Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Communities Say No to India's Tipaimukh High Dam

by Dr. R.K. Ranjan Singh

The proposed Tipaimukh High Dam would dam the Barak River 500 meters downstream from the confluence of its tributary the Tuivai River in Manipur State. More than half of the 900-kilometre-long Barak falls within India; its lower half drains Bangladesh. The Barak system is the second largest drainage system in Northeast India. The entire riverine ecosystem of the Barak River Basin supports an endemic agrarian civilization thriving on biodiversity-based agro-ecological systems that have profound local and global significance.

The 163-meter-high Tipaimukh Dam will permanently submerge more than 275 sq km of land. The project is expected to have firm power generation of 412 MW. Almost none of its power will be sent to the state where the dam will be built.

There is no complete study that focuses on geo-tectonic problems or biodiversity and environment, health, socio-economic and hydrological impacts of the project. The absence of meaningful consultation with the indigenous peoples contradicts the keystone strategic priority developed by the World Commission on Dams, that no dam should be built without the demonstrable acceptance of the affected people, and without the free, prior, informed consent.

History of Resistance

Communities from Manipur have resisted Tipaimukh High Dam for more than 15 years. Resistance began because the people of Manipur had seen the devastating impact of Loktak Hydroelectric Project. This project has been the single biggest reason why local people question the new project. Any person who is aware of Loktak will tell you how it has submerged large tracts of agricultural lands; ousted large number of farmers from their livelihood without compensation, thus reducing self-sufficiency in rice production, and devastated a fragile wetland ecosystem. This has further made Manipur more economically dependent on mainland India, which is just the opposite of the promises made when the project was conceived. The people of Manipur are now fully aware that Manipur gets little electricity from the project.

The struggle against Tipaimukh is not restricted to Manipur state, but is also in Bangladesh too, where the immediate impact of the dam will be felt. The dam could also impact watersheds and ecosystems in northern Burma.

In addition, we are now waking up to the fact that two other dams in the area, Mapithel and Khuga dams, also deceived the people with promises that have not yielded any result. Now we see how wrong decisions made in the past can create havoc for our future.

Tipaimukh was not conceived and designed for the people of Manipur, or for that matter for the people of India's northeast region. It was initially designed to control floods in lower Assam, and then to generate electricity for the Indian state-owned utility NEEPCO for sale outside the region. For all these years the dam builders have not informed or consulted the people, especially those who will be directly impacted. The dam is not based on local requirements, but is imposed from above, to serve unknown economic interests. An issue of consent is a must when they want to bring in a project of such magnitude that will submerge villages, fertile agricultural land, forests, and not even meet local needs. Local organizations have also proposed alternatives, including smaller, less destructive dams.

Flawed Resettlement Plan

If constructed, the dam will have negative impacts on 9,126 sq km in the state of Manipur alone. A large number of indigenous communities, mostly belonging to the Zeliangrong and Hmar peoples, will be permanently displaced and deprived of their livelihood. One should be aware that these affected areas are almost half of the present size of Manipur. A small state like Manipur cannot afford to bargain away an area of this size for a tiny bit of electricity. We must look for alternative source of energy where it has least impact on land. We have already had 60,000 hectares of agricultural land submerged due to Ithai Dam alone. For our food security we cannot afford to lose any more land.

If one looks closely at the project's proposed resettlement and rehabilitation plan, it is clear that they have not taken into account intergenerational concerns. For example, rice fields cannot be compensated at today's market price only, as it is done by NEEPCO. For we all know that a plot of land has benefited both the generation in the past and will serve our future and cannot be assessed for the present market value only. Such shortsighted compensation will only create impoverishment and hardship for those displaced. A more important issue is the close link of indigenous peoples to their land, water, forest and their culture. Any sizeable loss of land is loss of the community itself.

As known elsewhere, dams have created or accentuated ethnic conflict. Here, too, there are already divisions along ethnic lines that can have longterm implications for all peoples. In an already fractured place such as this, it is imperative that the state does not allow projects that widen the ethnic divide. In addition, conflict with other states and also with Bangladesh as a result of the dam cannot be ruled out and will need to be addressed before agreeing to the project.

We are also aware that the construction of large dams brings in laborers from outside the region. We are witness to that the fact that outsiders have come to work for Loktak hydro project and other dams, and that these workers have stayed after the work is done, putting pressure on local communities and natural resources. A massive project like Tipaimukh will bring in more than 30,000 workers from outside and it is certain that these outsiders will cause issues for local people.

The site selected for Tipaimukh project is one of the most seismically active in the entire world, recording at least two major earthquakes of 8+ on the Richter scale during the past 50 years. The proposed dam site falls on an active fault line. Several large earthquakes have been recorded near the Tipaimukh site.

The people who have fought the dam have used all democratic means possible to seek the government of India to stop the dam. Memorandums and letters by the score, rallies, sit-in protests, blockades, strikes, press releases, meetings, leaflets, and email campaigns have all been used. Five public hearings conducted by the government have been boycotted. But these all went into the dustbin of the government. One wonders what it would take for the government to listen to the people, and stop the dam. We must insist that Tipaimukh is not an answer to the energy crisis that we presently face. If the government is sincere enough to solve this crisis then it must right away say no to this destructive project, and initiate a people-inclusive

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bangladesh and India: Will the Dams “Damage “the Relationship?

