Dams affecting tribals in the country: HSA

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Imphal, Oct 3 (UNI) The Hmar Students Association(HSA) today urged the Manipur government to halt Tipaimukh Hydro Electric (Multipurpose) Project in the state, alleging that it is a threat to the tribal populace.

HSA vice-president Joseph Hmar said the state government and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd(NEEPCO) should deal with the issues raised by the people.

''Tribals and ethnic minorities have suffered adversely due to the construction of dams for the greater common good. According to government estimates, 40 per cent of all those displaced by dams are tribals who represent less than six per cent of the country's population,'' he said.

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) report stated that while dams had made an important contribution to development, in many cases, an unacceptable and often unnecessary price had been paid to secure those benefits.

''Migrant labourers and slum dwellers, bars and brothels cannot be our future,'' Mr Hmar said.

The impact of the Tipaimukh project upon the Hmar tribes was especially harmful as their natural resources, including Jhum lands and forests, were common property and therefore were rarely eligible for compensation.

''Even in extreme cases, when compensation is paid, cash compensations are rarely enough to purchase comparable replacement land,'' he said.

''Treating land and forest as commodity leads to annihilation of people and their identity had given lives to our fathers, grand-fathers and our ancestors,'' he said.

''The alienation of people by destructive development that advances only state finance while subjecting land and people as dispensable objects will be staunchly objected by the HSA,'' the vice-president said.

''Economy is a priority to the new generation, so are our cultural identities and our way of life,'' he added.

Without the guarantee of community health and livelihood of the project-affected people, the coming generation will have nothing to help them survive,'' he alleged.

Obtaining free, prior and informed consent of the people is obligatory for any project to be executed smoothly, he felt.

The HSA also urged Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and NEEPCO officials to discuss the matter in the light of the problems faced by the tribals.

UNI

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