MHRC inspects gate sites at Ithai barrage

The Sangai Express, 18 October 2020

http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=4..181020.oct20

Bishnupur, October 17 2020: After it halting the process of installing motorised gates by the NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) on major roads surrounding Ithai barrage, the Manipur Human Rights Commission inspected the sites of the gates today.

PIc: The Ithai Barrage of the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project at Ithai area, Manipur

Bishnupur police, SDO/SDM Moirang subdivision accompanied the members of the Commission and its Chairperson, Khaidem Mani during the field enquiry today. It may be noted that Pumlen Pat Khoidum Lamjao Kanba Apunba Lup and the Rising Star Club had filed petitions with the MHRC seeking its intervention on October 13 .

They had alleged that construction of at least four motorised gates on main roads surrounding Ithai barrage would restrict free movement of people thereby denying them their right to life. Taking note of the petitions, the MHRC had directed the Deputy Commissioners of Kakching and Bishnupur district to halt the construction of the gates and sought reports on or before October 27.The MHRC had also stated that it would conduct a field enquiry today.

Inspecting the sites, the Commission’s Chairperson opined that the construction of the gates on the main roads may restrict free movement of people which may exploit their rights as Indian citizens. He further continued that even though the Indian Constitution gives free movement of people within the country, there are certain reasonable restrictions depending on the law and order situation.

Even as the NHPC has cited security reasons for the need to construct the motorised gates, the Commission has no knowledge whether there had been a public notification for the same. The Commission will work to know the exact reasons for construction of the gates. As the NHPC is under the Central Government, the Commission can recommend the State Government to write to the Centre to know the need for the gates. The gates will only be constructed when an amicable solution is there.

People of the region should not panic and worry, he said. On the other hand, there was a mass sit-in protest at Ithai barrage community hall today. Locals of Kumbi, Sugnu, members of clubs and Meira Paibis took part in the protest against construction of gates on main roads. MHRC Chairperson Khaidem Mani, core group members U Nabakumar and W Basanta and United Committee Manipur (UCM) president Sunil Karam attended and spoke at the event.

Speaking to the protesters, UCM president Sunil Karam stated that the construction of the motorised gates by the NHPC will restrict free movement of people and affect their daily businesses and livelihood.

The gates will add more to the woes of the people who are suffering as a result of the Ithai barrage, he said. If the gates are a result of the 2017 report of the Intelligence Bureau, it is against the people, he said adding the security reason cited for construction of the gates could have been justified if the gates were constructed before 2010.The law and order situation has improved significantly in the region and as such the gates are not needed, he added.

He also sought the attention of the Government to understand the plight of the people and take up appropriate action. If the Government fails to act in time, the situation may trigger severe outrage and agitation by the people, he said.

RAMO prohibits mass mining

The Sangai Express, 13 October 2020

https://www.thesangaiexpress.com/Encyc/2020/10/13/RAMO-prohibits-mass-mining.html

IMPHAL, Oct 12: The Ril-Ram Area Maring Organisation (RAMO) held a meeting on October 3 at the Rilram centre village and unanimously resolved to ban and prohibit all villages under its jurisdiction from issuing any form of ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) or cooperate with agencies/departments related to mass mining (chromite) in the area.

Pic: Kambang Khunnou area close to the Manipur – Myanmar border inhabited by the Maring tribe

Any attempt to execute minerals mining in Maring area by the Government will be considered violation of indigenous people’s rights, said the statement issued by RAMO.

Further, it will fight forceful attempts by Government to mass mining, in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, it added.

https://www.thesangaiexpress.com/Encyc/2020/10/13/RAMO-prohibits-mass-mining.html

CVOs decry implementation of ST and Traditional Forest Dwellers Act in Jiribam

The Imphal Free Press, 11 October, 2020

https://ifp.co.in/cvos-decry-implementation-of-st-and-traditional-forest-dwellers-act-in-jiribam

The Hmar Inpui GHQ, KSO (J and T), Hmar Women Association (Jiribam area), Hmar National Union Jiribam and United Chief Committee, Jiribam have decried the proposed implementation of the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district.

A joint release by the CVOs has said that the Act to be implemented on October 12 as per the sensitisation meeting notice by the deputy commissioner of Jiribam has shocked many tribal villages. The rationale behind the proposed implementation of the Act is a matter of grave concern for the tribal villages and their land in Jiribam, it added.

It is a fact which can never be distorted that all the tribal villages of Jiribam are living in tribal land under chieftainship land rights and have officially recognised chiefs. Community land holdings are the recognised norm of land ownership in the tribal villages of Jiribam and each and every village had been paying Hill House Tax from over a hundred years in the past, said the release.

It continued that paying of Hill House Tax was refused to be accepted by the government in 2017 and in spite of myriad appeals by tribal CVO leaders of Jiribam for the continuation of payment of Hill House Tax, the government had turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the tribal populace.

“The intention to implement the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district instead of reviving payment of Hill House Tax has sent a strong message to the tribal people of Jiribam that a sinister design is being planned by the government to reduce the status of tribals of Jiribam to that of beggars in their own land over which they had enjoyed rights for centuries,” said the release.

Why would not the government allow the payment of Hill House Tax which tribal villages had been doing all the while even when Jiribam was a sub-division in Imphal East District? Is the motto of ‘hill and valley people are one’ to be practiced at the expense of robbing the tribals of their land rights?, questioned the CVOs in the release.