Environmentalists and academics called for greater movement nationally and internationally to resist what he called "the conspiracy to India to" build the dam without Tipaimukh share information with Bangladesh. They also criticized the role of government in its relations with India on water issues. India has neither the flow of water in the Ganges guaranteed by the Treaty of the Ganges, or the information shared in the Tipaimukh dam, which is a pure violation of the treaty.

Protests at the Farakka Barrage, first in 1965 led to war between India and Pakistan, but in 1975, Bangladesh, in good faith, agreed that his friend, India "test-run", its channel food for fourteen days. India, Bangladesh to ensure that the actual operation will start after an agreement was signed outlining the terms of the transaction and the amount of water. The rest is a history of noncompliance of India, causing desertification in many rivers in Bangladesh. Then go to India to build the dam Tipaimukh ignoring the protests in Manipur and Bangladesh, because it threatens the north-eastern section of the country.

Not so, faith and friendship, to be compromised? So why India is so obsessed with their dam projects? In April 2001, David Barsamian, director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado Arundhati Roy interviewed and this is what he said, "the myth of big dams is something that is sold from the time they are three years in any book of school text.

Nehru said: "Dams are the temples of modern India", the dam will serve breakfast in bed, he will marry his daughter and the healing of his jaundice. People must understand that they are only monuments to political corruption, and shoot the very undemocratic political institutions. Only centralize natural resources, to grab people, and then decide that you will get.

When I wrote "The Greater Common Good", what shocks me more than the numbers there are numbers that do not exist. The Indian government has no estimate of how many people have been displaced by large dams. The reason there are no such figures is that most people are still non-displaced people, the Adivasis and Dalits. India will not cut his people. It kills people who refuse to move. He's just waiting it out.

She continues to do what you have to do and ignore the consequences. Due to the caste system, due to the fact that there is no social bond between those who make decisions and those who suffer the decisions, just go ahead and do what they want.

People also assume that is their fate, karma, what was written. It's all an effective way of doing things. Therefore, India has a very good reputation in the world as a democracy as a government that cares, that is simply too much in their hands, whereas, in fact, create real problems. "- (www. progressive. Org).

The book is a revelation for people to understand the system in India, corruption, the link with the World Bank funds atrocious and the international community that is undertaking projects to rob the poor to give to the rich. Tipaimukh dam is no exception to this system. Now I would like to present an example of how the arrogant attitude of "government" against a requirement of the "governed" violence begets.

The terrorism of the first water Kunta Lahiri-Dutt and Robert J. Wasson has a chapter on regional policy water distribution written by Douglas Hill. In 1976, the central government of India has taken a decision to adjust the amount of water must be available for each state. Buenos Aires disagreed and filed a case before the Supreme Court cast doubt on its validity.

Meanwhile, the construction of 112 km Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal began in 1982 to divert water to farmers in Rajasthan and Haryana in the south (khurana2006). Construction was immediately rejected by the Punjab unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Shriomani Akali Dal (SAD). Section SAD protest finally returned to the violent riots and terrorism, culminating in the events of 0peration Blue Star in Amritsar in 1984 (when Indira Gandhi had ordered the slaughter of hundreds of Sikh separists) and probably led to his assassination in 0ctober.

The new Prime Minister Rajib Gandhi and Akali Dal leader Singh Longowal Harcha met in 1985, established a tribunal under Justice Eradi reconsider the appropriate allocation of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. The results of this court has been questioned by the Punjab in 1987, arguing that enough water to cover the recommended allocation was not available.

The violence has forced the closure of this court in 1988 and the construction of the section of Punjab SYL canal ceased in 1990. public hearing in 1997 and reinstated the decision in favor of Haryana, in 2004. The political crisis and the Punjab Government has adopted a law that supersedes all previous agreements regarding the sharing of Ravi and Beas (khurana2006) - (COM Google.) India have a lesson from Governments? works closely with the "mother" of the system to do its dirty work. Chetan Bagat in his book "The 3 mistakes in my life" describes "Mama", an ambitious, but all premises to climb the ladder of "Power".

He asks his political guru to get a ticket for the election. Guru's mother reported that ambitious people like him are held in the party and how good he is and has committed (Mama) to reach the next level, should do work that was focused on him. Mamas India ", as for operations.

Mamas, on behalf of India, bribed officials to make the temporary regulation with promises that 10-12% of electricity will be given free and the rest will be given to NEEPCO for distribution to other states. Do other states do not require the same treatment? Along with the concerns of the citizens "of the dam and Development (CESD) and environmentalists do not worry about this temporary settlement and continue with the protest and whether Marxist and Maoist insurgents have joined there is a strong possibility that the protests could become violent agitation.

How India contain this violence? What would world reaction to this? Bangladesh will be under pressure to help India? And now Bangladesh. India without the moral support of Bangladesh military and then the Soviet Union (Russia) could not have seen the Liberation War. During the liberation of India was targeted to help groups of the Awami League (Mama factor) while other political groups have worked together to achieve the common goal of independence. The former foreign secretary, the late Mr. JN Dixit in his remarks to the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "We helped in the liberation of Bangladesh on mutual interest, which was not a favor.

He said that 90% of the problems could be resolved if Bangladesh has exported gas to India. Subsequently, India made a list of other articles, at the request of Bangladesh. Friendship is an ordeal. In addition, (1) India is ignoring paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Dublin Principles, 1992. paragraph 2, provides for the development and management of water should be based on a participatory approach involving all users, planners and policy makers and Article 3 states that women play a key role in the provision, management and water protection. (2) India has never accepted the proposal to discuss with Nepal to resolve the problems in Bangladesh because of Farakka Dam. Why India is acting so mysteriously?

