Good job bringing this to light. People won't realise how huge the problem is and municipalities are woefully ill equipped to...
Agreed; mining can never be sustainable, but then how do you get the metals to make all the things you need in the course of...
Very good piece.
The project is to come up in Churachandpur, a Hmar-dominated area. Some Hmar leaders are not completely unhappy with the idea, because they believe their community stands to gain.
John Pulamte, Hmar Students' Association's president, says "The Hmar community does not object completely as the people firmly believe that the dams will bring the much-needed development to these interior areas." Pulamte makes a cogent case for his people "Firstly, if the areas to be submerged are wasteland, I think we have nothing to lose. Secondly, there are no good schools, hospitals, electricity or even proper roads. So people feel that with the coming of the dam, these facilities will follow."
But there is an obvious caveat. Pulamte makes it clear that his people realise that neepco is not responsible for providing these amenities, the government is. State failure is a big issue in Manipur."Every night our people see the electric light on the other side of the border in Mizoram. So they wait for a night when they can have lights in their villages too," he says.
But it's not a one-way street, even for the gainers. Pulamte, for instance, has his doubts. He claims though the community is open to the proposed project, there are apprehensions. "Who will guarantee security of livelihood; even if we get houses and electricity if we don't have rice to eat, the benefits are meaningless to us." He observes that since the people are mostly illiterate, transparency becomes a casualty. Pulamte's is one of the organisations that have formed actip to protest against the project.
However, neepco defends Tipaimukh. Ibomcha Singh, deputy general manager, neepco, Manipur, says "The area to be affected is practically a no man's land. With the coming of the project, roads and communication will improve significantly. Apart from free power, there will be tremendous scope for small-scale industries. In a place like Manipur with acute unemployment problem, the availability of free power will be a boon. There is scope for developing pisciculture, water sports, tourism, and development of small townships, commercial centres and facilities for marketing agricultural products. Since the forest area will become restricted after the project, wood cutting will be banned and the forest can be saved."
When asked how many jobs the project will bring, he says, "There will be 400 jobs, both skilled and unskilled, and many indirect employment opportunities." He forgets to mention that most of these jobs shall last only till the dam is up. The jobs will disappear as the dam becomes functional -- if it goes by plan, by 2012.
"For the politicians and the well connected in the region it's a bonanza in a sense. They all see contracts and money. As is typical in the region, if a large company wants to get a work done in a particular area, tahe only way is to contract it out to leaders and well-connected business people from the area belonging to the dominant ethnic group. They can negotiate with the underground, the community leaders and understand ethnic nuances," explains a senior journalist.
For the lesser mortals small contracts, say to lift gravel from the river behind their village to the project site or start a teashop for the migrant labour, can mean a bonanza.
The Naga leaders in Tamenglong don't see it that way. "It is not right to bring advantage to one group at the cost of another," says D Dikambui, the president of the Zeliangrong Union, the apex social body of the people of Tamenglong. It is immensely influential. The Zeliangrong tribe is part of the Naga groups that predominate in Tamenglong. "If some people shall get a little benefit at the cost of our people how can the government trade off one community's future against the others?" This tirade is repeated by every Zeliangrong elder or leader that one meets. Very often it boils into anger. "If this is what the government wants to do then we shall have no option but to pick up arms. We shall defend our way of life and our lands," says Guiliang Panmei, adviser Zeliangrong Women's Union. This is not an empty threat in a district where Naga groups are immensely powerful. They are concerned with what the Zeliangrong Naga in Tamenglong will lose, if the Tipaimukh dam comes up.