Villagers demand decommissioning of Ithai barrage

STAFF REPORTER IMPHAL, 9th Sep: As many villages in Bishnupur district continue to submerge due to the Ithai barrage blocking natural flow of rivers, villagers are staring at imminent artificial famine. A large number of these villagers are beginning to raise their long suppressed voices against the barrage which put them under immense suffering instead of doing any good.

Many women staged sit-in protests at Ishok Chingphu Ching Keithel, Shantipur Shamushang and Leimapokpam Keithel demanding decommissioning of the barrage on Saturday.

The inundation of numerous paddy fields at these villages have made rice cultivation impossible. Converting their paddy fields into fish farms is also unrewarding due to frequent floods. Some paddy fields where rice was cultivated in the past have been submerged under water for more than three years after commissioning of Ithai barrage. This caused frequent floods in these villages.

As cultivation is not possible in their villages, they are purchasing rice from other areas. This has not only caused an artificial famine but has made the villagers dependent on others.

Oinam Pramodhini, one of the protesters, informed that since construction of Ithai Barrage, all the paddy fields in Leimapokpam have been inundated.

"The village which produced abundant food crops in the past has been reduced to a dependant village. As floods affect the village annually, many houses are inundated frequently. In the last three years, no agricultural activities could be taken up in the village," she lamented.

Briefing media persons about Saturday's stir, Committee on Human Rights (CoHR) chairman Phulindro Konsam said various multinational companies are undertaking different projects with the collaboration of some people in the name of development.

If the projects launched purportedly for benefitting people under the garb of bringing development fail to provide anything worthwhile, they can be considered as anti-development, he claimed.

Owing to commissioning of Ithai barrage, many villages have been inundated as the path of free-flowing water has been obstructed causing extensive damages, Phulindro said, adding that many villages which have never experienced floods in the past are reeling under severe floods.

Moreover, the inundation of numerous paddy fields are causing artificial famine as rice cultivation has become impossible, he pointed out.

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