It further said that the tribal villages do not need to be covered under the Scheduled Tribe and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 in Jiribam district. Since all the tribal villages are Hill House Taxpaying villages, it is a fact that no villages and their land are in Forest Reserves. The crucial need is to restore the land rights of the villages by restoring Hill House Tax payment, it added.

Forcible attempts at the implementation of the Act without considering the land rights of the tribals of Jiribam will be taken as gross violation of human rights and tribal land rights as enshrined in the Indian Constitution and such efforts will be opposed at all cost, said the release.First Published:Oct. 11, 2020

Meeting resolves to oppose any form of mining without communities’ consent in Manipur

The Imphal Free Press, 8 October 2020

https://ifp.co.in/meeting-resolves-to-oppose-any-form-of-mining-without-communities-consent-in-manipur

Several village chiefs of Molnoi and representatives of students’ and women’s organisations at a meeting on Wednesday resolved to stand against any form of mining in Manipur without recognition of peoples’ rights over their land and resources and consent, Molnoi Areas Welfare Council (MAWC) chairman Lhunmang Haokip said .

The MAWC chairman was addressing a  community awareness and consultation on ‘Sustainable Development and Protection of Resources’ held on Wednesday at Molnoi, Tengnoupal district by the MAWC and the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRAM).

It said that the participants of the consultation meeting expressed concern that extraction of minerals in Tengnoupal area will lead to destruction of forest, agriculture land, and water sources resulting in a big effect on the livelihood of the villagers.

The release further stated that speaking during the programme, secretary of CRAM Jiten Yumnam provided resource input on sustainable development and protection of natural resources as Manipur is blessed with natural resources.

Jiten maintained that the indigenous peoples’ traditional and sustainable management of land and natural resources needed to be promoted for sustainable development. He said that the aggressive push for mining in Tengnoupal, Chandel, Ukhrul and Kamjong areas of Manipur to mine chromium, limestone, copper and others will destroy the biodiversity of the state and inter-generational survival of indigenous communities of Manipur, it said.

It continued that secretary of MAWC Minlal Haokip stressed that development processes in Molnoi and other Tengnoupal areas should recognise communities’ rights over their land and resources and take their free, prior and informed consent.

Andro Villagers urges Government to desist plan to privatize Santhei natural parak in their forest land

Pic: Community forest land at Andro Village, Imphal East District, Manipur.

Pic: Andro Villagers has been demanding the Government to desist all plans to privatize the Santhei Natural Park developed and managed by the Villagers in their traditional forest land

Irrelevance of 66 MW Loktak Downstream HEP in Manipur

The E-Pao.Net, 28 September 2020

by Jiten Yumnam

Media reported that the Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporation Ltd has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Manipur State Power Distribution Company Ltd (MSPDCL) for 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project on 31st August 2020. According to the PPA, the Government of Manipur envisaged to purchase the entire power to be generated by the project .

The terms and conditions of PPA and cost of per unit power to be purchased by the Government remains concealed. For long, the Government refused to sign the PPA due to the high cost of the power per unit cost. The NHPC has long pressured the Government to sign the PPA for the project.

Introduction: The 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project (LDP) project is proposed as a run of the river scheme intending to utilize the tail race discharge from the powerhouse of the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric project (Loktak HEP) along with the inflow of the River Leimatak for power generation.

A 28 meters high barrage over the Leimatak River near Tousang Khunou Village will be built for the project. The project cost is Rs. 867.77 crores as of 2006 . The project cost of LDP stands at Rs. 1250 crores by 2015 , which increased to Rs. 1391.65 Crores by December 2018.

After the MoU for the Loktak Downstream Project was signed between the Government of Manipur and the NHPC on 26 September 2008, the Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporation Limited (LDHCL) was formed as a joint venture company of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) with stake of 74% and Government of Manipur with a stake 26% for implementation of the proposed project. The LDHCL is a subsidiary company of NHPC Limited .

The 59th meeting of Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, held from 20th till 21st July 2012 recommended environmental clearance for the project . Concerns persists that the Stage – 1 Forest Clearance has been cleared to divert 211.50 hectares of forest on 3 March 2011 without adhering to Forest Rights Act, 2006 .

The LDHCL maintained that the total catchment area of the project span over 554 Sq.km and the land requirement is 211.50 hectares, including wet paddy fields on river bed of Leimatak River, agriculture land and forest, which affected communities, viz, Rongmei tribe rely for their subsistence.

Delays in PPA signing and JICA financing Plan: The initiation of the Loktak Downstream Project has been delayed as the NHPC and the Manipur Government failed to sign the power purchase agreement (PPA) till July 2020. The high power tariff of Loktak Downstream Project at around Rs 6.17 per unit as of 2017, was key reason for the refusal of Manipur Government sign the PPA.

In 2015, the former Power Minister of the Government of India earlier asked the Government of Manipur and NHPC to reduce the power tariff to Rs 5.30 per unit as Rs 400 crores would be given as grant by Central Government.

The NHPC in July 2006 LSO urged the Government of Manipur to relinquish its 12% free power entitlement from the 90 MW Loktak downstream power project to bring down the cost of the power and to optimize the estimated implementation cost and the electricity tariff for the project . In lieu, NHPC proposed that the state government may take up equity in the project.

For long, NHPC has been pressuring the Manipur Government to sign the PPA as soon as possible but the latter contended that the power tariff is higher than admissible. The Chairman and Managing Director (CMD), Mr. Joshi of NHPC again met the Chief Minister of Manipur, Mr N. Biren on 14 December 2017 pursuing for an early commencement of the construction of LDP over the Leimatak River .

