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The controversial Tipaimukh (Ruonglevaisuo) dam issue, has evoked many reactions for and against it. GABRIEL CHUNGA of Teddim Road (Churachandpur) writes in favour of the mega-hydel project, only if the governments of India and Manipur are ready to "hear the voices" of the local people.

[Photo: The indegenous Hmar tribe would be the most affected by the proposed Tipaimukh (Ruonglevaisuo) dam]

The long delayed and much-debated Tipaimukh H.E. Project is now to executed by a Joint Venture(JV) of NHPC Ltd.(69%), Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd. (SJVNL) (26%) and Govt. of Manipur(5%) without budgetary support of the Central Govt. A directive of the Ministry of Power has already been issued to that effect. The JV partners have been enthusiastic to take up the mega project. It is learnt that the Chief Secretary of Manipur has reviewed the developments in a meeting held at Imphal on 24.07.2009. Meanwhile, a Parliamentary Delegation accompanied by experts from Bangladesh is visiting the project in the last week of July 2009 on a fact-finding mission. There has been large-scale protest in Bangladesh against the project.

Myself, being one pro-development & educated citizen hailing from a going-to-be-buzzing town known politically as Churachandpur, South of Manipur (in India), have been eagerly keeping good track of this so-called Tipaimukh Project (‘a mega hydel project of 1500MW capacity, wow!’) in my home district (forgotten-for always) and was, rather dreaming of the developmental benefits that would be bestowed to my land (optimistic!). I started hearing as a child that NEEPCO is going to build a ‘big dam’ at Tipaimukh, and my father was always apprehensive about it.

Today, I could decipher it more clearer, and I saw some pros and some anti(s) for the dam. I stood with the former, for I made a study on it and understood that it is preferable to ‘lose some to gain some with huge interest in the long run’. But today, I got a jolt, a shock to my innate being, with this sudden and abrupt news of ‘Joint venture thing’ with its entities derived from beyond the uncared geography of the northeast India. The power that may be, I am fixated now to think, are playing games with our life in the name of development. In other words, I started seeing an unknown snobby pot-bellied businessman with a fat briefcase devouring my ‘land-still-in-oblivion’, having his way, minting his dough, without considering the legible rights and basic needs of the sons of my soil. His dramatic smile was a contemptuous smirk to our helplessness with meticulous precision. Oh, it sucks! Anyway, whose line is it anyway to decide this way to put us in such uncertainty?

Going by the developments for execution of the project, the following points of importance are brought out for appraisal of the concerned and redressal by the appropriate authorities before the problems precipitate. It is needless to assert that large nos. of NGOs, public forums and social organisations concerned with environment, ecology and humankind are sceptical about the much-debated project.

The specific points brought out herein below give a detail in-road to the ‘state of affairs’ concerning the project.

1. It is understood that early this year the Govt. of India had decided to form a Joint Venture with NEEPCO as the leading partner holding 51% or more share in a meeting held in the Ministry of Power attended by the Secretary(Power), NEEPCO, NTPC, NHPC, SJVNL and Govt. of Manipur. However, in a surprising subsequent development, NHPC, now, is entrusted suddenly with the leading role with 69% share, and the rest with SJVNL. NEEPCO, not figuring anymore! What a jolt, Tipaimukh Project a game of dices?

2. It can be recalled that NEEPCO alongwith Govt. of Manipur conducted Public hearings and processed for environmental clearance. The MOEF has since cleared the project from environmental angle as per the statutory notifications and submissions by NEEPCO. So, change in the executing authority apparently requires re-holding of Public hearings, for it was a hearing of the public with NEEPCO, not NHPC, etc. In public hearings several understandings, policies and commitments are made. With NEEPCO, it is an understanding with NEEPCO, not NHPC. Therefore, NHPC has to go for their Public hearing to publicise their policies towards how best they are trying to develop the public with this project. NEEPCO has done that, people understood and accepted.

3. The modality of forming JV under NHPC leadership is yet to be finalised. The interest of the public would remain uncertain till the issues are deliberated upon and sorted out in entrusting specific responsibilities on the JV partners. Public interest cannot be bestowed on assumptions and presumptions. The project can turn out to be a ‘Casino-lotto-like’ business instead of Socio-economic developmental project. Therefore, the questionable developments and appropriate timely necessary actions desirable from the legal and logical angles have been –
i) To stop all developmental activities pertaining to Tipaimukh HEP till holding of fresh Public hearings by the new executing agencies and subsequent statutory clearances.
ii) The new agencies, being a separate authority will need to have Public hearing on fresh terms & conditions.
iii) A State Govt. has the say in selection of the executing agency. The Legislative Assembly of Manipur, in 2003 resolved that the project would be executed by NEEPCO. Accordingly, the project was entrusted to NEEPCO and a formal MOU was signed between Govt.of Manipur and NEEPCO to that effect. A gazette notification was made. Will not the instant case be a gross violation of the set norms, if decisions like this are to really be accepted without the resolution of a full assembly of the government?
iv) The statutory formalities including notification under Sec. 18(a) of Electricity Act were fulfilled, as per prevalent norms, for execution of Tipaimukh H.E. Project by NEEPCO. No comments if constitutional acts are not law and not binding!
v) The scope of appointment of unemployed local people in Tipaimukh H.E. Project, expected to be over 3000 nos. i.e., 2 nos. per megawatt,is likely to be lost as NHPC, the lead partner in the JV is a ‘National Organisation’ having different policy of Recruitment which is not binding to appoint local people only. NEEPCO has already fine-tuned its recruitment policy for this project by an understanding arrived at with the public concerned.
vi) NHPC has failed to execute the Loktak Downstream Project as per terms for over the last 10 yrs. On failing in all fronts NHPC has now managed to rope-in Govt. of Manipur by way of entering into Joint Venture so that their failure and responsibilities are shared and covered. Too many cooks spoil the broth!
vii) NHPC will get scope to off-load their already huge surplus manpower from their different projects to Tipaimukh H.E. Project; thereby drastically upsetting the employment opportunity of the local people. This cannot be allowed by depriving the unemployed local people the scopes of employment, which otherwise, would have been unquestionably be granted with executors from the NE region like NEEPCO.

Under such a situation the public has the right to know and be apprised of the detail background atleast on the following issues –
i) The detail background of deciding on execution of the project including decisions / resolutions taken at the Govt. levels at different times.
ii) The statutory norms / regulations for deciding the executing agencies for such projects.
iii) The details of the decision points in the Ministry of Power in finalising the executing agencies in respect of the projects in the other states more particularly in the N.E. States.

Having said much, if I am to opt ‘dam or no dam’ I would honestly welcome the project, but on one, and only one condition. The project can be executed by anyone who is ready to hear the voices, see to the desires, honours the rights and preserved the values of the public concerned, no matter profit or loss for the executor.

Support for NEEPCO
Desirably, NEEPCO should continue the execution as it is a regional entity having already associated with the local people since long. Effected masses should be comfortable in all matters. This, I very well understood, is one of the PM’s Special package for Socio-economic development of most neglected and backward areas/region, and that promisingly without dearth of funds. So why worry? Let’s shun wealth-making business, and start with ‘a little Act of Random Kindness (ARK).

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  1. This dam is destructive. Oppose it in any way,till Hmars get a full state Hmarram.


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