapithel Dam construction. Pamei, Co-Chairperson, Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) asserted how the GoM has been insensitive to the land rights and intrinsic livelihood and survival dependence of the indigenous communities on the Thoubal River. She shared that the Mapithel Dam is already becoming anti people as the State refused to listen to rightful demands for participatory and rightful development processes (CCDD Press Release, January 13, 2015). It would suffice to be labelled as ‘development at gun-point’.

Jiten Yumnam, Convener of CCDD states “The project has victimized many communities of the State and has destroyed land and natural resources which must be stopped. The way Mapithel Dam has been constructed raises serious question on how well it will perform as many multipurpose projects in the State have failed in the past.” Yumnam further expressed that the Mapithel Dam construction already set a nightmarish example for indigenous communities of Manipur (The Sangai Express, Imphal: December 14, 2008).

Unlearnt Lessons

Citing similar cases (Vagholikar and Das 2010, Roy Chowdhury and Kipgen 2013), the resistance to Mapithel Dam could be justified on the ground that none of the objectives namely, flood management, hydropower production, irrigation and navigation has been fulfilled in the state of Manipur in the past. Ironically, the existing dams in Manipur are in an under-performing stage. For instance, the first major dam in Manipur, the Ithai Barrage which raised the water level of the Loktak and maintained it constantly at that level to drive the electric generating turbines inside the three tunnels through the Lamdan Hills to ultimately flow into the Barak river system at Leimatak valley, has met with a fair degree of success in terms of electric power generation, but it caused extensive damages to the surrounding fertile farmlands in the low lying areas of the Loktak hinterlands, inhabited by various indigenous communities. Sadly, these fertile agricultural lands turned into marshlands.

The Khuga Dam, which intends to generate 1.5 MW and to provide irrigation to 15,000 hectares of agricultural land in Churachandpur district, has long failed to generate a single unit of power, the release claimed. The eastern canal of Khuga Multipurpose Project breached during a trial run about 3.1 kilometers from the dam site on Sunday night of July 9, 2008, washing away a fishpond and partially submerging a paddy field. The crater formed after the embankment of Khuga canal submerged the agricultural field. Perturbed by the collapse of the canal, the Churachandpur District Students’ Union (CDSU) has stated that the incident has exposed once again the sub-standard work undertaken by the Government even after spending crores of rupees on the construction of Khuga Dam. Furthermore, the 750 kilowatts (KW) power generating unit of Singda Dam at Kangchup lies rusted, failing to generate a single unit of power since its commissioning.

Yet another, controversial Tipaimukh Dam is being protested by the indigenous Hmar and Zeliangrong communities, as it would lead to displacement and destructions. The propose dam will also submerge various historical and legendary sites with vital spiritual and cultural significance to the indigenous Hmar people and lead to destruction of rich biodiversity which is threatening the peoples’ right to life and livelihood (Ranjan 2003, Arora and Kipgen 2012). The proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Dam will involve felling down of 27,000 hectares of forest and cutting of 7.8 million trees. The GoM, however, has decided to go ahead with the project at any cost without consultation of the general public.

Large dams continue to have impact on indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. Their experience with dam projects is rife with alienation, dispossession both from their land and other resources, lack of compensation or inadequate compensation, and human rights abuse. Laws to protect their rights are weak or not adequately implemented. Procedural and conceptual failures in project planning and resettlement and rehabilitation have had serious impact on the lives of the indigenous people. They have full rights not to be forcibly removed from their lands or territories and no relocation should take place without their free, prior and informed consent.


Arora, Vibha and Kipgen, Ngamjahao (2012): “We can live without power, but we can’t live without our land: Indigenous Hmar Oppose the Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur,” Sociological Bulletin, Vol 61, No 1, pp 109–128.

Government of Manipur (1996): Manipur Gazette, Monday, Imphal: December 9.

Ranjan, R.K. (2003): “Tipaimukh,” The Ecologist Asia, Vol 11, No 1, pp 76–79.

