From Hiyang Athouba
IMPHAL, July 11: There is no gainsaying the fact that if the Tipaimukh dam estimated to cost over Rs 50,000 crore is commissioned half the battle against the recurring flood in Assam will be won. Besides the Barak valley of Southern Assam will be irrigated after controlling the recurring flood with the result that the people could carry on agriculture and horticulture in a big way. This explains why several leaders of the NE region in general and Assam in particular have been pressurising the Union government for the speedy construction of the Tipaimukh dam notwithstanding the strong objections from the people and the elected representatives of Manipur. Besides the Bangladesh government has been raising objections against the proposed dam. Recently a team of officials and journalists from Bangladesh had made an aerial survey of the site of the dam. Their recommendation to the Bangladesh government is not known as yet.
The Tipaimukh dam is to be constructed at the confluence of the Barak and the Tuivai rivers at the trijunction of Manipur, Assam and Mizoram. It will have a length of 390 metres, 162.8 metres in height and will be 180 metres above the sea level. Once this is commissioned there shall be no flood in the Barak valley.
However, the Manipur Assembly had adopted a resolution on March 14, 1997 after a heated unanimous discussion on the construction of the dam pointing out that Manipur stands to lose everything and there is no reason why Manipur should take such risks for the sake of controlling flood in Assam. During the discussion it was revealed that the Brahmaputra Board in its report on the dam said that 15 villages with 341 houses and having a population of 2232 persons would be submerged in the dam waters. The Manipur government did not accept it. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department conducted its own survey. It submitted a report saying that 100 villages will be submerged and as many as 90 villages are in Manipur. The remaining ten villages are in Mizoram. Besides the Brahmaputra Board spelt out various rehabilitation measures for the villagers who will be affected in the Barak valley. However, the report was silent about the fate of the tribal villagers in Manipur. Furthermore, the dam would irrigate 1.49 billion hectare of field in the Barak valley. Dr L Chandramani, the then IFCD Minister told the Manipur Assembly that a large portion of the National Highway-37 would be submerged and yet there is no mention of source of money for constructing a bypass highway. Priceless fauna and flora would be destroyed for ever once the dam is commissioned. The Assembly discussion also pointed out that the dam waters would be stored in a 102 km long storage which will be virtually above the Manipur valley. But then the entire NE region is a seismically weak area. It means that in case of a devastating earthquake the people in Manipur except those who are staying in high mountains would be drowned.
The dangling carrot was that 10 per cent of the 1500 MW which will be generated once the dam is commissioned would be given to Manipur free of charge as the host State. But then it was pointed out that the people cannot be fooled once again. It was widely believed that once the 105 MW Loktak hydroelectric project run by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation is commissioned Manipur shall not face power shortage. But the project is generating hardly 60 MW and Manipur gets a negligible quantum since it has to supply to all NE States.
All indications are that in view of the objections from the Manipur Assembly, a number of anti-dam organizations and some militant groups the dam would never be constructed. But there were intense political pressures and the Manipur government had to sign on dotted line on December 2, 1999 giving its approval to the construction of the dam. There have been various forms of agitations by the anti-dam activists. The Manipur government and the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding on January 3, 2003 on the construction of the dam.
Accordingly the Manipur government conducted public hearings on the proposed dam to take different viewpoints. On November 17, 2006 there was such a hearing in the office of the collector in Churachandpur district. But journalists were out of bounds and dissent views expressed by the people were not recorded. The favourable views were recorded for forwarding to the government. There was a repeat of such hearing in Tamenglong district on November 23. However, angry people put to an end of this charade by torching the office of the Veterinary department. Public hearings in other districts were cancelled.
The Bangladesh government has been raising objections to the proposed dam. The Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh in a statement said that the Tipaimukh dam will have a serious impact on that country in environment, morphology of river bed, banks, delta, estuary and coastline. Besides the water quality would be damaged. The river temperature, nutrient load and turbidity would be affected. Some tribal armed organizations in the NE region had openly opposed the proposed dam since the people are against it. All non governmental organisations have come out with statements opposing it. It was seen the hard way from happenings at the Thoubal multipurpose dam that the government cannot undertake the constructions of dams against the wishes of the people and militants. Despite the fact that the dam site was sandwiched by the police station and the camp of Assam Rifles almost all the costly machineries were burned to cinders and some officials and labourers were gunned down. The remaining employees who fled could not be lured back even with assurances of beefed up security. The government plan is that the Tipaimukh dam would be constructed by opening a camp of the security forces at the dam site. It is easier said than done. Besides it was seen in the past that armed security personnel cannot ensure uninterrupted constructions and cast iron safety to the employees once the dam is commissioned. Above all, the objections by the Bangladesh government has weightage.