Govt defying NGT directive on Mapithel Dam: MDAVO

CHRONICLE BUREAU IMPHAL, 26th Feb: Mapithel Dam Affected Villages Organisation (MDAVO) has expressed serious concern over the alleged deliberate non-compliance of the order of the Eastern Zone Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), Kolkata by the Water Resource Department, Manipur concerning violation of Forest Rights by Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project.

The order was passed by the NGT directing the state to comply with the provisions of Forest Right (Recognition of Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA, 2006), to ensure proper consultation with the traditional bodies or Gram Sabha or its equivalent as required under the FRA, 2006 and to implement the court's directions within three months, that is March 6, 2018. The NGT order was issued on December 6, 2017 in the review petition No. 46/2016/EZ dated April 7, 2016 filed by the affected villagers after almost five years of litigation against violation of forest and environment laws, especially the FRA, 2006, in the construction of Mapithel dam, pointed out MDAVO chairman Dominic Kashung in a statement.

The state government has not taken up any positive initiative so far. With hardly ten days to complete three months, the government is nowhere in the preparation to comply with the order within the next ten days, thus indicating a clear dishonoring of the directions of NGT court.

As such if the state government fails to comply with the order under the NGT Act, 2010, then the government is liable to receive penalty under section 26 and 30 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the statement said.

As per the necessary conditions stipulated in the Forest Clearance on the process of seeking consent, the community people have to be given enough space for serious discussion comprising at least 50 per cent quorum of each village Assembly regarding forest diversion proposal at the rate of 595 hectares. If the forest owners are satisfied with the consideration made by the state government assuring long term livelihood sustainability, the required consent process can be cleared which will be considered clearance criteria being fulfilled. If the result is in contrary, the so called Forest Clearance could be revoked, he observed.

MDAVO chairman contended that the proposed plan to commission Mapithel dam in March 2018 without implementing the NGT court order of December 2017 would be definitely repeating the hundred years of historic injustice done to the forest dependent communities in India where there was a clear chapter of force execution and suppressing rights of citizen. Such suppression undermine necessary procedures under the National Forest & Environmental laws and customary laws of the tribal community people.

Additionally, MDAVO would like to state that the plan for commissioning the Mapithel dam project without properly addressing the plights of the affected communities inhabiting in the upstream and downstream of the Mapithel dam, without conducting a holistic Impacts Assessment, undermining rights of the tribal land owners and without completing key infrastructure for intended objectives of the project would totally be irrational, added the statement.

Finally, MDAVO affirmed that it will oppose the undemocratic, irrational, premature and forceful plan to commission the Mapithel dam of Thoubal Multipurpose Project. The government should learn from the Khuga dam experience, where the dam remained non-functional even after almost ten years of commissioning in 2010. Dominic also insisted that the government should fully comply with the direction of the NGT to implement the Forest Rights Act in the case of Mapithel dam.

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