Roy Chowdhury, Arnab and Kipgen, Ngamjahao (2013): “Deluge amidst Conflict: Hydropower, Development and Displacement in North-East Region of India,” Progress in Development Studies, Vol 13, No 8, pp 195-208.

Vagholikar, Neeraj and Das, J. Partha (2010): Damming North-east India, Pune/Guwahati/New Delhi: Kalpavriksha, Aranyak and Action–India.

Khuga dam: Squandering Peoples’ Resources, Land & Lives

By Jiten Yumnam, The Imphal Free Press, 20 August 2019

The Khuga dam of the Khuga Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project features in news again in July 2019, a regular feature since its commissioning way back in 2010. The Khuga Dam Right Side Canal Farmer Association warned the Government in July last that they will be launching an indefinite strike to protest the non-provision of water in their farmland of around 150 farmers in the vicinity of Misau Lahvom village in Churachandpur District. Again, earlier this year in June, media also reported loss of two lives in the Khuga dam reservoir. Recently in 2014, media reported affected communities’ appraisal to the Prime Minister of India to investigate the corruption and fraud in Khuga dam construction.

The Khuga dam which should be generating good news of uplifting the States’s economy, of promoting food sovereignty, of improving economy and  providing employment and enhancing State’s energy capacity is in media limelight albeit for all the wrong reasons, for breach of canals, farmers protesting for non-provision of water for their farms, recurrent loss of lives in Khuga dam reservoir besides controversies on corruption, fraud and rehabilitation woes. The media reportages reflect a reality that contradicts the grandeur promises in the inauguration of the dam Ms. Sonia Gandhi, leader of Indian National Congress on 12th November 2010 that the dam will usher in new era of development and prosperity in Khuga Areas of Churachandpur. The dam was inaugurated after Twenty-Seven Years (27) of project approval and without completion of key components to ensure functioning of the dam.

The multipurpose Dam commonly known as Khuga Dam, located at Mata Village, 10 kilometers away from Churachandpur Town was constructed in 1983 and after being stalled for almost two decades, the construction resumed in 2002. The cost of the dam has been revised from original Rupees 15 crores in 1980 to 433 crores in 2011 price level. The construction of the Khuga Multi-Purpose Project was meant for Hydro-electric power generation of 1.5 MW, to irrigate around 15,000 hectares of annual irrigation and to provide drinking water supply of up to 5 million gallons per day (MDG) for communities in and around Churachandpur Town and beyond in Churachandpur and Bishenpur Districts.

The Khuga Dam lies defunct since inauguration, despite the widespread loss of land, livelihoods, ecology due to the Dam . Barely four months after its inauguration, the left canal of Khuga dam experienced a severe breach. The left side canal breached on 8 December 2010 and again on 9 February 2011 at Kawnpui area.  The Khuga canal breached again in August 2014. The right side of the Khuga canal further collapsed on 18 June 2016 at Moulbem village, inundating the nearby areas. Earlier, a portion of the canal between Lingsiphai and Tangmual breached on 16 March 2009, leaving a wide opening of 40 feet. The eastern canal earlier breached during a trial run about 3.1 kilometers from the dam site on 9 July 2008, washing away a fishpond and partially submerging a paddy field. The repeated breach of Khuga dam canals is due to improper alignment and poor quality of work and thus, any release of water in the canal is simply a recipe for disaster. The canals, while inconveniencing villagers with repeated breaches failed to serve their irrigation need compelled them to resort to complain and protest.

Due to rain deficits, changing climate change, most of the agriculture land in villages close to Khuga dam remains parched and dry. Indeed, the Khuga Dam Right Side Canal Farmer Association complained to the Government in July 2019 that they will be launching an indefinite strike to protest the lack of water supply in their paddy fields of around 150 farmers in the vicinity of Misau Lahvom village in Churachandpur District. The association expressed the grievances or difficulties faced by farmers due to the lack of water supply with the season for plantation of crops knocking right at the door. The grief of the farmers is while there is plenty of water at Khuga Dam, the non-maintenance of the Canal along with the apathy of the government will affect their monsoon harvest with non-provision of water .  The audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of the Government of India in 2009 expressed their concern with the non-provision of irrigation waters from Khuga dam and outlined that the right side canal is functional up to few kilometers down-stream while the Left canal is said to be totally failed, while also mentioning that the remaining parts of the canals remains dry. The CAG 2009 report also acknowledges that the banks of the canals are characterized by an occasional breach causing anxieties and problems to the marginal farmers. Mr. Jamthang, the village chief of M Semuol village complained to dam authorities for their substandard quality in canal construction.   What use is a dam when it cannot provide water to villagers? Why is the dam built in the first place?

