The Action Committee on Tipaimukh (ACTIP), Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD), Centre for Organization Research and Education (CORE), and Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action (FIPA) have reliably learnt of the visiting team of 13 Bangladesh nationals led by Bangladesh External Affairs Publicity Wing Deputy Director Mohammad Zashimuddin invited by the Government of India to study and assess the effects of the multi-purpose hydro-electric Tipaimukh project at the tri-junction of Assam, Manipur and Mizoram.
While appreciating the visiting team from Bangladesh to study and assess the ground realities, what is clear is that the teams’ (including that of the previous Law Makers’) aerial survey of the site is guided hydro-power tourism by the government and the dam proponent. They inevitably will go back with stories that back the dam. What can be really learnt from a day’s token aerial flight over the dam site? An earnest assessment of the environment and social impacts of such hydro-power projects would take considerable time, including a study that encompasses the annual seasonal changes of the river, its catchment and downstream areas.
Moreover, we note once more the unfortunate absence of neither intimation nor any encouragement from the Government to also invite representatives from the States of Assam and Manipur that have the highest stake in the whole project to also study and assess the effects of the multi-purpose hydro-electric Tipaimukh project with full sanctions from the government. Far from doing just that, any attempt at such studies and assessments by the peoples have rather been often viewed suspiciously, if not negatively, by the government.
Indigenous and tribal peoples directly and indirectly to be affected by the project have been excluded in all the consultations and decision making processes. The few public meetings and hearings held by the authorities on this issue have been so far a farce, and ended in total failures with the trademark absence of transparency, accountability and inclusivity.
Groups who have been protesting against the dam for more than 15 years now are being sidelined while trying to appease Bangladesh. The present visit is not the first as other dignitaries from Bangladesh have also been airlifted to Tipaimukh in the past to ‘survey and assess’ the proposed project. While consent from Bangladesh is necessary, that too for the sake of India’s international image, the government must also get consent from the mentioned States and concerned grassroots indigenous peoples along with the organizations that represent them. Not doing this is a clear violation of both national and international laws and an unjustifiable act on the part of the Government of India in depriving the indigenous peoples of their rights to Self Determination, Participation and Free Prior and Informed Consent, negating every commitment to sustainable development.
We would like to underscore that ignoring the crucial linkages of a river’s upstream, midstream, and downstream flows can endanger not just the river, but human communities and ecology sustained by it. According to experts, a disregard of environmental flows, by construction of dams, has already harmed many rivers in the Western Ghats, giving rise to protracted political as well as environmental issues.
The unrelenting denial of the rights, roles and participation of the indigenous peoples and organizations in their development, future and the proper recognition of indigenous peoples and tribal peoples as custodians of their resources once more proves that politicians and government, no matter how democratic they may appear to be, never really cared for the peoples, especially the marginalized indigenous and tribal peoples even though welfare, inclusivity and participation are always their rhetoric in development and administration.
The people of Bangladesh and their present government must take a responsible decision at this juncture where their decision must not lead to India going ahead with the dam. The upstream population will also not jeopardize the life and future of Bangladesh.