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d_tipaimukh1 RENGKAI: A National Seminar titled “Dialogue on Dams and Development: The Case of Tipaimukh Hydro-electric Multi-Purpose Project” would be held on from December 13-15 at Churachandpur, and from 16-18, December, 2010 at Tipaimukh, Churachandpur, Manipur, according to organizing officials.

Several experts from diverse fields - social workers, environmentalists, journalists, politics and cultural organisations - have already confirmed their participation in the proposed North Eastern Council-sponsored seminar.

Below is the concept of the Seminar released by the organising committee.


One cannot deny the fact that dams accelerate socio-economic growth and mitigate the miseries of a large population of the world suffering from the vagaries of floods and droughts. Dams also contribute significantly in meeting some of the basic human needs like water for drinking and industrial use, irrigation, flood control, hydropower generation, inland navigation and recreation. In one of its key messages, the World Commission on Dams conveys that “dams have made an important and significant contribution to human development and the benefits derived from them have been considerable.” At the same time, it may also be pointed out that an unaccountable price has also been paid to secure those benefits especially in social and environment terms by people displaced, by communities downstream, by tax payers and by the natural environment. The question is the proper balancing of the heavy cost or loss in terms of land and environment and the direct as well as indirect benefits of dams.

Therefore one of the most controversial issues has been on the impacts of large dams. Advocates of large dams have contended that such large structures are essential to meet the increasing water demands of the world, and that their overall societal benefits far outweigh the costs. On the other hand, critics have argued that social and environmental costs far exceed their benefits, and that the era of construction of large dams is over. Citing the US-Japanese experiences where more than 100 dam projects were scrapped, the idea of constructing big dams is being discarded, they argued. As a matter of fact, USA and Japan are the two countries which have the highest number of large dams. USA alone has built more than 6375 dams and Japan more than 2475 large dams. Recently China has come out with a very ambitious plan of constructing Three Gorges Dams on the Yangtse river which is believed to displace more than a million people, apart from causing an unimaginable environmental hazards. It appears that the China’s State Environmental Protection Agency will not be able to withstand the political and market forces behind the proposed massive project. This has further intensified the controversy over the impact of big dams. In the absence of objective, authoritative and comprehensive evaluation on the problem, there is still no consensus on the overall benefits of large dams. When such reliable objective assessments are not available, controversy over the impact of dams has naturally continued.

What is therefore urgently needed is the updating of existing knowledge on the impacts of large dams through reliable collection of social, economic, environmental and technical data from different projects. In the absence of observed facts and figures and scientific analysis on the contributions of existing large dams, dogmatic and emotional debates between the proponents and the opponents are likely to be counterproductive. In this connection, the Conference Report: International Workshop on impacts of Large Dam, Istanbul, Turkey, 25-27, October, 2004 has emphatically suggested thus, “the future discussions should be based on what are the specific water needs of a region in question, and how can these societal needs be met within a reasonable timeframe, in a cost-effective, socially acceptable and environmentally friendly way. Such a logical approach will invariably conclude that large dams are necessary for some regions, and equally in other places alternatives like rainwater harvesting or small dams may be appropriate. These are not necessarily “either-or” issues. When constructions of large dams are warranted, all direct and indirect benefits and costs should be considered in technical, economic, social and environmental terms. Analysis should be carried out on the nature of the beneficiaries, which is at the heart of any decision-making process in all democratic societies. The people who are likely to pay the cost must be explicitly made beneficiaries of the project”.

It is within this given perspective that we have to approach any proposed dams or hydro-electric projects in the country. In North East India alone, there are more than 20 hydro-electric projects. The most controversial one is the Tipaimukh multi-purpose dam which envisages construction of a 390 m. long, 162.8 m high earthen core rock-filled dam. This will be one of the biggest dams ever planned in India. Briefly stated, there is a mixed reaction among the directly affected local people against the proposed high dam: anti-dam group mostly represented by NGOs and student bodies, pro-dam group comprising cross section of society and neutral groups comprising mainly intellectuals. The project of such magnitude is bound to make tremendous impacts. What is urgently needed is to pinpoint and identify the specific positive and negative impacts of the dam and what can be done to maximize the positive impacts and to minimize the negative impacts. Let us deliberate on these points without being carried away by sentiments and passions.

The outcome and recommendation of the proposed seminar will, it is hoped, be an eye-opener for other on-going projects in North East India too because the issues which have been spelt out here have global, national and regional dimensions.

Specific Issues to be focused on:

The two days’seminar/workshop at Churachandpur, and two days interactive workshop with the local people at Tipaimukh will focus, among others, on the following issues:

1. Tipaimukh: Past, present and future .

2. Land use pattern among the Hmars of South Manipur. Past and Present.

3. Towards the protection of Indigenous land rights.

4. Environmental issues as reflected in Hmar-Mizo folk tales.

5. Socio-economic issues of Tipaimukh dam.

6. Environment and Ecological Issues: Global perspective.

7. Indigenous Knowledge System, Identity, Freedom and Tipaimukh Dam

8. Displacement and rehabilitation: Global experiences of resettlement.

9. Towards the scientific management of forest along the Barak river.

10. Tipaimukh dam: Development or disaster?.

11. Hydroelectric projects in Manipur with special reference to Tipaimukh Dam.

12. Financing dams: Role of World Bank.

13. Lesson from the Loktak Hydro-Electric Project.

14. Towards updating of existing knowledge on the impacts of large dams.

15. Tipaimukh Dam: An emerging issue in Indo-Bangladesh relationship.

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