The woes of the villagers are compounded by the failure of the Government of Manipur to repair the broken canals on the pretext of dismal financial situation of the State, which further led to deterioration of the conditions of canals, despite the multiple impacts on communities and their property.  The non-allocation of funds for canal maintenance is indeed acknowledged by the concerned officials of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, in response to an RTI filed on the status of the canals in 2016.

The proposed hydroelectricity generation from the project is never materialized as of today not a single unit of electricity is generated from the dam. There is no machinery installed except that of a tunnel at the mouth of which have been blocked. Paradoxically, no powerhouse for generating electricity existed till date. The dilapidated situation of the empty powerhouse left abandoned and uncared without any installation of power generating equipment testifies the fact that the power generation component of the Khuga Dam is a complete failure. Media reported that the generators and the turbines to generate electricity from Khuga dam were already auctioned and there’s no investigation to ascertain these facts.

When it comes to drinking water, the claims of providing 1.2 MGD drinking water is heavily disputed by residents.  The water is pumped from the left canal and treated in water treatment plant in a hilltop close to the dam. Water could have been easily drawn from the Khuga River directly without the need for constructing the dam, if it is only for providing drinking water. Or the dam alternatively could have been made much smaller, thus avoiding forced acquisition of huge areas of land and forest and thus can prevent causing massive displacement and inconveniences to communities in and around Khuga and across Churachandpur Districts.

Displacement:  The Khuga dam caused displacement of several villages, such as Sehken Village, T. Kotlien Village, Changlian Village, Belbing Village and Geltamjang Villages respectively. Sehken Village have been shifted to the downstream of Khuga Dam in the year 2011 just adjacent to the dam in the bank of the Khuga River and nestled in a small hillock with just 20-30 households presently. The old Sehken village is said to have 60-70 households and at least 100 years old, though they have shifted here recently the forest lands and the natural resources in the old village still sustains their livelihood. With the construction of the Khuga multi-purpose project, the affected villagers who were displaced were forced to shift to nearby towns and villages with no Land, shelter and occupation. Many villagers are forced to become impoverished. No proper rehabilitation and resettlement were conducted while the meagre compensation and relief packages provided were marred with manipulations, corruption, favoritism, nepotism, causing additional tensions and conflict among affected communities. The Khuga dam thus, is an additional source of social tensions in Churachandpur areas.

Khuga dam and loss of lives: Another key media highlights, indeed recurrent focus is the increased loss of lives claimed by the Khuga dam reservoir, an unusual and unintended function of a dam. Many villagers are forced to cross the dam reservoir to access to their traditional forest and livelihood sources. Nearly Thirty people already lose their lives in the Khuga Dam, mostly by drowning and capsize of their canoes and boats since its commissioning.  Even as the dam lays useless, the reservoir has become even bigger controversy as death toll reaches Twenty-Two (22) approximately. The latest incident occurred when a man named Demkholen Haokip of J Gamnom village drowned on the late afternoon of 29th June 2019. In September 2011, three children hailing from Tuithapi and Tuibuong drowned at three separate incidents and the following year claimed Seven (7) Lives. The Government failed to initiate any precautionary and safety measures for the locals of Khuga. The locals are compelled to rely on makeshift boats to cross the dam reservoir for their survival means. Dams are slowing creating a disaster not only for the environment and nature but also for the very people the dam intends to serve.