The Bangladesh team, Parliament was invited to visit Manipur be able to find solutions? The correct answer is NO. In the absence of full details of India and the Agency for financing and subsequent analysis by local experts from the three countries, free from political influence, the team would not be capable of distinguishing the controversial points.

Instead, it is feared that the name of Bangladesh being used politically to pressure Manipur and Mizoram. What is the solution? Here are my responses in four steps: (1) Advocate Harun ur Rashid start building Pangsha Ganges Dam (90 miles west of Dhaka) to offset the negative effects of the dam Farraka. (Ref: Daily Star, 31 May 2008).

It was conceived in 1963 and again in 1984 and after the feasibility report of 1997, the river of the Mixed Commission has approved. Immediate steps should be taken to implement the following expert from Bangladesh should conduct another study to build another similar dam in the region of Sylhet to offset the effect Tipaimukh dam. Only after reaching an agreement with India for the construction of two dams, if our government intends to cooperate with India. (2) Dr. Aiun Nishat suggests that positive politics, mutual understanding and the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh should be involved. (Ref: NewAge Xtra June 12.2009). (3) In the three states, the participation of women must be ensured and that their views recorded and taken into consideration. (4) fully support the suggestions, not from Bangladesh residing in Los Angeles, sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through the consul general, it is recommended that a team of five countries to be trained: Bangladesh, India, China, Nepal and Myanmar to find the correct solution (. Ref: zshare. memorandum to Sheikh Hasina net/audio/616901121db0d245/Huda reading).

Regardless of the Conference of NAM, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh confirmed to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that India did not take any action that might affect the relationship. Earlier in an exclusive interview with Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said: "I sincerely believe that a strong and prosperous Bangladesh is in the fundamental interests of India." (Ref.: Daily Star, Nov. 15.2005). Leave the Honorable Prime Minister to demonstrate his intentions. Sonia Gandhi would be great if it also has a keen interest and joined Mr. Singh in this adventure. I think in Bangladesh India's relations improved.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

21 Tipai Dam protesters held in Manipur

Staff Reporter

At least twenty-one social workers who have been waging movement against the construction of Tipaimukh Dam have been arrested in "false cases", it is alleged. Some organisations in Manipur have alleged that the arrested persons are being tortured in custody, according to BBC monitored yesterday evening.

BBC Kolkata correspondent says, these protesters were involved in anti-Tipaimukh dam movement and movement against false encounter. Many leaders of the anti-Tipaimukh Dam project have gone into hiding to avert arrest. Police say various cases, including treason under the Indian Penal Code have been filed against them.

Some Civil Society Leaders told the BBC that local leaders including Jiten Bikramjit have been arrested, with a view to destroying the anti-Tipaimukh Dam movement.

Leaders of anti-Tipaimukh Dam movement have sent protest letters to international forums.

A protest meeting was held yesterday in Imphal, capital of Manipur where effigies of the state chief minister, Indian prime minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were burned.

Another protest meeting is due to be held in New Delhi today (Thursday).

Source: http://www.theindependent-bd.com/details.php?nid=143043

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tipaimukh water bomb a curse for Barak-Surma basin

Faisal Rahim

When the Indian environmental activist groups in the states of Assam and Monipur are fighting back terming the Tipaimukh dam project a 'water bomb' sure be a "living curse for the inhabitants of the Barak-Surma basin", Bangladesh's ministers and policy makers are describing it as even beneficial to the nation.

The Bangladesh parliamentary team that visited Tipaimukh dam site early this month gave a clean certificate to the Indian government's move on the dam issue saying that the Indian government ministers have given them assurance that Delhi would not do anything harmful to Bangladesh.

The team leader Abdur Razzak MP praised the Indian government for sharing "important" documents that were not made available earlier. He pointed out that all available data and information suggest that the dam construction is all but a fight in the air.

"India isn't building dam"!

"Moreover no construction was visible in the site from the aerial view that suggests India is not building the dam", he said.

Some government ministers are even making statements saying the dam may be beneficial to Bangladesh and hence people here should ignore the opposition parties' call to create public awareness about it and fight back the issue locally and in international forum.

But the latest news report tells different stories. A report in a national daily last week said Indian government has passed the responsibility of building the dam to its Eastern army command.

Army to construct

The report detailed which military wing is working on implementing the project, which one worked on the design, which army unit is providing security to the dam site. It also named the military authorities which supervised an ecological survey to determine the extent of damage and geo-physical change that the dam may hit in the region.

The report further said that a high power meeting of Indian military and civil bureaucracy was held in Delhi on June 20 last to coordinate the activities relating to the dam project and evolving strategy on how to run public relations campaigns to counter protest against the dam which is increasingly growing in the Indian northeast and also in Bangladesh.

On the public campaign issue, the meeting left it with a special group to mobilize the civil society organizations both in India and Bangladesh to the support of the mega project.

Bangladesh govt.'s weakness

The recent visit of six editors of national dailies from Dhaka to Delhi may be viewed from that background.

The Delhi meeting also underlined the fact that since India has a friendly government in place now in Dhaka, it should take immediate steps to begin construction of the dam to exploit the weakness of the Bangladesh government and the silence of its front line organizations.

This is one side of the story which tells how the Indian government is blackmailing its friends in Dhaka in one hand and mobilizing the project under the supervision of its Eastern Army Command on the other.

News report said the ecological report on the dam which the Indian army has prepared, said that a total of 288.60 sq kilometers area would go under water in the Borak valley following the construction of the dam.

