40,000 tribal people face displacement, starvation as government builds mega dam in Manipur, north east India
Achungmei Kamei, a tribal woman and our correspondent in Manipur brings us this video about sufferings of tribal people caused by a mega dam project. Manipur is a hill state of India that has a fragile ecology, but a great reserve of biodiversity and has been home to about a hundred thousand Naga tribal people like Achungmei. For them land and forest are the main sources of livelihood. Today, nearly half of them are about to becomes refugees as a government mega dam project called Tipaimukh Hydro Electric Project is destroying their land, their forest and will submerge the homes when it is completed.
People of Manipur – tribal and non-tribal alike – have been protesting the construction of Tipaimukh dam for over ten years now. The government says, the dam will generate 1500 megawatt of electricity. But people say, the cost that locals have to pay is much too higher. Besides homes and land, there will be loss of cultural heritage of tribal people which is interwoven with the forest and river by which they live.
For an example, everyone in Achungmei’s community members is a marginal farmer who practices slash and burn cultivation method, growing little rice and vegetables. Those who don’t have enough land, earn a living by laboring into others farms. Building of Tipaimukh will render all of them landless.
Research has showed that the dam will submerge about 27,242 hectares of cultivable land and will also increase salinity of ground water, making it unsafe for drinking.
Achungmei thinks, the biggest reason why government easily ignores her community’s plea is that they are poor, powerless and live in a remote region. They are so poor, even attending multiple protest rallies is difficult for them because they need to labour everyday to afford a square meal. Resources are another issue. The people of her community cannot afford to journey to the capital or other big cities where the government authorities sit and demonstrate there. And if they protest locally, it never reaches out far.
Achungmei, as a community correspondent, has decided to amplify her community’s voice with the help of technology. So for her now her camera is her weapon to fight for her community and defend their right to land, forest and livelihood. Through this video she is making an effort to share with the world how government agencies are spending money on development projects that will be disastrous for her community and garner support for their struggle.
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