The loss of livelihood and economic hardship inflicted by the Khuga dam on the indigenous peoples of Churachandpur area represents a clear case of violation of international human rights provisions, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. The Khuga dam building process also claimed other lives, not only by drowning. On 16 December 2005, Three People were killed while 32 others were injured in an indiscriminate firing by combined personnel of Churachandpur police,12th Indian Reserve Battalion and 41 Border Security Forces at Khuga Dam Site at Mata Mualtam village of Churachandpur district, Manipur. The villagers were seeking just rehabilitation and resettlement for loss of their land.

Squandering Public Resources: In an RTI in August 2016, the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, now the Water Resources Department, Government of Manipur confirmed there are 193 regular employees engaged in different sections such as the Head Work (51), Canal-I (65), Canal-II (41) and spillway (36) respectively for Khuga dam under  Khuga Dam Project Circle under IFCD. The total amount of the estimated honorarium and salaries for those regular and contract-based employees per month amounts to Rs 36, 10,051 (3.6 Crores Approximately). This reveals the fact that the dam is spending a sum of more than 4.3 Crores (Rs. 43,320,612) public fund annually, accumulating to almost 50 Crores since the commissioning of the project. However, the revenue generation details of the dam since its commissioning starting from 2012-15, regarding three main components of the dam, i.e, power generation, drinking water and irrigation is simply Zero (0). It is an absurd fact that not even a single rupee of revenue has been generated from the dam that cost nearly 600 crores of scares public fund, including the actual project cost, the maintenance and the payment of salaries etc. The loss of income from the agriculture and forest land for the communities since the commissioning of project and the money wasted in rehabilitation would all tally to more than 1000 crores of rupees, And this huge quantum of public money squandered in Khuga dam could have be utilized to improve the lives of the villagers in Khuga and Churachandpur areas, to improve their agriculture, their natural resources management, diversifying their livelihood means and to promote sustainable and alternative energies.

Khuga dam, Corruption & fraud: The construction of Khuga dam is marred with corruption, favoritism and nepotism. Series of claims, counter claims, petitions and counter petitions were also filed to the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Churachandpur Districts on exclusion in surveys for affected areas, exclusion of affected villages and for cases of double receipt of compensation by selected village chiefs and those privileged and well connected ones concerning the compensation matter for Khuga dam. The JAC on the Khuga Dam Project indeed apprised the Prime Minister of India in July 2014 on the irregularities and misappropriation of funds to the tune of Indian Rupees (INR) 1.5 billion involved in Khuga dam construction and appealed for his intervention to investigate such misappropriations .

Conclusions:  The Khuga dam, which has been in news for all the wrong reasons, has failed to provide irrigation, power and adequate water for drinking. Despite incurring close to 500 crores for the construction of the mammoth dam, which is now becoming a white elephant, huge amount of public money is being wasted for maintenance of the dam and to provide salary for the employees maintained to oversee the non-functioning dam. The hydro-electric power project itself is a totally failed project and the possibility of serving the three purposes seems nowhere in sight as the forest cover in the catchment area of Khuga dam continues to change adversely and the flow regime of Khuga Dam has changed and there’s severe reduction in the quantum of water flow in Khuga River. The Khuga dam with its failure to provide irrigation water more than Thousands of agriculture land in Churachandpur and Bishenpur Districts and by submerging and extensive area of forest and agriculture land undermined food sovereignty of Manipur. Villagers close to canal areas threatened that they will bury the canals stating that it was a waste of land.

The matter of the IFCD auctioning and selling of the power generation units and necessary infrastructure and equipment, such as turbines, need be investigated to prosecute the erring officials concerned. Khuga dam indeed has become a death trap, claiming nearly Thirty lives in the reservoir so far. The increased claiming of lives by Khuga dam reservoir even as the dam lays failed and causing hardship to villagers is simply unacceptable. The failure of Khuga dam to fulfil its objectives and to generate a single unit of power despite incurring huge amount of public money need be fully investigated for appropriate actions to concerned officials and to prevent its recurrence. The Government should review the fallacies of dam and take urgent steps to decommission nonperforming dams like Khuga dam and hand over the land submerged to the villagers. The Government should end human rights violations on communities affected by the dam. The lack of accountability surrounding the dam construction despite multiple impacts on communities, livelihood loss, destruction of land, forest, water sources, indigenous culture etc., should be reasons rife to stop pursuing unsustainable hydropower projects in Manipur.