Crippling impact on Bangladesh

The Indian local environmental activist groups are therefore opposed to the dam as it is becoming a looming threat to the existence of local communities and their livelihood although big capitals and construction companies will benefit from it as also the Indian geo-politics will emerge as a winner on its close neighbour Bangladesh having crippling environmental impacts on its agriculture and environment.

Indian local environmental groups say they can not sit idle because of its hazardous impact on them and sought the cooperation of Bangladesh on the issue. The Silchar-based Society of Activists & Volunteers for Environment (SAVE) recently presented a memorandum opposing the construction of the Tipaimukh dam to Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Kolkata. The memorandum dwelt on the devastating environmental impact of the dam on downstream Borak basin in general and Bara Valley in particular which also include areas covering Bangladesh.

The memorandum was originally addressed to the Bangladesh parliamentary team that visited the project site but failed to land in the area because of bad weather. So the organizers pushed the memorandum to its leader through the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Kolkata.

Dr. Parthankar Choudhury, President of SAVE and its secretary Pijush Kanti Das in the memorandum drew the attention of the Bangladesh parliamentary team to the looming danger from the proposed dam. They expressed their deep concern about the impact of the dam in the upstream of the Barak river. They termed it a 'water bomb' at Tipaimukh and said people in the region are resisting the move holding growing protests at various level and places. They said such protests are taking place in Manipur and in the Barak Valley of Assam, besides lot such protest in Bangladesh.

SAVE's demand

They said all such actions should be purely viewed from environmental and human points and those who want to ignore it should be dealt with severely. The memorandum said the SAVE people belong to the school of thought which "think globally and act locally" and sought to work jointly with Bangladesh in facing the disaster.

The SAVE leaders emphasised the need for an extensive downstream environmental impact study from the proposed dam site up to the sea-mouth to be jointly conducted at the initiative of the Government of India and Bangladesh.

Experts on the study group need to be hired from NGOs, particularly from the environmental outfits, IITs and universities to independently assess its possible detrimental impact on the environment and life of inhabitants in the catchments areas. They said, without downstream impact study, if a clean chit to the project is given, it would be detrimental for both environment and people at large; and the struggling people of both in India and Bangladesh in particular.

They said the proposed dam falls at the confluence of Indo-Burma, Indo-Malayan and Indo-Chinese biodiversity hotspot zone. These areas are characterized by the presence of a large number of plant and animal species, many of which are not seen or seldom witnessed in the rest of the world.

A large number of them have been categorized as endangered and threatened as the IUCN Red Data book and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Once the dam is constructed, these innocent endangered and threatened species would have no other alternative, but to perish.

Earthquake Zone-V

They said SAVE strongly believes that this rock-filled 500 metres long and 162.8 metres high dam to be constructed at the Earthquake Zone-V will become a constant threat to survival of people in the region. It will have constant pressure of water and if for any reason cracks open, the entire civilization of the whole of downstream region will be washed down in no time. The age-old Barak-Surma culture will live in history only. They pondered the question: Can any force or technology prevent this and ensure safety against such catastrophic mishap?

Impact on agriculture

The memorandum further dwelt on the important impact of the dam on water scarcity, crop cultivation, navigation, siltation, ecological imbalance, river pollution, extinction of aquatic life forms and the like and said these are no less important frontier areas that deserve careful and serious attention.

It urged the Bangladesh parliamentary delegation to strongly oppose the dam keeping in view all those things from a purely pro-environment and pro-human viewpoints. The Tipaimukh dam is going to be the lifetime curse for the inhabitants of Barak-Surma basin, they said pointing to the need for resisting it at all cost.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hydel Projects: The New Battle Ground

Sobhapati Samom

In a move to meet the growing demand of power supply in the country, the central authority continues to build mega dams in Northeastern states to generate more power despite the opposition and continuous protest from the locals.

Though the authority is yet to finalise the time frame for the construction of the controversial 1500 MW Tipaimukh multipurpose project in Manipur, state-owned National Hydro-electric Power Corporation, NHPC takes up construction work of South East Asia’s biggest hydel power project 2000 MW ‘Lower Subansiri hydel project’ in a contentious area of Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

However, the project has been facing constant criticism because it is ignoring the ‘downstream social life’ in Assam as well as the upstream ‘environmental effects’ in Arunachal Pradesh.

Namani Subansiri Jalavidyut Prakalpa Birodhi Okya Mancha, a united body of more than thirty organisations of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sonitpur and Jorhat districts (Majuli sub-division) opposing the project, made it clear that the dam in Gerukamukh is going to be a huge water bomb ready to burst upon the people living in the downstream areas.

The united body’s Kiran Deori has expressed strong resentment about the fallout of the mega dam project in the downstream areas of the Subansiri river in Assam covering three districts and called for the immediate halt of the on-going construction work at the dam site till all clearances required for the protection of the ecological and topographical concerns of the downstream areas are addressed.
If this is ignored, the front will launched various forms of agitations to stop the construction process, functionaries of the front told a visiting journalists team recently.

Keshav Krishna Chatradhar of Alliance Against Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project, AKYAMNCHA, a local resistance group in Assam said, “There’s no downstream study by NHPC or the implementing agencies. So they should stop construction works immediately.”