However, the PPA was finally signed on 31st August 2020, with Manipur Government agreeing to purchase entire power from the project. Earlier, the Government of Meghalaya and Tripura signed PPA on 20 June 2003 and 19 June 2003 for purchase of power from the project.

In February 2018, media reported that the Government of India sought financial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to fund the LDP. On pretext that the power tariff would be too high when the project is funded by the Government of India, an alternative of seeking the necessary fund from JICA has been explored .

The Government maintained that if the project is funded by JICA whose interest is exceptionally low, the power tariff can be reduced to Rs 5 per unit. The plan to pursue financing from JICA indeed laid bare the challenges in financing process of LDP.

Public Hearing: Earlier, an environment Public Hearing for the LDP project was conducted on 7 June 2011 at Longjang (Thangal) village in Tamenglong district, Manipur. The Environment Impact Assessment and Environment Management Plan has not been furnished. The project area falls in high seismic zone V. Civil societies attending the hearing expressed concerns with multifaceted impacts of the project.

Representatives of Zeliangrong Students Union, landowner of Toushang Village, Soubung village, Chakanglong Peidai, Taoshang village etc raised concerns at the hearing. Many villagers who attended the public hearing also expressed support to the project without gaining access to pertinent information on impacts of the project. Clearly, the adherence to free, prior, and informed consent of the affected communities remains another concern.

Impacts: The project authorities outlined that at least 705 families will be affected due to loss of their right over forest land for the LDP. The project authorities have been building the road from Tupul to Thangal Village for a total length of 97.91 kms to aid construction of the Dam, powerhouse, and pump House.

The forest areas required is 40.9 hectares for the road from Tupul to Dam site, for road from Dam site to Powerhouse and for diversion of forest for construction of road from Pump House to Irang River. Another 144 hectares of land has been identified for compensatory afforestation for the loss of 72 hectares of forest land at Thangal Village to be acquired for the road expansion for the project .

Earlier, a group of affected villagers of Taosang Village filed a case against the step taken by the Government for resurvey for which the Gauhati High Court stayed the same. The survey and other works were suspended for quite some time due to the Court’s interventions .

The Citizens Concern for Dam and Development (CCDD) on 15 December 2017 condemned the pursuance of the Chairman and Managing Director of NHPC, in his meeting with Chief Minister of Manipur to commence construction of LDP. CCDD stated pursuance of LDP by using water discharge from Loktak project is a disregard of the call of people of Manipur to decommission Ithai Barrage of the Loktak HEP.

The release of water from Leimatak Power station of Loktak project affected the water flow of the Leimatak River. The LDP project will further worsen the downstream impacts of Ithai Barrage. A man identified Jianthailung Riame (28 yrs) s/o Langangdaipou Riamei of Soubunglong Part-II village under Khoupum Sub-Division of Noney district lost his life while crossing the Leimatak River in June 2020, as the river current turned violent due to opening of shutter of the Power Station of Loktak project .

The LDP will lead to further militarization as the project authorities insisted to raise four battalions of security forces to protect the project and to protect establishment of related infrastructures like road from Tupul to the project site at Thangal village.

As per the agreement between Government of Manipur and NHPC signed on 12 February 1999, provision of necessary security arrangement is the responsibility of Government of Manipur. One battalion of CRPF was to be deployed in the project area from 1 October 2000 to enable Border Road Organization build the Tupul to Thangal road. NHPC is slated to bear the cost of the deployment of the battalion estimated at Rs.112 Crores .

Loktak Downstream Project and Ithai Barrage: The NHPC’s push for LDP comes at a time, when indigenous peoples call for review and decommissioning of the controversial Ithai Barrage of the Loktak HEP intensified in Manipur. The NHPC’s push for LDP is notwithstanding the appraisal of the Chief Minister of Manipur to the Prime Minister of India on 2 August 2017 to remove the Ithai Barrage to prevent the recurrent flood situation in Manipur .

The Governor of Manipur even join the call to decommission the Ithai Barrage considering the impacts of Loktak HEP project . The NHPC officials conceitedly rebuffed the call of the people of Manipur to decommission Ithai Barrage as emanating from ignorance.

Bedi Ram, the project head of the Loktak HEP project, defended the Ithai Barrage maintaining that the opposition to the Ithai Barrage stemmed from “ignorance” . Such statement of NHPC confirms the irresponsibility and unaccountability of companies like NHPC in Manipur.

The construction of LDP will worsen and prolong the suffering inflicted by Ithai Barrage. The Loktak project instead of irrigating 50,000 hectares of agriculture land submerged more than 50,000 hectares of agriculture land and reducing Manipur to a food dependent state. Villages residing close to Ithai Barrage, such as Laphupat Tera, Khordak Nongmaikhong, Arong, Ithai Wakokpi, Kumbi, Thanga etc complained of repeated flooding and widespread loss of their properties due to the impoundment of water by Ithai Barrage.

NHPC rather than assuming responsibility for the violations and the destruction of Loktak wetlands insisted on construction of additional mega dams in Manipur. The NHPC also downplayed the various academic researches and write ups detailing the Loktak projects’ impacts on the people, flora, fauna and culture in Manipur .

The Loktak HEP Project, commissioned in 1983 has been operating for almost Four (4) decades without guidelines on the functioning of the project. There has been no holistic and detailed impact assessment due to the continued operation of both Loktak HEP and the LDP. A continued operation of Ithai Barrage to operate the Loktak downstream project would further devastate Loktak Wetlands, aggravating livelihood loss for communities.

