Dimapur, March 31 (MExN): Joining in the opposition of the Tipaimukh multipurpose Hydroelectric Project in Manipur, the Sinlung Indigenous People Human Rights Organisation (SIPHRO) today declared the construction of the proposed Tipaimukh dam as immature and made its stand clear that ‘big dams’ is not the solution to mitigate the lives of the people.
A press statement issued by the SIPHRO Secretary, Lalremlien Neitham, while terming the construction of the Tipaimukh dam as immature, said that ‘the process for choosing it ignored both the indigenous people and the recommendations of the WCD (World Commission on Dams)’. “SIPHRO is convinced that there are better ways towards development and helping the poor compartments get water and electricity. It urged the State actors as well as non-state actors to identify them,” it stated.
Asserting that construction of big dams is not the solution to mitigate the lives of the people, the organisation expressed strong feeling on the urgent need to provide education, policy support, technical assistance and funds to the indigenous people in Tipaimukh to undertake their own mitigation measures in the areas of building small-scale energy systems, biodiversity conservation, managing streams and rivers, improving livelihood, etc. Through it the people can be benefited from the environmental services derived from their land and resources.
In this regard, the release suggested that processes and mechanisms for the valuation of these environmental services, and methods that allow them to get adequate benefits should be developed jointly with the indigenous people who are the traditional dwellers of the land.
“Besides, there are many other options and alternatives to explore in the quest of developing Tipaimukh. Big Dam is not the solution,” it declared. The organisation also stated that in this present world, dams stand to represent the symptom of the larger failure of the unjust and destructive dominant development model. Globally the failure of large dams to provide their claimed benefits and poor performance needs to be recognized and accepted.
Asserting that the promotion of large-scale technologies or large scale hydropower technologies should be discouraged in Tipaimukh, the SIPHRO maintained that any plans to build Large Hydro Dams should take into consideration the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams (WCD). It said that indigenous peoples in different parts of the world have already disappeared due to sea-water rise and erosion and have also become environmental refugees due to big dams.
“Displacement and any forms of exclusion of the indigenous peoples from their land, forest, rivers, resources and their rights upon it, should be avoided at all costs,” it stated and added that SIPHRO stand to safeguard the indigenous people from any forces that may result in disempowering and division of the same people.
The indigenous people of Tipaimukh should not be allowed to experience the same plights in their ancestral land, it declared.
The release also asserted that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should serve as the key framework in the formulation of plans for development and should be considered in all processes related to the multi-purpose project proposed in Tipaimukh. In this regard, the SIPHRO strongly felt the need to reform existing laws of land tenure system, which discriminate the collective rights of indigenous people in their land. However, the release stated that the Tipaimukh dam, instead of alleviating poverty, will have severe impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people and therefore urged the Government of Manipur and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) to immediately stop marketing and mitigating the Tipaimukh multipurpose project as a model dam project and panacea to Tipaimukhs’ development woes.
Besides, the release maintained that in a State like Manipur, which known for its notoriety and corruption, financial mismanagement and lack of transparency and political will, there would be little evidence to support the promises.
Moreover, the release also affirmed that the political climate in Manipur works against successes for such a plan, since it maintained that the experience of the Hmar indigenous people with the Government of Manipur is one marred with untold marginalization and deprivation, and therefore, the present situation of Tipaimukh is more than enough to speak for any promises made with the proposed project.
“When the Government of Manipur immensely failed to exhibit any commitment to addressing the serious plights of the Hmar indigenous people in Tipaimukh in the face of gross human rights violations, absence of public distribution system and governance, absence of infrastructure, etc., it is beyond the expectation of the Hmar indigenous people to expect the same government or NEEPCO to make a commitment to address the project’s broader social, economic and environmental objectives,” it said. Also terming the Tipaimukh project as one sided; the SIPHRO firmly opined that the project requires a collaborative study by using the WCD Report and focusing on the interest and rights of the indigenous people.
“There is an urgent need to revisit, whether or not the proposed project that will result in building a mega dam is needed in the light of the WCD recommendation and the challenges of the indigenous people,” it stated and added that if a joint study clearly and “ambiguously” illustrates that the dam is needed, the Organisation would be compelled to look for the best option available for the indigenous people, their land and resources and support it, otherwise, it will always stand to address the numerous shortcomings in the interest of the indigenous people, their ancestral land and inalienable rights, it added.
In this connection, the release pointed out that the NEEPCO and the Government of Manipur ought to understand that the biggest stakeholders in the case of the proposed project are the indigenous Hmar people.
As such, the release declared that the indigenous people cannot be left out in anything that concerns them, and that they should be practically involved in any process of decision-making with equal status to other stakeholders, if there is any.
“The biggest stakeholder, who, today, constitutes the marginalized, poor, and vulnerable group, should not be neglected in anything that concerns them, their land, rivers, forest, culture and resources,” the release stated and added that the State actors, dam builders and other non-state actors should incorporate the rights of the same people into any of their plans that involved their land, forest and rivers. In doing so, they should consider the stakeholder rights, land rights and the broader human rights, it said.
Source: The Morung Express
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