HC bans new project in Loktak Lake, directs stakeholders for progress reports on preservation

The Imphal Free Press, 20 August 2019

IMPHAL | Aug 19

The High Court of Manipur has issued directive not to take up any new developmental projects in Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water Lake in the Northeastern region, without the authorization of the Court until the progress with regards to preservation of the Lake is ascertained.


The directive was issued by a division bench comprising of Chief Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice Kh. Nobin, in connection with the suo motto petition taken up by the Court. An ordered to this effect was issued by the court on August 7 last.

The authorities concerned including the Manipur State Wetlands Authority (MSWA), Forest and Environment department, Water Resources and the Loktak Development Authority (LDA) were further directed to file affidavits incorporating the present status on the actions taken by them so far.

Moreover, the MSWA and LDA were also directed to file affidavits showing the details as to “how the money and is being” utilised by them.

The High Court taken up the suo motto petition on the basis of directive issued by the Supreme Court in 2017, to all the high courts to monitor the management of 26 sites identified in the Ramsar Convention of 1971 on wetlands till there was some visible improvement as these were of international importance and heritage.

Subsequently, the High Court of Manipur has taken up the case on August 25 last and has been adjourned from time to time.

The matter is pertaining to a petition filed in the Supreme Court in 2001 with regards to the preservation of the wetlands in the country.

In the petition, Dr. A. Duraisamy, a scientist and a member secretary, Central Wetland Regulatory Authority filed an affidavit detailing the fund released for the preservation of 26 Ramsar Sites in the Country and a sum of Rs. 86696 crore was released in respect of the Loktake Lake.



The Poknapham, 15 August 2019

Imphal, August 14: The optimism that the Left Canal of Dolaithabai Barrage will provide Irrigation for farmers is contrary to reality of upward flow of water in the canal that even drained water away from the nearby hills, thus affecting agriculture and cultivation in the villages of Yumnam Khunou, Ishikha, Sinam, Ishing Thenbi etc that expected receiving water from the left canal.

Tunnel for Left Canal from Dolaithabi Barrage at Samutup Ching, Ishing Thenbi

Pic: The Left Canal of Dolaithabi Barrage and tunnel under Samutup Hills, Ishing Thembi Village, Imphal East, Manipur

The Left canal of Dolaithabi Barrage that is supposed to provide water downwards to the agriculture land in the villages of Ishing Thenbi, Yumnam Patlou, Ishikha and Sinam through the tunnel at Samutup Hill in Ishing Thenbi Village instead flowed upward reversely and draining water from the region towards the Barrage.

Prior to construction of canals and the Dolaithabi Barrage, the water discharge from the nearby Samutup Hills is used for cultivation of agriculture fields in these villages. But now due to the construction of the canals, the water discharges from the hills now drained directly to the canals, thus depriving the villages of much needed water for their irrigation.

An inspection by a media team discovered that villagers laid pipes over the canals to draw water for their respective agriculture land. Speaking to media, Mr. Ngangom Khurdhabanta, President of Gold Star Club, Yumnam Khunnou said once villagers were very hopeful that the Dolaithabi Barrage once commissioned would provide adequate water for irrigation in their villages.  However, he opined that technical faults of the Barrage led to deprivation of water for the villages.

Before the canal, the 200 hectares of agriculture land of Yumnam Khunnou, 500 hectares of Ishing Thenbi, 400 of Ishikha, 100 hectares of Sinam used to flourish with successful cultivation, but after the canal and the Dolaithabi Barrage, the farmland in these villages now reels without water and lurking for a crop failure this year.  The farmers are very very concerned with the unfolding situation.