To consolidate profiting from the land and resources of Manipur, the NHPC aggressively pursues the Loktak downstream project. NHPC continues to reap maximum profit while destroying communities’ livelihood and Loktak wetlands. Loktak HEP project is major sources of profit for NHPC, but for the people, the project is a simply a symbol of exploitation and plunder of Manipur’s land and resources.

Unviability of Hydropower Project: The plan to build the Loktak downstream project need to consider the increased unviability of building large dams. For long, the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project has been delayed as the NHPC and the Manipur Government failed to sign the PPA, due to high cost of per unit power.

The power tariff of Loktak Downstream Project would be around Rs 6.17 per unit as of 2018, which is comparatively high, prompting Manipur Government to desist from signing PPA with NHPC. When the LDP project was approved by the Government in 1999 at a cost of Rs. 697.67 crores, the corresponding tariff at that time was Rs 4.10 per unit . With the project cost standing around 1500 Crores at 2020, the cost of power per unit cost is slated to increase further.

The per unit price of power from hydel projects is much higher than the solar tariffs, which declined to Rs. 3 in July 2019 as compared to Rs. 4 from hydel power in India . Indeed, India’s solar power tariffs hit a record low of Rs 2.36 per kilowatt per hour during a bid by Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd on 30 June 2020 .

The per unit cost 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 . Building hydropower projects is no longer cost effective.

Building a hydel plant can cost Rs 7 to 9 crores per MW, compared with Rs 3.5-4 crores per MW for solar energy. As such, building hydro projects is unviable commercially. One need to ponder the commercial feasibility of large dams like 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam that will requires massive investment of over 10,000 crores rupees by 2020.

Conclusions:

The signing of MoU and PPA for Loktak Downstream project need a clear reflection to address the prolonged demands of the indigenous peoples of Manipur to decommission the Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak HEP Project. With the Government of Manipur agreeing to purchase the entire power from the Loktak downstream project, the ultimate question is whether it will economical or at a loss of State exchequer. The Government of Haryana refused to purchase power from 1200 MW Teesta III Hydroelectric project due to the high cost the power despite the PPA signed earlier.

NHPC is least bothered of the untold suffering inflicted by its Loktak HEP. NHPC today becomes a perfect symbol of corporate arrogance, blatant disregard of peoples’ voices and arbitration of all human rights norms. Entrusting the rivers, land and forest of Manipur to an unaccountable corporate body like the NHPC to build more dams like the 66 MW Loktak Downstream project and 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam over Leimatak and Barak Rivers would be suicidal for the people and environment of Manipur.

With the push for 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project, NHPC proves its vision of development are detached from the development needs of the people of Manipur. The dismal performance of NHPC, its unaccountability and disrespect of indigenous peoples are reasons rife to restrict it from Manipur. The construction of LDP project is irrational as the premise of utilizing water discharged from 105 MW Loktak HEP Project would only mean continued suffering of communities and total devastation of Loktak wetlands ecosystem in Manipur.

The Loktak HEP project also failed to provide irrigation water as originally planned, in addition to the livelihood impacts and human rights violations on indigenous communities depending on Loktak wetlands for survival. The Government of Manipur and Government of India should urgently initiate steps to review and decommission the Ithai Barrage of Loktak project conceding the prolonged demands of the people of Manipur, instead of insisting on construction of another unsustainable dam project.

The Government of Manipur should review and revoke the Power Purchasing Agreement with NHPC, given the high cost and lack of feasibility of the proposed 66 MW Loktak Downstream project. The MoU signed for the project should be revoked. The construction of the project is still pre-mature and the continued operation of 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project and the project together will intensify suffering of communities.

The proposed financing request by the Government of India to Japan International Cooperation Agency for Loktak downstream project should be stopped, considering the larger implications and human rights violations unleashed by hydropower projects in Manipur like the Loktak Project and the Mapithel dam and further, the unaccountability of corporate bodies. The JICA should stop financing dams in Manipur and related supporting infrastructure as mega dams have caused enough hardship, much inconveniences and sufferings to the people of Manipur.

The increased irrationality of hydel projects as energy source amidst the growing viability of alternative options like solar energy need be carefully considered to achieve energy sustainability in Manipur. Destruction of Manipur’s land and resources for the profit of irresponsible multinational companies like NHPC should be stopped forever.

The failure and irrationality of dams and wastage of scarce public resources to build such unsustainable projects with multifaceted implications on people and environment in Manipur need be fully reviewed. Recognition of indigenous peoples’ development wishes and Self determined rights is crucial in all development decision making and processes.

References :

