The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) disapproval for the diversion of 24,329 hectares of forest land in Manipur and Sinlung Hills, Mizoram for Tipaimukh Multi-purpose Hydro Electric Project is a just decision; upholding and securing the interests and rights of the marginalized tribals that are dictated by a coterie from distant power corridors. The FAC decision will go a long way to save and preserve the land, forests and rivers on which thousands of invisible tribals are dependent for their livelihood.
It is alarming to learn that the total land requirement for Tipaimukh Multi-purpose Hydro Electric Project is more than one fifth of forest land diverted for execution of 497 hydel projects in India. The issue of “diverting” that much area of land bearing 78,16,931 trees and 0.27 lakh bamboo culms along with several endangered species cannot be romantically imagined; not in Manipur or Mizoram; never in any other parts of India. If the unaccounted, blind adventurous attempt to squeeze “sufficient electricity” by damming all our small and big rivers and negating its vulnerable ecology and environment, socio-economic risks and undefined entitlements of the vulnerable peoples, is merely inviting a disaster for which there could be no compensation.
The dam builders – state and non-state actors ought to justly question the development effectiveness of large dams: projected versus actual benefits, costs, by considering all aspects of the adverse impacts that it could have. The FAC decision ought to be respected and upheld for all time to come in the interests of safeguarding and decentralizing democracy. The FAC decision should stand valid to save our rivers and forest, our people and our land from becoming a militarized zone.
The indigenous Hmar tribal peoples in Manipur and Mizoram has been witnessing the systemic flaws generated by the proposed project for decades. Instead of opening up necessary democratic avenues for public participation, the controversial proposed project narrowed down spaces for democratic intervention of diverse interests, particularly that of the tribals in the proposed site, upper-stream, as well as downstream. In the absence of any democratic process to weave the consent and approval of the indigenous peoples who will be affected, the State actors as well as its colluding partners have been rampantly institutionalizing injustice. In the absence of any democratic process, necessary information dissemination, confidence gaining process, consent and approval of the people who will be affected, the project remains an imposed one.
Moreover, the social, economic, and environmental cost of the controversial project is poorly accounted. Worst, the communities who will be affected have no idea about the possible adverse impacts of the dam. The FAC has rightly questioned the development effectiveness of the proposed project and placed it in the public domain for collective enquiry.
Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organisation (SIPHRO) desires that no one, in the future, should try to erase our existence here on earth by adopting unrealistic optimism and adventurous assumptions to dam our rivers and submerged our land and forests, which has been the source of our lifeline since time immemorial.
With a poor and failed record of implementing policies on dams, the Government of Manipur and Mizoram does not qualify to be responsible implementing partners by playing with the lives of its citizens, forests, rivers, and rights in the name of development.
After many years of neglect and withdrawal from the Hmar dominated areas in Ruonglevaisuo/Tipaimukh (Manipur) and Sinlung Hills (Mizoram) where the proposed project is situated, the Government of Manipur and the Government of Mizoram should immediately stop projecting dams as the vehicle to redress our social, economic, and political exclusion.
SIPHRO questions the narrow-minded and self-seeking researchers, representing the State as well as non-State actors, who could give any sort of clearance to pursue the inhumane project. Many of the problems in the North East stems from the biased and corrupt understanding of the region without understanding the interests and aspirations of the same people. There are significant bureaucrats, decision makers, politicians, law-makers who do not know we exist; however, a humane consideration of our diversity will draw us closer to understand the life that we hope to share. It is our rights to let them know; and it is equally their rights to know and reason our stand.
The FAC report, findings and recommendations should be an eye opener for the Government of Manipur, Government of Mizoram and the dam builders to place a moratorium on Tipaimukh Multi-purpose Hydro Electric Project. River Tuiruong and Tuivai deserve to be declared as the lifeline for the indigenous Hmar tribal peoples and other river dependent communities. A dam will not only dam our rivers; it will dam our life; our history and our future. The FAC justly deliver its decision; our democratic nation ought to be proud to have an upright committee to safeguard democracy.
Sinlung Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Organisation (SIPHRO)