On pressure by the farmers to commission the Dolaithabi Barrage despite non completion of canals, the Chief Minister of Manipur once said only completed projects will be inaugurated. But the Dolaithabi Barrage that should be serving its primary purpose of providing water after inauguration, failed it serve it purpose and farmers remains deprived of water in their fields. Even water from gorges from nearby hills, that were used for cultivation, is also now drained away by the Canals.

The lack of water in their field due to acute shortage of rainfall this monsoon along with the reverse upward drainage of water by the canal will lead to poor and possibly failed harvest this year. Even farm areas with sowed crops developed cracks with lack of rains and water and due to possibility of failed crops, the Government is requested to provide alternate seeds to alleviate the suffering of farmers.


(Translated from the Poknapham news coverage under the caption)

Canal gi Ishing Hankhibana Lou Panba Yadre: Loumising

The Poknapham, 15 August 2019

Poknapham News Service

Imphal, August 14: Dolaithabi Barrage gi Left Canal na Ishing piraga lou pangani haina khallamba adu houjik canal asidagi ishing lakpagi mahuta chingdagi chentharakpa lokki ishing yaona dam lomda oina hengatna chankhibana maram oiraga Yumnam Khunnou, Ishikha, Sinam amasung Ishing Thenbi da lou panba ngamdre haina ngasi loumising na pendaba phongdokhre.

Dolaithabi Barrage Left Canal na Ishing Tengbi Samutup ching hutlaga Ishing Thenbi, Yumnam Patlou, Ishikha amasung Sinam gi leiriba loubuksingda ishing asi yourakpagi mahuta barrage lomda ishing asi hallaga chelle. Hanna Barrage asi leitringei ching dagi chentharakpa lokki ishingna hairiba loubuk kaya asida lou unaramba adu houjikti canal asida loina tasinkhre. Adubu tariba ishing asi Barrage romda oina hangatna chelle haina loumisingna phongdokhi.

Ngasi Samutup ching phaoraga lakliba canal asi paomisinga loinana loumisinga chatminaduna yengsinbada loumising na masa masana pipe leiraga canal asigi mathakta lallaga magi magi loubukta ishing piraga lou unanaba hotnaramba thengnakhi. Mapham aduda yumnam Khunnou da leiba Gold Star Club ki President Ngangom Khurdhabantana hai, matam amada Dolaithabi Barrage asidagi ishing tharaklagadi ishingi awatpa leiraroi haina yamna nungaiba phaokhi. Adubu Barrage asidagi ishing tharaklagadi ishing gi awatpa leiraroi haina yamna nungaiba phaokhi. Adubu Barrage asida canal saba asida karamba technical oiba asoiba leibadagino houjik canal asidagi loubuksingda ishing phanghanba ngamdre.

Masina maram oiraga hanna canal leitringeida lou charamba yumnam Khunnou gi lou pari 200, Ishing Thengbigi lou pari 500, Ishikha gi lou pari 400 amadi Sinam gi lou pari 100 rom asi ishing phadabagi lou panba ngamdana leire. Masina loumisingda nungaitaba pokhalle.

Barrage asi sanganaba hotnarakpa matamda canal saba loidragadu sangabiganu haina meeyamna wakhatkhiba matam aduda houjik Chief Minister oiriba N. Biren na leiriba Government asina kannaba pigadaba project khaktamak sangagani haina phongdokhiba leikhi.

Adubu houjik sangariba matungda kannaba phangani haina khallamba adugi ona teinabada canal asida ishing amata phangdre. Loktagi hanna chentharaga loumisingna ishing sijinaramba adusu canal asina thatuna canal da tasillaga ishing sing adu Barrage romda oina hangatna chenkhre. Hanna mahousana tajarakpa ishing asina adumak lou ujaramba adusu handakki kum asigi oina nong tadabana houjikti loumisingna phou panba ngamdabagi awaba ama mayoknari. Phou hunjilluraba loupham kaya ama leikrak chatuna phou panba ngamloidabagi phiphamda leire. Maram aduna hiram asigi matangda Government na phou lokpadi yararoidabana atoppa maru marang sing hunba yaba leiragadi loumisingda pibiyu hainasu loumisingda phongdokhi.