1. 2020, September 2. Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project: LDHCL signs power purchase agreement with MSPDCL. Imphal Free Press.
2. “Feasibility of Loktak Downstream Project discussed in Public Hearing”, Kangla Online, 8 June 2011
3. “Loktak Downstream Project likely to take off soon”, The Sangai Express, May 9, 2017
4. http://ldhcl.nic.in/?page_id=6
5. Report of the 59th meeting of EAC of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, held on 20 – 21st July 2012
6. “Loktak Downstream Project in jeopardy”, The Sangai Express, August 23, 2017
7. 27 July 2006. NHPC Pleas Manipur to forsake its share of free power from 90 MW Loktak power project. Infraline
http://www.infraline.com/(S(2it5tc55grtsz445feulwnqn))/power/hydro/Centre/NHPCLoktakHEP.aspx
8. “CMD of NHPC Ltd calls on CM” the Imphal Free Press, 15 December 2017
https://www.ifp.co.in/item/5848-cmd-of-nhpc-ltd-calls-on-cm
9. Loktak Downstream Project in jeopardy, the Sangai Express, 23 August 2017
10. Form A, PWD seeking Forest Clearance from MoEFCC, India for diversion of 72 hectares of forest for road construction for 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric project dated 9 August 2012.
http://forestsclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFormA/51118121612131FormA.PDF
11. Prime Minister’s Special Project in Limbo in Manipur, Bit Irom, 21 April 2002
12. 14th June 2020. “Man traceless after falling into river”. The Peoples Chronicle
http://www.thepeopleschronicle.in/daily/english/7701
13. (2006). Loktak Downstream HEP. Infraline.
http://www.infraline.com/(S(2it5tc55grtsz445feulwnqn))/power/hydro/Centre/NHPCLoktakHEP.aspx
14. CM Biren calls for review of Loktak project, removal of Ithai barrage NE floods PM announces Rs 2,000 crores relief, the Sangai Express, 2 August 2017.
http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=1..020817.aug17
15. “Najma for decommissioning Ithai Barrage, The Sangai Express, 20 September 2017
16. Manipur asks for a review after the ruling BJP wants Loktak hydroelectricity project broken down, 12 August 2017, the Scroll.in
17. “Loktak Lake and Manipuri Lifeworld”, edited by Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam, A. Koireng and RK Ranjan, published 2014
18. Loktak Downstream runs into PPA wall, the Sangai Express, 12 February 2018
http://www.thesangaiexpress.com/loktak-downstream-runs-ppa-wall/
19. 27 July 2006. NHPC Pleas Manipur to forsake its share of free power from 90 MW Loktak power project. Infraline
http://www.infraline.com/(S(2it5tc55grtsz445feulwnqn))/power/hydro/Centre/NHPCLoktakHEP.aspx
20. “Hydel power in India is growing at the slowest pace”, By G Seetharaman, The Economic Times.
21. (2020, July 1). Solar power tariff hits record low, sparks worry about coal’s future. Down to Earth.
22. “Solar Power Cost Will Fall to Rs 1.9 Per Unit in India by 2030: TERI”, February 14, 2019,

CRA urges Govt to uphold community eco-tourism initiative by Andro villagers

The Sangai Express, 25 September 2020

http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=14..250920.sep20

Imphal, September 24 2020: The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur (CRA) has urged the State Government to uphold the community eco-tourism initiative by Andro villagers at Santhei park.

The notice issued by the Tourism Corporation of Manipur to privatize Santhei Eco-Tourism Park on September 7 should be revoked and stop all efforts to privatize the community areas, said CRA in a release.

The Government should uphold human rights based development in promotion of tourism initiatives in community areas and seek the consent of Andro villagers for any development initiatives affecting their land and forest areas, it further said.

CRA said it is concerned with the lack of consultation and consent of the Andro villagers before issuing the tender notice. The Andro villagers are worried that the conversion of the Santhei Natural park will deprive the villagers of the water source and access to their forest area for livelihood.

The park has been a source of livelihood of many youths of Andro villages, it said. The villagers are also worried that the privatization of the park will restrict Andro villagers into their traditional forest land. The Santhei Natural Eco-Park has been managed collectively by different villages of Andro, it said.

CRA said it is concerned that the privatization of Santhei Natural Park will benefit private companies and not the villagers of Andro, as had already happened with privatization of Sendra Hills. The CRA has also expressed concern with the arbitrary detention of two villagers of Andro for expressing their concern and objection to privatizing Santhei Natural Park.


How dams are far more damaging than beneficial in Manipur

By Babie Shirin, The Imphal Free Press, 26 September 2020

https://ifp.co.in/how-dams-are-far-more-damaging-than-beneficial-in-manipur

Pic: Khuga Dam Reservoir at Churachandpur, Manipur

“Do not ask for the benefits of Mapithel dam. The years taken to complete construction showed the little benefits. I do not expect any benefits from the Mapithel dam now,” said Meitei Nongdamba, one of the hundreds of affected persons in the downstream of the dam. Construction of the dam was started in 1970 while it was completed in 1990 only.

In an interaction with the Imphal Free Press, Nongdamba said that varieties of local fishes which were caught before the setting up of the dam have now disappeared and many foreign variety of fishes are no more to be seen.

“It was promised to the people that the dam will provide irrigation facilities but where are the irrigation facilities now?” he questioned. While pointing out that good supply of drinking water was also assured to the people, he contended that the people are now buying water from private suppliers.

During the rainy season, the dam will be opened due to overloading in the upstream area. Because of the sudden release of heavy volume of water, the downstream again face flood situation. It is not only Mapithel dam, all the dams in Manipur give more or less the same problem to the people, he added.

The Maphou dam is located in the Mapithel hill range and is situated on the bank of the Thoubal river. The construction of Maphou or Thoubal River Valley Multipurpose Project started in 1970. It is an earthen dam having a dimensions of 66 m high and 107.4 m long. The aim of the project is to utilise water from Thoubal river for irrigation area of 21,860 hectares, flood control, drinking water (10 gallons per day) and electricity (7.5MW), the report of the Irrigation and Flood Control department stated.

Villagers from downstream of the Thoubal dam said that many were displaced. They moved to other areas with the fear of their land being submerged by the dam when the reservoir is fully filled. They said that the blocking of the river has disturbed the water flow. Most of the villagers in the downstream who earn living by fishing, collecting sand and stone from the river have lost their livelihoods. The dam has resulted in water scarcity in the downstream side, affecting agriculture and other allied activities.

Khoupum Area Villagers’ Authority Council chairman Aton Remei said that the foundation stone of Khoupum Irrigation Project now in Noney district was laid by late former Chief Minister RK Dorendro on October 18, 1975 while former chief minister Yangmaso Shaiza inaugurated the Rs 198 lakh worth project on July 26, 1978.

