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The Hindu on : Manipur Ministers' volteface on dam

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Thursday, December 23, 1999

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Manipur Ministers' volteface on dam

By Our Correspondent

IMPHAL, DEC. 22. The Ministers in Manipur seem to have undergone a change of heart - they are now supporting the proposal for the construction of the Rs. 6,000-crore dam at the trijunction of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur across the Barak river.

In view of mounting opposition from the people, the Manipur Legislative Assembly had resolved on March 14,1997 to oppose the construction of the dam. Survey report by the Brahmaputra Board said that 326.733 of land in Manipur will be submerged by the dam waters. Thirtyone tribal villages will be totally submerged. Manipur's lifeline, the National Highway No. 53, shall be partially submerged with the result that an extension of the National Highway measuring 57 km will have to be constructed.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. L. Chandramani, who was earlier the Irrigation and Flood Control Minister had told TheHindu that there is no money for the construction of the National Highway bypass and that the Manipur Government was expected to foot the bill. Besides, there is no provision for the rehabilitation of the affected tribals in the Rs. 200-crore rehabilitation package of the Tipaimukh dam.

He had also said that a huge quantity of water will be stored at the high mountains. Manipur is an earthquake-prone zone. If there is a major earthquake, the people of Manipur will be drowned.Assam would benefit in the real sense - the government shall save over Rs. 40 crores being spent annually to control the recurring flood in the Barak Valley.

But in a sudden volte face the Cabinet had taken a decision early this month to take steps to rescind the Manipur Assembly resolution objecting to the Tipaimukh Dam.

Not surprisingly, most of the Ministers had spoken in favour of the dam during the one-day session of December 15. They said their apprehensions had been based on the survey report of the Brahmaputra Board (BB). But the North Eastern Power Corporation (NEEPCO) has submitted another less alarming report. It says that only 260 of land in Manipur will be submerged. It will also not be necessary to construct the 57 km long National Highway bypass. Instead of 31 villages, only six will be submerged. Besides three of the villages are already deserted as a result of the ethnic clashes.

They further said once commissioned the dam shall generate 1,500 MW to the power-starved North Eastern region. Being the affected State, Manipur shall get 12 per cent of the power generated free of cost.

The NEEPCO report says that the 180-metre-high wall, to be constructed across the Barak river, shall be reduced to 170.5 metres.From the tenor of the speeches the Ministers had made in support of the dam, it is clear that the Manipur Government shall give the carte blanche to the authorities for the construction of the dam. However, the Ministers had insisted on another survey to gauge the merits and demerits of the dam.But the opponents of the dam say that this is a face-saving plan. Besides, it is suspicious why the Ministers are spurning the BB report and accepting the report of the NEEPCO without any questions. They say that it will not be surprising if the proposed survey comes out with a report saying there will be no threat to the people by the dam.

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