On the other hand, All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union has been demanding a ‘white paper’ on the upcoming mega dams in the state. Reports said that the Prime Minister of India launched the 50,000 MW Hydroelectric Initiative to fast track hydropower development in the country in May 2003. This initiative proposes to bring on line installed capacity of about 50,000 MW through 162 projects in 16 states by 2017. While 72 out of 162 schemes totaling up to 31,885 MW are in the North East, Arunachal Pradesh alone has 42 schemes with 27,293 MW capacity. It is of little wonder then that Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as the new centre of massive dam building in the country.

“We’re demanding a white paper on these mega dams. We’ve given an ultimatum to the Chief Minister in this regard,” Takam Tatung,President AAPSU said. “We will launch a democratic movement if the government fails to meet our demands within the next month.”

In Manipur, many NGOs and environmentalists have been criticizing the government’s move to construct the Rs 6000 crore worth Tipaimukh hydro-electric project confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers on the grounds that it would seriously affect agricultural land, local flora and fauna, not to mention the displacement of people and livestock.

The project site at Tipaimukh, located 200 km upstream of Barak River from the Bangladesh border, is high on the talks agenda as environmentalists express deep concern because if the 162 meter high dam is constructed, it could deprive Bangladesh of its share of project on downstream impact.

Chief Engineer Choudhury said, “We will moderate the flood situation as the project is going to sacrifice more than 330 MU of electricity generation for the sake of flood moderation by operating the reservoir 15 meters below FRL (full reservoir level).”

However, the actual construction of the dam will begin this year as the American engineering company; involved in the world’s biggest hydel project-the three gorge dam of China-is being commissioned for the project. Similarly the construction of Tipaimukh dam in Manipur will take time until the JVC (joint venture company) is formed, Uday Sangker Sahi, concerned NHPC Chief Engineer (Civil) told this reporter.

Though the Centre had appointed NHPC as the implementing agency for the project, it will now be a joint venture between NHPC (69 per cent), Shimla-based Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (26 per cent) and Manipur Government (5 per cent), the engineer informed.

Barak Dam in the vortex of controversy

Jyoti Lal Chowdhury

The controversial Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydel Project is once again the centre stage of news. Besides facing opposition in Manipur, it has also been protested against by socio-political bodies in Bangladesh. On August 11, 5000 Bangladeshi protesters belonging to Tipaimukh Dam Resistance Committee and Sylhet Division Unnayan Sangram Committee joined by leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamat-e-Islami organised a mass gathering at Jakiganj opposite Karimganj town and criticised the Indian decision to build the dam. “Bangladesh will suffer huge economic and environmental losses if the Tipaimukh Dam comes up”, said Jamat-e-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami. Their much hyped long march to the dam site was foiled by the Bangladesh Rifles.

In Manipur, Citizens’ Concern for Dam and Development, a conglomerate of 34 organisations, has been agitating against the construction of the project.

The agitation is being backed by Committee on Land and Natural Resources, Action Committee against Tipaimukh Project, United Naga Council, Naga Women Union, All Naga Students’ Association and Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights. Hmar People’s Conference (D), underground outfit, issued a press statement cautioning against any construction work to build up the infrastructure of the dam.

Notwithstanding the wave of opposition, the MoU was signed between the three states of Manipur, Assam and Mizoram a decade back. The Ministry of Home Affairs agreed to security arrangement and the Ministry of Road Surface Transport to take action for the improvement of NH 53 and NH 150 for easy access to the dam site. The Planning Commission gave its nod for the allocation of Rs.20 crore for the project during 2000-01 for infrastructure build up. The project was to be included in the 9th Plan. Mooted in the 70’s, its estimated cost has gone up from Rs.1500 crore to more than Rs.6000 crore. The centre approved a rehabilitation package for 350 tribal families to be affected due to submergence.

The project is to be built on river Barak. The site is in the remote village of Tipaimukh in Churachandpur district, bordering Mizoram. The project is designed to contain flood waters in Barak Valley, generate 1500 MW of power, facilitate irrigation and pisciculture.

Anti-dam activists fear the dam, if built, would disturb the seasonal rhythm of the river with adverse effects on downstream agriculture and fisheries. It will also affect two rivers of Bangladesh, 100 km away from Tipaimukh, Surma and Kushiara. River Barak at Haritikar in Cachar close to the border bifurcates into Surma and Kushiara before entering Sylhet district.

They also argue that the mega They also argue that the mega project with a catchment area of 9126 sq.km. in Manipur alone would submerge over 90 villages, besides inundating a vast chunk of forest and agricultural land as well as destroy tribal and folklore interests and diverse flora and fauna. With heat and dust around, the foundation stone of the dam was laid on December 16, 2006 by the then Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde at Tipaimukh under a blanket boycott call by different organisations.

Significantly, China has advised a dialogue between India and Bangladesh over the issue. China’s interest arises out of India’s objection to its decision to divert Yarlung Tsangpo, known as Brahamaputra in Assam, by building a dam over the river in Tibet. The Indian apprehension was that such a move by Beijing would greatly affect the river system of the North East, thereby the ecology and economy. Egged on by China, the Bangladeshi campaign against Barak dam has got a new dimension, making it an international issue.

In the context of these apprehensions being aired by different quarters, it would be quite relevant to examine certain records and observations for a fair and objective appraisal of the project. North East Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (NERCPC) in its meeting held in May, 1999 at Imphal stressed on the need to constitute the Barak Valley Authority for the implementation of the project on the pattern of Narmada Central Authority. NERCPC, in this context, referred to the three consecutive meetings of the Chief Secretaries of Assam, Manipur and Mizoram which reached a sort of consensus to thrash out misgivings and take positive steps for clearing the hurdles.