The irrigation project proved to be a boon for the farmers in Khoupum area when the agricultural yield reached 730 metric tonnes and facilitated double cropping. After the dam got cracked, the canal from the dam for irrigation stopped functioning. In 2019, the villagers appealed to the state government for renovation of the dam, but no action has been taken up, he said.

Remei said the villagers near Khoupum dam are a worried lot today as the dam developed many cracks at many places over the years and if it breaks, the water will submerge and destroy over 1,875 acres of agricultural land and properties worth crores of rupees. “I am not saying that the dam did not provide irrigation. For four years, canal system was successful but since 1985, it has stopped working. Now the canal system has been lying useless,” said Remei.

If renovated and put into use properly, the project will provide ample water for double cropping and elevate the farmers in the area, said Remei, by pointing out that the water in the dam is fed by streams including Ningshel Lok, Duichung Lok, Luigum Lok and other small streams and springs.

A villager from Tamenglong, Aram Pamei said that the water reservoir spills out during the rainy season causing floods and flash floods in the surrounding areas of the dam. Pointing to the multifold effect of dams on environment, he said that those people who have lost their agricultural land due to dams start clearing forests for jhum cultivation in the catchment areas.

In the upstream area, people still catch some fishes but there is no fish in the downstream valley. The dam may control flood to some extent and reduce the flood prone areas from 200 hectares to 90 hectares but the area under water deficit and fallow land have been increased to 200 hectares with the dam, he added.

N Chanu of Nongmaikhong Awang Leikai said that arable land of about 80,000 hectares was destroyed by water inundation and frequent flash floods after the project of Ithai barrage in 1983. The villagers from downstream areas have been demanding decommissioning of Ithai barrage as there are no benefits of the barrage other than damaging properties.

According to the IFCD report, the construction of Loktak Hydroelectricity project or Ithai barrage was taken up by the ministry of irrigation and power in 1971 and commissioned in 1983. The project aims to generate 105MW of electricity and irrigate 24,000 hectares of land in the Imphal valley besides flood control in Imphal valley.

It has been reported in the news that due to Ithai barrage, Imphal valley is facing flood situation leading to the submergence of more than 30,000 acres of agricultural land. And in Loktak lake, the stagnant water has caused thinning of the Phumdis in Keibul Lamjao area. The dam has blocked the route of migration of many fishes that breed in the lake. This has led to disappearance of several indigenous fishes from Loktak lake.

Rosile Mate, a social activist from Churachandpur said that more than 3,000 people were displaced from their homes due to the construction of Khuga dam. Many hill areas people are increasingly clearing forests as they lost their agricultural lands. Besides, dependency on forest and forest products and firewood cutting is on the rise as people have lost their primary occupation, she said.

She further contended that the dam has put an end to all livelihood activities, submerged their ancestral land and forced them to settle in different locations. Those displaced people faced water scarcity as the dam water is not usable. Today, they are compelled to travel long distances to obtain their basic necessities like drinking water, rice, vegetables, etc.

The failure of Khuga dam indeed results in large scale devastation of the environment besides causing irreparable livelihood. There is no point of a reservoir just for the purpose of storing stagnant water which destroys the environment, she added.

“It is very shocking to hearing that the Khuga dam which intends to generate 1.5 MW and to provide irrigation to 15,000 hectares of agricultural land in Churachandpur districts has long failed to give its benefits,” Roslie lamented. Ye t another issue is Tipaimukh dam that was constructed at Tipaimukh where Tuivai river meets Barak river adjoining Bangaladesh.

The proposed 162.8 m high rock filled dam aims to generate 1,500 MW hydroelectricity, provide irrigation facilities, prevent flood and the development of ecotourism. It is reported fact that the dam will apparently destroy the ecosystem of the downstream side, including the Barak catchment areas of Assam and neighbouring country Bangladesh.

Dolaithabi barrage is constructed at Iril river, which is a main tributary of Imphal river, to provide irrigation to 7,545 hectares of agriculture land in downstream villages namely Sekta, Keibi, Waikhong, Sagolmang, Pukhao, Uyungpok, Challou, Pangei, Lamlai, Khundrakpam among others. “The dam is an emerging failed dam,” said N Dijen from Khudrakpam.

Dijen said blocking the Iril river which is the main tributary of Imphal river will disturb the present drainage system of the whole Imphal valley. People of both upstream and downstream will be forced to change their lifestyle and livelihood, he said, adding that it will adversely affect the downstream people. Construction of Singda dam is to supply drinking water to greater Imphal and irrigation water to an area of 4,148 hectares of nearby paddy fields. The construction of the dam was completed in 1995 though it started in 1975.

The farmers of the area lamented over the dam that provides water to agricultural lands in the villages of Kadangbam Lamkhai, Phayeng, Lairenkabi, Sanjenbam, Haorang and Heibongpokpi. The dam has stopped giving water even though water from the canals could reach up to half kilometre distance from the canal’s spillway.

In connection with dam impact on river flow, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur secretary Jiten Yumnam said that several development processes in the state targeted the land and natural resources. The dams which were constructed in rivers of Manipur have severely affected the livelihood and availability and accessibility of water. In the river where the dam is constructed, it affects both upstream and downstream villagers.

However, the studies on riverbank or catchment area are less in the state. Citing an example, he said that the sand and stone brought down by the river are now deposited in the dam reservoir, rendering the river bed in downstream areas deprived of basic sand to ensure its flow as a river and the sustenance of the agricultural land along its banks. This led to impoverishment of communities depending on the river, he said.

