Imphal, Aug. 8: Environmentalists today urged the forest advisory committee of the forest and environment ministry not to give clearance to the use of forestland in Mizoram for the Tipaimukh multi-purpose hydro-electric project.
A resolution to this effect was adopted at a one-day public meeting, organised by the United NGO Mission Manipur, here today.
The committee, which has already denied clearance for forestland in Manipur for the project, will meet on August 13 and 14 to take up the Mizoram forestland issue.
The committee, which last met on July 11 and 12, has stated in its report that the requirement of forestland for the project is large and would have an adverse impact on the general ecosystem of the area.
The report says the Tipaimukh dam requires 24,329 hectares of forestland — more than one-fifth of the total 1,18,184 hectares of forestland required for the execution of 497 hydel projects in the entire country.
The 1,500MW project, located near the Manipur-Mizoram boundary, will affect 1,700 hectares of forestland in Mizoram in addition to vast tracts of forestland in Manipur, environmentalists said.
Though the committee has denied forest clearance in Manipur for the project, apprehension persists among environmentalists and citizens’ organisations that the forest and environment ministry would not accept the committee’s report and go ahead with the project.
The foundation for this apprehension is based on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s offer of a stake in the project to Bangladesh. Singh had made the offer when he met Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni in New Delhi after the committee had denied it forest clearance.
“Though the project is not viable, India wants to construct it as a foreign policy. India wants to develop good relationship with Bangladesh and Myanmar by providing power. The project is important for New Delhi and not for Manipur and Mizoram,” L. Debabrata Roy, convener of the Centre for Organisation Research and Education, an Imphal-based NGO, said.
He alleged that New Delhi was not concerned about the welfare and development of the Northeast.
He said the Tipaimukh project, the trans-Asian highway and the trans-Asian railway line were all meant for good relations with Asian countries. Manipur would not benefit out of this.
“We should not allow privatisation and corporatisation of our land and forest for the benefit of only a few people. We should campaign against the project at the political level,” he said.
A resolution adopted by the meeting urged the Bangladesh government not to accept the project for more power and water at the cost of land, forest and rights of the people of the Northeast.
It also demanded revocation of the environment clearance given by the forest and environment ministry on October 24, 2008, in view of the non-clearance by the forest advisory committee.
Another resolution demanded that the Manipur forest department withdraw its clearance to the project.
“The National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation should immediately shut its office here and go back from Manipur,” the resolution demanded.