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Public consultation resolved No to oil exploration in Manipur and Decommission Ithai Barrage

IMPHAL:The Loktak Project Affected Areas Action Committee, the Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization, JAC – Mapithel Dam Downstream Affected Peoples, Loktak Fisheries Welfare Association, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur and the Committee on Human Rights jointly organized a one day consultation on “Protection of Land and Natural Resources in Manipur” at the Manipur Press Club, Imphal on 2 September 2017. 

Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur stressed the need for stronger protection of land and natural resources of Manipur and expressed concern that the current neo-liberal model of development introduced in Manipur has led to increased targeting, expropriation and plunder of our land and resources in Manipur. The development processes, both policies and projects introduced are introduced without the consultation and consent of the people of Manipur and often incompatible to their development wishes and aspirations.  

Pamei Tingenlung, CPNRM expressed concern with ongoing push for oil exploration in Manipur without the consent of the indigenous peoples and also without conducting an assessment of  the multiple impacts on land, flora fauna and the livelihood and survival of communities.  Gopen, Irabot Foundation deliberated that the Loktak project has unleashed loss of agriculture land and the economic impact due to loss of 80,000 acres of agriculture land needs a clear assessment. 

Salam Leinungshi, Thanga shared that Loktak wetlands provides livelihood for communities. Many of the fish and plant varieties are extinct. Many of the native rice varieties like Taothabi, Moirangphou are almost extinct due to the continued submergence of Loktak. The Government has blamed the communities for the pollution in Loktak wetlands. The Ithai Barrage of the Loktak project should be removed.  Mr. Brojen, advisor, AMESCO shared that projects like 105 MW Loktak project is intended to undermine the food sovereignty of Manipur and foster dependency on outsiders. 

Mr. Haobijam Kumar, President, All Loktak Lake Areas Fishermen Union also pressed for the repeal of the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 and to decommission the Ithai Barrage of Loktak Project. The NHPC remains irresponsible and unaccountable for the destruction of agriculture land and the suffering and livelihood loss to the people. The Ithai Dam is clearly a curse for Manipur.  The recent announcement of the Environment Minister of the Government of Manipur to evict encroachers from Loktak wetlands and peripheral area is a clear concern. Any development processes impacting Loktak need to consult and take consent of communities.  

Ms. Pantiliu Gonmei, Rongmei Lu Phaum, shared that the ongoing effort to drill oil in Tamenglong Areas and to build dams over the Barak River is a big concern.  The indigenous communities of Manipur need to come together and collectively strive for defense of land and resources.  Mr. Dominic Kashung, Chairman of Mapithel Dam Affected Villagers Organization shared that the Mapithel dam has led to submergence of more than 2000 hectares of agriculture land and caused livelihood loss in downstream areas. The Mapithel dam is marred with Forest rights violations, controversy around rehabilitation and resettlement and poor quality of dam. The feasibility and performance of the dam is still highly questionable, given the forest loss in catchment areas and the non-completion of key infrastructures of Mapithel dam. The dam will only make people suffer. 

Majabung Gangmei, Speaker, Zeliangrong Baudi shared that development policies like the Manipur Hydro Power Policy, 2012 was formulated proposing around Ten (10) dams all over the Rivers of Manipur. This policy formulation is despite the failure and underperformance of many of the dams built in Manipur. Ms. Nganbileima, a victim of eviction at Lamphel Yaipha Leikai shared that the wetlands of Manipur increasingly disappeared from Manipur. Lamphelpat in the vicinity of Imphal Town will be lost very soon, as multiple development and urban projects, like Sewerage Treatment Plant, NIT, Agriculture University, are introduced in wetlands.      

Mr. Phulindro Konsam, Chairman, Committee on Human Rights shared that International Financial Institutions like the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency etc are facilitating the loot and plunder of land and resources in Manipur through their road and railway projects. Such projects have failed to recognize communities’ rights over their land. 

Joy Haobijam, Loktak Project Affected Areas Action Committee, Heisnam Chaoba, Loktak Fisheries Welfare Association, Anandini, Managing Trustee, Just Peace Foundation also deliberated at the meet. The participants of the consultation later resolved to urge upon the Government of Manipur and the Government of India to:    

·       Decommission Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric project.  
·       Stop the Commissioning of Mapithel dam and to ensure the free flow of Thoubal River.

·       No to 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, 190 MW Pabram Dam etc over the Barak River.

·       Stop Oil Exploration in Manipur and revoke all licenses, contracts to Jubilant Energy, Oil India Limited and Asian Oilfields.   

·       All development policies like the North East Hydrocarbon Vision 2030, Manipur Hydro Power Policy, 2012, the Manipur Loktak Lake Protection Act, 2006 should be Scrapped and repealed.  

·       International Financial Institutions like the Asian Development Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency should stop financing projects like road projects, that will facilitate plunder of land and resource in Manipur.

·       Recognize indigenous peoples’ self –determined rights and development over their land and resources and all development processes not be carried out without their free, prior and informed consent in Manipur. 

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