THE Manipur government conceptualised the Chakpi multipurpose dam project in Chandel&’s Chakpikarong subdivision in 1988 but it was only in 2011 that members of the local organisation, Anal Naga Taangpi, were told that an approved project had been placed in the assembly for discussion. When they insisted on further information, they were told that 12 village chiefs were either lured or forced into giving their consent for testing of the river soil. They asked the chiefs to immediately withdraw their consent.
It is not that the Anta or the people of Chandel district are against development, it is just that they fear many indigenous people will be displaced from their ancestral homes once the process of acquisition of land starts. Recently, the Anta organised demonstrations in Chakpikarong and Japhou Bazar (Chandel headquarters) to protest against construction of the dam.
According to Anta, 65 villages will be affected, as against 44 claimed by the government in its detailed project report. Similarly 3,100 hectares will be submerged and not 916.54 hectares. The project was approved at an estimated cost of Rs 281 crore in June 2008. As per the 2011 annual report of the state irrigation and flood control, a DPR on the project was submitted to the Central Water Commission, New Delhi and after its rectification the final cost was put at Rs 426.90 crore.
The 78-metre high earthen dam, with a length of 510 metres, is aimed at irrigating 12,3785 hectares, providing 1.5 MGD water supply and generating 7.5 MW of hydel power. According to the state administration report, surveys are nearing completion. The project is likely to be implemented in the state&’s 11th plan.
The 3,350-sq km Chakpi river is a source of livelihood for thousands of inhabitants. The natives living on both banks include some of the most vulnerable ethnic groups like the Taraos (800 population), Monsangs (2,126), Chothes (2,672) and Moyons (2, 970) as per the 2011 Census. Others are Anals, Lamkangs, Thadous (Kukis), etc. These small communities fear that one day they will be wiped out as a community. Anta and the general public are worried about losing land in terms of holdings, ownership and control. A sensitive issue, indeed, wherein land is not merely an economy but an identity as well.
Chandel district is a forested border area and comes under the hill areas administration. Recently, the Anta raised several questions at a meeting in Delhi. It wanted to know whether or not the government had consulted the local people or the district council at the time of preparing the project. In 2011, the Anal Upliftment Forum filed an RTI seeking information on the project with regard to its assessment and status but there has been no response. The local people say they are being forced to give away their land but someone elsewhere will enjoy the benefits. They say the objective is to control floods and irrigate farmland in downstream Thoubal district.
Besides displacement of several people, the construction of the dam will also harm the fragile eco-system and bio-diversity. As defined by Mittermieir, et al (2004), the Indo-Burma hotspot, whose geographical area includes parts of the North-east, Bangladesh and Malaysia, ranks at the top of 10 hotspots for irreplaceability and in the top five for threat (endangered), with only five per cent of its natural habitat remaining and with more people than any other bio-diversity hotspot in the world.
The writer is a New Delhi-based freelance contributor