The Manipur government, after being briefed by the Brahamaputra Board on the project constituted two committees under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary in details all aspects for moving ahead as recorded in the minutes of the first meeting of the technical committee on April 10, 1999 at the Brahamaputra Board Complex, Guwahati. After receiving the detailed project report from NEEPCO, the executive agency, state government of Manipur entered into a MoU on January 31, 2001. The MoU was facilitated with the annulment of Manipur State Assembly resolution unanimously in 2000.

Experts in the Brahamaputra Board and Ministry of Water Resources pointed out that the 16.80 lakh cusec capacity reservoir of the dam will not only control floods but also release enough water during the lean season through Barak and its tributaries-Surma and Kushiara. Besides this, the nod of the Manipur government followed the meeting of a 5 member Parliamentary standing committee on energy under the Chairmanship of Santosh Mohan Dev on February 10, 2001 at Silchar. Additional Chief Secretary of Manipur P.L. Thanga who attended the meet gave the seal of approval of his government.

In fact, once the project is commissioned, the North East region as a whole will benefit as it will substantially meet the power needs of the area. Manipur and Mizoram will get 12 percent free power. It will, at the same time, give a boost to fisheries, tourism and accelerate the economic development of the area. The Ministry of Water Resources has agreed to provide 220 KV transmission line to Imphal along with step down substation. Experts opine that the dam site does not fall in the seismic zone. Moreover, since the three states concerned after protracted discussions have agreed on the project, there is no reason to keep it in abeyance on grounds which look more far-fetched than reasoned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

India, Bangladesh to jointly combat terror, discuss Tipaimukh dam

NEW DELHI - India Tuesday allayed Bangladesh’s concerns over the contentious Tipaimukh dam and hydroelectric project while the neighbours agreed to step up cooperation to combat terrorism and bridge differences on trade and transit issues.

With their relations on an upward curve after a protracted period of drift, the two countries also tried to narrow differences on illegal migration, cross-border infiltration and sharing of river waters.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held wide-ranging talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni and pressed for closer cooperation in combating terrorism, and emphasised the need for intelligence sharing and closer coordination.

The talks lasted over two hours and included a one-to-one interaction between the two ministers for 10 minutes.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was also present at the delegation-level talks. The Bangladeshi delegation included Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes, Bangladesh High Commissioner Tarique Ahmed Karim and Mohammad Imran, director general (South Asia).

Moni, who is on her first official visit to India after Sheikh Hasina came to power eight months ago, assured Krishna that Dhaka was keen to jointly combat terrorism and address New Delhi’s concerns about insurgents allegedly operating from the Bangladeshi territory.

Krishna renewed New Delhi’s request to Dhaka to deport anti-India insurgents - like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia - who are said to be living in Bangladesh.

The contentious Tipaimukh project located near the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur also figured prominently in the discussions.

Krishna assured Moni that the proposed dam was mutually beneficial and did not involve any diversion of water, as alleged by some sections of the political establishment in Bangladesh.

Moni Tuesday called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed an entire gamut of bilateral and regional issues. Manmohan Singh renewed his invitation to Sheikh Hasina to visit India later this year.

Trade and transit issues came up for discussion when Moni met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The two ministers discussed ways to bridge trade deficit and improve road and air connectivity that could give a big push to economic engagement between the two countries.

Mukherjee pushed for transit rights for goods through Bangladesh to the northeast, a long-pending issue between the two countries.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

National unity against Tipai Dam stressed

Staff Reporter

Speakers at a discussion yesterday laid emphasis on greater national unity among political parties and civil societies to resist India's move to construct the Tipaimukh dam.

They also called upon the government and the opposition to discuss the Tipaimukh dam issue in the parliament.

The government is yet to take the Tipaimukh dam as national issue rather than political one and it needs to demonstrate rightly on the issue, they observed.

They said that a national consensus is needed to resist India from constructing the dam since it will bring a disastrous effect on the country's economy and environment.

Their observation came at a roundtable on 'Tipaimukh Dam: Overall Impact on Bangladesh' at a local hotel in the city. The Centre for Human Rights organised the function.

Barrister Abdur Razzaq, general secretary of CHR moderated and Justice Mahmudul Amin Choudhury, former chief justice presided over the programme.

Speakers also emphasised the need for a joint impact assessment by India and Bangladesh about the Tipaimukh Dam.

They also suggested the government to go for a third party mediation regarding the Tipaimukh issue.

Former VC's of Dhaka University (DU) Prof Emajuddin Ahmed said SAARC should be compelled to resolve the issues among the countries of South Asia.

M Asafuddowlah, former secretary called upon all to be united and suggested the issue should be discussed in the parliament.

He strongly criticised the government for its reluctance about the Tipaimukh Dam and said it was not understandable to him why the present government was so silent.

"Is this part of their gratitude to India for bringing them to power or gratitude for helping us during the Liberation War?" he questioned. "Given the track record of India, there is no reason to believe them."

Professor Muzaffer Ahmed, president of TIB stressed the need for forging a national consensus and stronger diplomacy regarding the matter.

"Indian government violated various international laws and treaties since they moved ahead with its plan to construct the Tipaimukh Dam," he mentioned.

Mostafa Kamal Majumder said if India constructs the Tipaimukh dam, it will bring a great catastrophe than Farakka barrage to the country's economy and environment.

Rouf Chowdhury, director of FBCCI said Bangladesh's weak foreign policy has prompted India to undertake a project like Tipaimukh Dam. "All governments after 1997 are responsible for the Indian plan to construct such a dam," he added.

