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Tipaimukh-dam-thumb4-200x120 By Lalmalsawm Sungte

The Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) for the first time officially registered its opposition to the construction of the controversial Tipaimukh Dam (locally known as Ruonglevaisuo Dam) on Tuiruong River along the Manipur-Mizoram border.

The SHDC which was created in 1994 after Hmar rebels signed a peace accord with the Government of Mizoram registered their opposition to several dams, including Tipaimukh Dam, under its jurisdiction to none other than the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, in a Memorandum dated August 9, 2010.

Four hydel projects of varying capacities are to come up in SHDC area. These are Tipaimukh Dam (1500MW), Tuivai Project (210 MW), Serlui (12 MW), Tuivawl (40 MW) and Tuiriel (60 MW).

“While Mizoram requires just 160 MW for its own consumption, the imposition of these projects clearly points to the extermination of our land and people in the name of development,” the council’s memorandum, a copy of which is with Mizoram Express, pointed out.

Stating that Serlui project has already pushed out “our people out of their land, alienated our people from their stable livelihood system and deprived them of their political rights”, the SHDC asked the Prime Minister to save their land from and people from irreparable destruction. “Moreover these projects are without the knowledge, consent and approval of the Sinlung Hills Development Council and the Hmar people.

“These projects are undemocratic and imposed upon us,” the council claimed.

Claiming that compensation meant for the poor people were siphoned off by rich city people based in Aizawl, the Council chairman Pu Lalmalsawma Dawrngawn said: “Our experiences with small hydel projects show that there is lax or near absence (of) regulatory mechanisms, which in turn cause environmental degradation and large-scale displacement of people.”

Slamming the “secret” agreement reached by the Government of Manipur, National Hydro Power Company Ltd and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited to build the mega hydel dam on the Tuiruong and Tuivai confluence, Ruonglevaisuo (known as Tipaimukh Dam), the SHDC said that it would “not allow” the project to go ahead as 14 villages under the council’s jurisdiction would be affected. “Besides destroying hundreds of kilometers of our virgin forest and jhum land the proposed project will directly affect fourteen villages in Mizoram SHDC areas,” it said.

The villages which would be affected are: Sawleng, Darlawn, New Vervek, Sailutar, Sakawrdai, Khawlek, Vaitin, Vanbawng, Khawpuor, Suongpuilawn, Ratu, Phullen, NE Tlangnuom and Lungsam.

Putting in strong words their opposition to Manipur government “designs”, the Mizoram council said: “We shall not allow the Government of Manipur to capitalized its militarized power and invade our land and rivers, our dignity and freedom.”

The SHDC while casting doubts about the sincerity of the implementing agencies, its memo said the members and people have “no confidence” in any of them. Taking example of the NHPC’s poor track record in the implementation of Indira Sagar dam and Omakreshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Chamera I and II in Himachal Pradesh, Loktak in Manipur, Lower Subansari project in Arunachal Pradhesh and several projects, the development council was of the view that the NHPC “severely failed in good practices, creating irresponsible disaster to land, people and resources”.

The council also took objection to the fact that the NHPC did not have the mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment. “The NHPC aslo did not inform the would-be affected people about the public hearings,” it added.

“As such we shall not allow such irresponsibility and inhumane activities to repeat in our land,” the council said.

The council also informed the Prime Minister that villagers of Khawdungsei, Mauchar, Zohmun and Palsang as part of their resolve to oppose the Tipaimukh dam project have refused to take “compensation”. It may be noted that the villagers were told to take their small “share” and vacate their lands.

The SHDC has also appealed to the Government of Mizoram to honour the tribal customs and traditional holdings system.

Interestingly, the Bangaladesh government which was “vehemently opposed” to the Tipaimukh Dam has recently softened its stand on the issue hinting a possible compromise deal with India.

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