Aizawl, Aug 9 : Dam activists here are on alert once again over the controversial 1,500 MW Tipaimukh dam as the Union Environment & Forest Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) is scheduled to discuss forest clearance for the dam on August 13 and 14. The project area is at the confluence of rivers on the Manipur-Mizoram border.
The agenda before the FAC is diversion of 1551.60 ha of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for construction of the dam in Mizoram. The affected people of Tipaimukh dam had recently held a joint public meeting at Khawpuar in Aizawl district to outrightly reject the dam.
The FAC had rejected the forest clearance for the dam on the Manipur side of the river in view of its heavy environment and social cost in its sitting recently. The FAC noted that “It may be mentioned that another proposal for the same project seeking diversion of 27,777.50 ha in Manipur was discussed by the FAC in its meeting held on July 11 and 12 and concluded that requirement of the forest land for the project is large and is disproportionate to its power generation capacity. Also very high ecological, environmental and social impact/cost of the diversion of vast tract of the forest land will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project. The FAC, therefore, strongly recommended that approval for diversion of the said forest land should not be accorded.
A high level source in the Mizoram Forest department told this reporter that he believes that the FAC is unlikely to accord forest clearance when it has already rejected clearance for 95 per cent of the dam submergence area on the Manipur side.
In any case, the Mizoram Forest department fact sheet for the proposed clearance is full of holes, contradictions and even outright lies, according to the activists. It says that giving the forest clearance will have no social costs, thereby failing to mention that 14 villages will be directly impacted by the submergence of their ancestral jhumlands.
Another matter which needs to be fully exposed is the way the compensatory forest scheme is being worked out. “When a continuous forest area is to be submerged, it stands to reason that the compensatory forest in exchange for this will also be a similar continuous forest area but the department has proposed 17 separate blocks of forests spread out across far flung villages,” pointed out a resident in the dam impact area.