The river Meghna will lose its navigability by 5 meters if the Tipaimukh dam is constructed. "Thirty percent of Bangladesh will turn into a desert in 30 years if the dam is constructed," said Dr SI Khan, a former environment management planner of the United Nations.

Prof Moniruzzaman Miah, former VC of DU, Abul Hasan Chowdhury, former state minister for foreign affarirs, Alamgir Mohiuddin, editor of the daily Naya Diganta, Prof Asif Nazrul of DU, Engineer ANH Akhtar Hossain, honorary general secretary of Institute of Engineering, Bangladesh (IEB), Prof Mahbubullah of DU, journalist Mahfuzzullah, Shamser Mobin Chowdhury, former foreign secretary, M Mahmudur Rahman, editor of the daily Amar Desh, Mostafa Kamal Majumder, Prof Mohammad Abdur Rab and Prof UAB Razia Akter Banu of DU among others, spoke on the occasion.

Source: http://nation.ittefaq.com/issues/2009/09/06/news0660.htm

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tipaumukh, trade, transit to top India-Bangladesh talks

IANS, September 4th, 2009, NEW DELHI

India is keen to bridge differences with Bangladesh over sensitive issues like the Tipakimukh hydrolectric project and move ahead on trade and transit as Foreign Minister Dipu Moni arrives here Monday on a four-day trip, ahead of Sheikh Hasina’s visit here later this year.

This will be Moni’s first official visit to New Delhi after Sheikh Hasina rode to power in Dhaka on the strength of landslide victory in December polls last year.

Moni will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and also call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. She will discuss an entire gamut of bilateral issues, including security, cooperation in combating terrorism, illegal migration, trade and investment.

The two sides are likely to focus on enhancing connectivity and giving a fresh momentum to expanding economic engagement that would help in reducing trust deficit to resolve more complex issues like border management, infiltration and illegal migration and terrorism.

The contentious Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Dam Project will also figure prominently in the discussions. Located near the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur, the project has become a rallying point for the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to stoke anti-India sentiments.

Some sections in Bangladesh fear that the dam will deprive their country of its rightful share of water. Ahead of Moni’s visit, official sources said here Friday that they have made it clear that there will be absolutely no diversion of water. They also pointed out there was no construction activity going on and the dam will augment water during the rainy season and decrease the prospects of flooding.

These points were made to a team of parliamentarians who visited the dam site last month. India has shared pertinent data with Bangladesh and stressed that the project will be beneficial to both countries. Moni’s visit will provide a good opportunity to remove any misgivings over the project.

India will also emphasise need to jointly combat terrorism and press Dhaka to deport anti-India insurgents like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chief Anup Chetia who are said to be in Bangladesh. New Delhi is optimistic that the Sheikh Hasina government will take requisite action in this regard.

Moni’s trip comes at a time when India’s relationship with Bangladesh, dogged by years of mistrust over Dhaka’s alleged patronage of anti-India insurgents and widening trade deficit, is showing signs of improvement.

During then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Dhaka in February 2009, India took significant unilateral initiatives like providing duty-free access to eight million pieces of ready garments, lifting a ban on FDI in Bangladesh and duty-free access to several items from Bangladesh.

India also signed a bilateral trade treaty and another one on the protection of investments. Put together, these initiatives have set the stage for a new positive period of trust and cooperation between the two neighbours.

Tipaimukh Dam: The Forgotten Challenges

David Buhril

The proposed Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydro Electric Project wades deeper into controversy than before as the State actor, particularly the Government of Manipur, doggedly flexes militarisation approach to pursue the project. While voices of rejection were raised from diverse indigenous peoples organizations and even armed groups the dam builders as well as the project continue to miss the people.

The ongoing controversies with the proposed project certainly establish the need for the dam builders to review not only of the leviathan project but more importantly to review the existing policy on indigenous peoples.

The few, flawed and restrictive consultation that was pushed through in the name of “public hearing” by representatives of the State actor severely exempted the indigenous people. As a result, the reports or recommendations that usually enhance the pursuit of the dam builders obviously failed to incorporate the indigenous people’s perspectives. While various ambiguities remains unexplained the project is imagined without gaining public acceptance.

As vague languages about the project were spelled out, the dam builders resort to “development” as the password for winning the indigenous people’s confidence to allow their ancestral land, forest and resources to be submerged and uproot them from their peaceful existence.

The State as well as the dam builders’ policy on the indigenous people’s remains incompatible to the survival prospect of the same who were expected to sacrifice their land. It is evident that if the project is imposed on the indigenous peoples and their land it will result in violation not only of their rights, but also of their survival chances. While the obligatory process of “free, prior and informed consent” evades the people who would be affected, the State and the dam builders did not prepare the ground where participation must also be “active, free and meaningful.” Decisions relating to the rights and interests of the indigenous peoples are taken without their informed consent.

The supposed “consultation” or “public hearing” were merely “ceremonial contacts” that will never generate the desired legitimacy from the indigenous peoples. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the indigenous peoples felt that they were left out and excluded from all the required democratic process that ought to consider their consent. This has negated their belief of the principles of equality before law and equal protection of the law.

The indigenous people’s experiences under the Government of Manipur further affirm this reality time and time again. The failure to identify the indigenous peoples who will be affected by the project still remains a hurdle.

Secondly, there is no recognition of the survival and cultural uniqueness of the indigenous peoples in the proposed project area. This severely undermines the value that land and forest have for the indigenous peoples. As a result, the “compensation” measures that have become a tool failed to secure the consent of the people who will be severely affected.

