protest against Tipaimukh project near Burma border
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
October 30, 2003: The voice of
protest against the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric
Multipurpose Dam over the Barak river, which originates from
Burma hill ranges has become loud and clear from inside and
While the tribal people of north-eastern India have demanded
the outright withdrawal of the project, the government of
Bangladesh has protested against it in the recently concluded
Joint Rivers Commission meeting at New Delhi.
With an aim to safeguard the land, belief, culture and history
of the hill tribal people, the local people have come together
to protest against the construction of Tipaimukh dam over
Barak in Manipur (Assam), which is identified as the largest
hydro-electric project in NE India.
The tribal protestors, under the banner of the Committee
Dam (CATD), have expressed apprehension that the proposed
dam would submerge large areas covered with forest, having
sacred places of religious and
historical importance and unique flora and fauna. The CATD
has already sent
a memorandum to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to intervene
the Rs. 50 billion dam project.
The committee has also cautioned the Indian central government
that the local tribal people would intensify their protest
in due course and try to stop construction of the controversial
dam with their “last drop of blood”.
The memorandum, sent on September 19, however, admitted that
the people of
Manipur were not against the development works undertaken
in the North East
region by the Centre and State governments.
“But that must not result in the degradation of agricultural
land owned by the indigenous people of Tamenglong and Churachandpur
districts of Manipur, which would seriously affect their right
of living,” said the memorandum, signed by Aram Pamei
and Samsom Remmei, the convener and co-convener of CATD.
It may be mentioned that the Tipaimukh Multipurpose Dam is
proposed to be
constructed at the tri-junction of Manipur, Mizoram and Assam
states of North East India.
Since the dam site is located at the Manipur-Mizoram-Assam
bordering with Burma, it is apprehended that the project would
make impact on watershed area of Burma as well, thus influencing
the ecological aspect of Burma's northern area.
The dam is reportedly designed to be as high as 162.8 metres.
electricity generation capacity of the dam is reported as
Moreover, the dam is supposed to help mitigate the annual
floods in Barak valley of Assam. After acquiring the responsibility
to construct the dam from the original party, the Brahmaputra
Board (of Assam) in 1999, the North-East Electric Power Corporation
signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Manipur state
government in January 2003.
However, the Manipur State Assembly unanimously opposed the
the dam two times in 1995 and 1998, due to apprehension about
environmental aspects and also the rehabilitation of thousands
Meanwhile, the Central Electricity Authority of India has
also given the final Techno-Economic Clearance to NEEPCO to
start the project on July 2, 2003. The entire project has
been planned to be completed by 2011.
Arguing against the dam, CATD convener Aram Pamei said that
the proposed dam would be erected in the Tousem Seismic Zone,
which is identified as the
epicentre of some recent earthquakes in North East India.
“So any step to construct a high dam there would only
increase the possibility of a quake like the devastating earthquake
in 1950 that killed thousands of people and destroyed countless
properties and wealth in Assam (then the entire NE India was
named so),” said Aram Pamei.
“If the dam, with an estimated capacity of 15.5 billion
cubic metres, is constructed, over 275 sq. km of area will
be submerged permanently. Moreover
15,000 people will be displaced by its reservoir. The most
irreparable impact would be on their life and livelihood,
culture and tradition,” said Salam Rajesh, an environmental
journalist based in Imphal, the capital of Manipur.
There are cultural apprehensions regarding the loss of legend
and traditional values. “The river Barak, along with
Alang and Makhu, is deeply associated with the tradition,
culture and belief of the indigenous people of the region.
The Barak waterfall is also considered a sacred place. So
the fear of submergence of the river, falls and lakes have
angered the tribal people,” said CATD activist Samsom
Remmei. In fact, protests against Tipaimukh Dam started in
the early nineties.
The most active organizations like the Hmar Students Union,
Union and Naga Union of Manipur organized many protest meetings
issue. To continue their struggle, the activists formed the
Citizen’s Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) in
1999, which has become a strong platform for over 45 organizations.
Meanwhile, the sister organization of CCDD, All Manipur United
Clubs Organization, has stated that the construction of the
dam would simply destroy their livelihood by affecting the
entire agricultural lowland on the banks of the three rivers
— Barak, Alang and Makhu —which flow through the
length of the Tamenglong district of Manipur.
The Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR)
has also strongly condemned the Indian government’s
decision to construct the Tipaimukh Dam in
the Zeliangrong Naga areas in Manipur. The river Barak enters
Bangladesh through Sylhet after dividing into the Surma and
Kushiara rivers and unite again to form the mighty river Meghna.
“There are three major river systems in Bangladesh
— Padma, Jamuna and Meghna — and the north-eastern
region is dependent on the Meghna for fresh water. Now, if
any high dam is constructed in the upper riparian country,
will directly impact on the flow of the Meghna. The decreased
flow will increase the fear of drought, and the increased
flow will cause flood in northern Bangladesh. So we oppose
the idea of any dam in those rivers that feed our river systems,”
said Professor Ainun Nishat, a former member of the Indo-Bangla
Joint Rivers Commission, in a protest meeting held recently
at the National Press Club in Dhaka. Speaking to Sahara Time
from Dhaka, the chairman of the Forum of Environmental Journalists
of Bangladesh, Quamrul Islam Chowdhury, expressed apprehension
that the Tipaimukh project would destroy the ecology, environment
and the livelihood of the people of northern Bangladesh to
a great extent.
Even in the 35th Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission
(JRC) meeting at
New Delhi on 1 October there was discussion on the Tipaimukh
Attended by Indian Water Resources Minister Arjun Charan Sethi
and his Bangladesh counterpart Hafiz Uddin Ahmed along with
other concerned officials, the meeting could not come to a
conclusion regarding the issue. Sethi, while briefing reporters
after the meeting, said that both sides could sign the Agreed
Joint Minutes, but, of course, he admitted that the two sides
could not endorse a joint statement.
Speaking about the proposed Tipaimukh dam, he said that Bangladesh
had some doubts over the project, but India could convince
the Bangladesh delegation to “dispel” their fear.
The next meeting of Joint Committee of Experts
will take place this year in Dhaka.
Vajpayee had launched “Mission 2012, Power for All”
initiative last May, which proposes production of 50,000 MW
of hydro-electricity. North East India has been identified
here as the richest region in this regard, and Arunachal Pradesh
enjoys the lion’s share of potential with 45,000 MW.
NEEPCO has given the assurance that they would not execute
project without the consent of the local people. A senior
officer of NEEPCO,
A.K. Dam, had reportedly said that the project would be beneficial
for the region, and would directly or indirectly provide jobs
for over 10,000 people. It may be mentioned that besides the
1500 MW Tipaimukh project, NEEPCO is also working for the
75 MW Doyang Hydro-electric Project in Nagaland, the 100 MW
Papumpam, the 105 MW Pakke and the 100 MW Dikrong hydel project
in Arunachal Pradesh. The government statistics say that after
independence over 3000 big dams have been constructed in India.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India,
had laid the foundation stone of the Hirakud dam in Orissa
in 1948, which was the first major river valley project in
On the other hand, Manipur’s Chief Minister, O. Ibobi
Singh, confirmed that
the government would go ahead with the Tipaimukh dam project.
“We must develop our state for the welfare of the people.
So I appeal to everyone not
to put up any hurdles in front of this multipurpose project,
which will create jobs for thousands of people,” said
the Congress leader.