Jiten further stressed that a river’s physical and biological characteristics should not be disturbed. “Natural river flows fluctuate according to the season, often with large spring flows corresponding to spring rains or snowmelt, and low summer flows corresponding to warm, dry summer weather. But the dam dramatically altered the river’s flow regime  by blocking a river’s passage, storing water in both large and small artificial reservoirs, and disrupting the cycles that many aquatic organisms depend upon,” he pointed out.

Environmentalist Salam Rajesh said that while the dams benefit the society, they also cause considerable harm to rivers. Dams prevent fish migration and many migratory fishes found in Manipur are now dropping in numbers and some have disappeared completely. Deputy director, directorate of environment and climate change, T Brajakumar said that normally, a dam stores water during periods of high flow and releases it in a controlled way to meet a particular purpose; often, to generate power.

The environmental flow is different in rivers of Manipur due to environmental factors. During the rainy season, river water volume is large and flow is high. During the lean season, there is no water in the river of Manipur. It is all because of spring lost in the catchment area due to forest degradation. And it decreases the volume of water in the rivers. The potentiality of reserving water in the dam becomes less and the dam is not released, Brajakumar said.

The deputy director further said that dam water is not released for generating potential. Regular release of river water is required for maintaining e-flow. It is necessary to study recharge and de-charge on the river. Now, the state government along with the align department has started discussion on regular flow of the rivers, he added.

The IFCD has started a project on dam rehabilitation and improvement projects according to environmental and social impact assessment. In Manipur, the water source from the hill in the form of spring has already started dying due to deforestation and other factors. And again, destroying river flow in the rivers by dams result in degrading of the existing river channels, flood channels, wetlands and strengthening of breached and weak embankments.

Encroachments in the river channels by the locals for commercial agriculture must be stopped and the river channels must be freed from such obstructions. Proper maintenance of these riverbanks is necessary and retaining walls needs to be constructed to reduce the flooding conditions.

Increased chromium mining endangers pink orchid ginger in Wuya-Kachui

By Jajo Themson, The Imphal Free Press, 18 September 2020

https://ifp.co.in/increased-chromium-mining-endangers-pink-orchid-ginger-in-wuya-kachui

The beautiful Pink Orchid Ginger-Shingcha Wuyawon at Wuya-Kachui in Kamjong district of Manipur is facing extinction today due to increased chromium mining at Shingcha-Gamnom village in the district. It is learned that Rourkela Minerals Company (ROMCO) has been carrying out chromium mining at Gamnom-Shingcha village at the Mining Lease (ML) area measuring @ 85.0 hectares for 20 years.

Pic: Wuyawon Flower at Singcha. Pic by Themson Jajo

The hillocks, Wuya-Kachui, where the enchanting Wuyawon extensively blooms, constitutes major portion of chromium deposit in Shingcha village.

Wuya-Kachui It is located at about 45 km from Ukhrul headquarters and 90 km from capital Imphal. It takes about 15 minutes’ walk from the main road to reach Wuya Kachui. The place is foggy most of the time. The village is surrounded by villages such as Maka, Pushing, Khangkhui, Langkhe etc.

Wuya-Kachui, covered with the beautiful pink orchid ginger flowers during summer months, is a huge attraction for tourists. The peak blooming period starts from July 15 till July 25. People from far and wide often come to visit the place.

This rare species of Pink Orchid ginger flower is also found in the Eastern Himalayas, in Assam, Bangladesh, Bhutan and other Indo-China region, including Myanmar.

According to Shingcha villages, the name Wuyawon was taken from the mountain it grows called Wuya Kachui. The botanical name of Wuyawon is Caulokaempferia Secunda belonging to Zingiberaceae, ginger family. Legend has it that the word Wuya means nightmare. It is said that there was a legendary war hero of Shingcha village, a lone warrior called Maphat in the early 19th Century. When he halted on the mountain on his war retreat, he experienced sleepless nightmares. Thence, the name of the mountain was so named as Wuya-Kachui which means mount of nightmare. And so was the name Wuyawon christened after the mount.

The youth organization of Shingcha village has been taking up different initiatives to conserve and promote Wuyawon. The local youth had organised the third Wuyawon Festival in July 2019. Such initiatives to spread awareness on conservation of the flower was held since July 2015. However, in 2020, the place was banned for tourists during the blooming moth July owing to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, profit-driven mining companies have been intensifying chromium mining at the Wuya mountain. The Directorate of Trade Commerce and Industries (DTCI) Manipur granted the Mining Lease in August, 2018 with the project cost of Rs.50 crore. Subsequently, the government of Manipur and Rourkela Minerals Company (ROMCO) Pvt Ltd signed an agreement on February 23, 2019 for taking up chromium mining at Shingcha-Gamnom under Kamjong District in Manipur @ 85.0 hectares for 20 years. ROMCO submitted Form-I, Draft Terms of Reference (ToR) and Pre-Feasibility study Report (PFR) for approval of ToR for mining on December 3, 2019 with the government of Manipur and with the Environment and Forest Climate Change Ministry (MoEFCC).

Remarkably, the whole process of engagement, pre-feasibility study report and signing of MoU were done without free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the concerned village. Villagers are confused and have untold apprehension regarding the proposed chromium mining which is resulting in plundering of their land and resource along with Wuyawon in total absence of the acknowledgement of the villagers who have been its traditional owner since their forefathers’ time.