Not only that, the indigenous peoples were left out again in the race for compensation. There is already a visible growing resentment as few acclaimed “representatives” colludes with bureaucrats and politicians to seal a larger share of the compensation in the name of the people who will be affected. This has created stark social division in the proposed project area as well as in other areas that will be impacted. A handful of compensation seekers who wanted the dam because of the money composed the pro- Tipaimukh dam group.

Thirdly, there is no “culturally appropriate development plan based on full consideration of the options preferred by the indigenous peoples.” While the indigenous peoples wanted the State and the dam builders to recognise and protect their rights to own, develop, control and use their land and resources, the State or the dam builders could not draw any lines to safeguard their interests. Failing to subscribe to and digressing from the overblown “development” project, the indigenous peoples believe that the supposed “development” path that is expected to be ushered by the project will only hamper their livelihood system and survival prospect.

The indigenous people’s opines that the project will create social catastrophe after their land is submerge and the people uprooted, insecure and displaced. Fourthly, the absence of transparency has severely undermined the interest of the indigenous people in whose land the dam is proposed. This has barred the indigenous communities from the decision making processes.

Fifthly, the proposed project fails to recognise ownership of indigenous peoples land rights. The project is seen as an attempt to push them out of their land and reduce the customary tenurial rights of indigenous peoples to land and other resources by merely according them user rights. This amounts to negation of the indigenous people’s rights over land that are owned and used by them in conformity with customary laws since time immemorial.

As land is central to the existence of indigenous peoples, the land question that is surfacing with the proposed project threatens the indigenous communities and their survival prospect. The State as well as the dam builders ought to prioritised the sustainability of the indigenous people’s culture, livelihood system and their active participation in decisions that will affect them.

Sixthly, despite the threat of negative adverse impacts the project would have, the indigenous communities are not aware of any clear pre-conditions for the Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydro Electric Project’s approval. The project that is absent of any social assessment process, therefore, is seen as imposed and undemocratic.

Seventhly, with the denial and discrimination of the rights of indigenous people it has become a necessity for the State actors as well as the dam builders to incorporate an assessment of the legal status of the indigenous peoples as reflected in the Country’s constitution and legislation.

Besides, the indigenous peoples should be able to obtain access to and effectively use the legal system to defend their rights. However, and despite that, it is important to note that the indigenous communities’ social and economic status limits their capacity to defend their interests. For the same purpose, the State as well as the dam builders must start by doing its homework to deliver and acquire “free and prior informed consent “of the indigenous communities.

Moreover, in recognition of the right to information, all the documents relating to the project should be made public. The absence of this has been exempting the threatened people from the project that will, otherwise, cause social turbulence.

Eightly, the adverse social impact of the Tipaimukh Multipurpose HEP, whether short term or cumulative, have been seriously under-estimated. More importantly, with the proposed dam to be situated in Manipur, the Government of Manipur, which is often considered to be running a “failed State” and further militarised, should question the development effectiveness that the proposed Tipaimukh dam would have under its initiative. When any projects - small, medium or big- that was undertaken by the Government of Manipur severely stagnates in if not corruption then in all sorts of inefficiencies, the proposed Tipaimukh HEP also stand on the same ground.

Performance problems, in terms of cost over-running, project delays, absence of political will and accountability, and security imbroglio severely often plagued the Government of Manipur’s efforts. In looking at the future of the Tipaimukh HEP, it is necessary to learn from Manipur Governments’ past by reviewing the success or failure of the many projects that it has taken up. If we look at Tipaimukh constituency’s reality today, the Government of Manipur failed to maintain the only national highway, NH 150 that passes through Tipaimukh.

There is not even a bridge to connect the highway between Mizoram and Manipur; no concerned Government officials were stationed in Tipaimukh; no health centres, public distribution system is absent, no government-run school and institutions and no civil administration. Moreover, the constituency is currently battling with food-shortage and epidemic deaths. If these people are further robbed of their land and rights by the proposed project, their present state of deprivation would certainly deteriorate to further deny them of their citizenship rights.

Moreover, the question of security with the project cannot be underestimated in a place where various armed groups are taking vantage of the vacuum left behind by the collapse of civil administration. The cost of security should be look at against the interest of “development”. Besides that, the indigenous peoples will pay heavy price for the “security” presence.

If the proposed Tipaimukh dam cannot be imagined without the presence of security forces, the social acceptability and consensus of the leviathan project should be seriously considered. If dam builders, in their blind pursuit for profit making, fail to understand the indigenous people’s interests and perspective, the proposed project would merely enhance militarisation in the already militarised State to further induce social conflict. The indigenous people cannot be isolated from the proposed project in any of the processes.

In the end, the dam builders would merely leave behind social crisis, which will heavily toll the indigenous peoples who comprised of the biggest stakeholders. The rights and risks approach should be used to identify legitimate stakeholders in all the processes. It is high time that the dam builders, who are merely translating the dam in terms of monetary profit, overcome their profit syndrome for all purposes.

Otherwise, the rights of the indigenous peoples and the inevitable voluntary and involuntary risks would wholly negate the prospect of real development. At the same time, human rights should also constitute the fundamental framework within which human development must be pursued.

If the “dominant” dam builders failed to understand the indigenous peoples perspectives, it would only result in creating ripples of protracted social crisis that will never be incompensable. The dam builders should be morally responsible and not leave behind layers of problems in the already fractured State of Manipur that fails to come to term with itself.