It may be noted that the Pre-Feasibility Report (PFR) prepared by the mining company described the mining lease area at Shingcha-Gamnom is devoid of forest or jhum cultivable land and the entire mining Lease area as unclassed government land happened to be a complete misinformation that all land areas in the village are useful for different purposes and in fact, the eastern side of the Wuya-Kachui is thickly forested.

According to the villagers, the entire land, including the Wuya-Kachui, a major portion of chromium deposit, is owned by the community. Hence the plan to extract chromium from the village without FPIC is a violation of rights of the community over their land and resources. Customary land and resource rights as well as aspirations of the villagers deserve due recognition which is absent in the proposed Chromium mining at Shingcha village.

Shingcha, a Tangkhul Naga village is a major tribe/indigenous people of Manipur whose land and resources belong to them. The villagers have been surviving through ages with the power of their land and resources.

Any alienation of land falls under the purview of the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) under Article 371 C of the Indian Constitution. But the same has been sidelined in the chromium mining process at Shingcha village.

Forest and Environment clearances are mandatory for mega projects like mining. The same is undermined in the proposed chromium mining in the village. Report of the ROMCO in the PFR stating as there are no forest areas in the Mining Lease is nothing but simplifying their extraction process without clearances. In fact, extensive chromium mining will adversely affect the surrounding natural conditions and livelihood of the villagers. Additionally, the naturally blooming rare Pink Orchid Ginger-Wuyawon will become extinct.

As mentioned earlier, villagers of Shingcha have close socio-cultural affinity with the Wuya-Kachui. There are folk songs on the Wuya-Kachui and the beautiful Wuyawon.

It is very crucial to be aware of the health impacts of previous chromium mining in India. Odisha is one of the Indian states where the largest chromium mining was operated. It has become a victim of waste materials, rocks, chemical and pollution containing toxic hexavalent chromium, a cancer causing element. There have been many diseases caused due to pollution of ground and surface water. It is noteworthy that according to the US-based Blacksmith Institute in 2017, Sukinda valley of Odisha is the tenth most polluted region in the world due to chromium mining. The same is not addressed in chromite mining plan at Shingcha.

The push for chromium mining at Shingcha in Kamjong district, Lunghar village in Ukhrul district and others in Tengnoupal and Chandel district of Manipur that destroy people’s land, forest and river/streams will undermine the sustainable development by impoverishing the indigenous people as well as destruction of forest areas and land will enhance the menace of climate change.

Wuyawon of Shingcha village that has been in blooms through generations is facing a perilous situation today in the wake of heavy chromium mining. Whenever the plan of mining in village comes into reality, it will be definitely a doom for the rare pink orchid ginger- Wuyawon. Along with this, historical, socio-cultural and economic relationship between villagers and the Wuya-Kachui and Wuyawon will be lost as well. The same will also hurt the sentiment of the local youth who have been making effort to conserve and promote Wuyawon considering its long-term prospective.

Further, chromium mining at the village will lead to marginalization, loss of livelihood and villagers have to surrender their traditional land, forest and resource ownership which they possessed since time immemorial. It is a serious concern that forced extraction of mineral at Shingcha without proper consultation with the concerned community people will add up another chapter of unjust kind of development in the history of project intervention in Manipur. There is a call for save and conserve Wuyawon, save Wuya-Kachui, desist forced plundering of indigenous peoples’ resources without recognizing their community’s rights and need adherence to sustainable development goals.

Revoke agreement to construct 66 MW hydroelectric project: CRA

The Imphal Free Press, 6 September 2020

https://ifp.co.in/revoke-agreement-to-construct-66-mw-hydroelectric-project-cra

The Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur (CRA) has strongly reacted to the Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) signed on September 1 between the Manipur government and the Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporation Ltd to construct the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project, a joint venture of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd (NHPC) and the Manipur government.

The CRA expressed contention that the NHPC’s push for the Loktak Downstream project constitute disrespect and rejection of the prolonged demands of the indigenous peoples of Manipur to review and decommission the Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (Loktak project). 

“The construction of 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project is still pre-mature and should be put on hold as the continued operation of 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project will only complicate the woes and suffering of indigenous communities of Manipur affected by large dams,” stated a release.  

It also mounted pressure for revoking the MoU signed between the Manipur government and NHPC on September 26, 2008 and the power purchasing agreement. 

“The signing of PPA for Loktak Downstream project is despite the appraisal of the chief minister of Manipur to the Prime Minister of India on August 2, 2017 and also by the governor of Manipur earlier in September 2017 to remove the Ithai Barrage of Loktak project due to its impacts,” it added.

Maintaining that NHPC envisaged to utilise water discharged from the Loktak Project from its Leimatak Power Station for Loktak Downstream project, it contended that NHPC, rather than assuming responsibility for the loss of land and livelihood of communities in Loktak wetlands, insisted on seeking more profits by constructing Loktak Downstream Project, which will entail submergence of forest and agriculture land along Leimatak River. 

“The NHPC’s Loktak Project instead of irrigating 50,000 hectares of agriculture land submerged similar areas of agriculture land and reduced Manipur to a food dependent state. NHPC failed to conduct cumulative impact assessment due to operation of both 105 MW Loktak Project and Loktak Downstream Project,” CRA stated. 

“Hydropower building is already redundant and the colossal resources to be invested in large dam building like Loktak Downstream project could be better utilised to promote alternative energies like micro hydel and solar energies, that would minimise social and environmental impacts,” it stated.

It demanded that the government of Manipur and the Union government should urgently initiate steps to decommission the Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Project conceding the prolonged demands of the people of Manipur.