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Riverine Ecosystem of the Chakpi River: Its Past, Present & the way ahead


The Chakpi River originated from the western flank slope at a height of 1755 Metres above Mean Sea Level having the Laimaton Cliff of TengnoupalKhunau and Shenam hills. It is a obsequent tributary to the Manipur River. It has total catchment area of about 660 sq. km. During the topographical mapping, in the year 1935 American Army recorded only 12 villages settlement in the basin of the Chakpi River. They are Shenam, TengnoupalKhunou, Kongbei, Tarao, KeplaiChing, Mittong, MittongKhunou, LambungMonsang, Chandel, Modi, NamphouPhasha and Chakpikarong. Today the Chakpi accommodated five villages in the upstream watershed area namely Kongpe, LeishingKhul,Tarao, Thangkin and Larfu. However 19 villages are situated in the right bank of the downstream Chakpi and 12 villages in the left banks. Right bank villages are Monsang Pantha, Japhou, Riverlane, Hnahringkhu, Hnatham, ChandelChristanVillage,Modi, Bolindam, Angthi, YangkhulChingKhunthak, Anal Khunau, Chakpikarong, Tampi, Haringphe, Dangkhu, Nungpan, Sange,  Warkhuhrin, Taupokpi and Chingtam. Lambung, Mantripantha, LamphouCharu, Anal Khullen, Suthum, ChakpikarongKhupi, Peace Island, Agaphe, Novokom, Salluk, Y. Thingkhangphai and Serou are the left bank villages.
Chakpi bestowed upon its basin one of the most fertile agricultural tracts of the Chandel district. These tracts form a corridor between the valley settlement and the highlanders with a strong tie of emotional integration between the Tarao and Anal tribes with the Meiteis of the Manipur Valley. The flow of the Chakpi River flows down with many legendary tells. One of the stories tells us that the Sanggu Leima the Goddess of Tarao tribe tried to chase by the Kondong God from Burma. He rushed towards Sanggu Leima in the form of wild fire. Then the Wangpuren (Wangbren) the Khana  Chaoba (the protector god of southern frontier of the Meitei) rushed up to the Tengnoupal Laimaton cliff in the form of huge water and suppress the wildfire of Kondong and thus rescue the SangguLeima. After that WangbrenKhanaChaoba eloped with the SangguLeima Goddess of Tarao. Another tale of Anal Tribe says that the Chakpi River and its catchment area fall under the legendary travel route of the Meitei Deity Wangbren. The Deity Wangbren travelled from Sugnu (a small township where the shrine of the Wangbren Shrine is located) to Anal Khullen (Chakpi LhuThu) and Anal Khullen then proceeded to Sugnu (Duyang Ru Duchii Thu). On his return journey he eloped with Anal damsel Shangnu. However legendaries of both Tarao and Anal ended with submerged of Sanggu and Shangnu into the water of the Chakpi River and lost forever. There are many immortal memories mingling with the wisdoms of the communities settle in the vicinity of the Chakpi Basin. Monoliths of the Anal Khullen are the living museum, which dignifies the identities with pride of their communities. The Chakpi River influences the evolution of endemic cultural civilization among the different communities along the Basin. The construction of a new house and ceremony of house warming in Tarao communities is an identical one, which can be cited as an example.

The role of the Chakpi River in the geomorphic formation of the Manipur Valley is scientifically a significant one. The course of the Manipur River near Sugnu Nungthong is tectonically uplifted and known as Sugnu Hump the River act as antecedent flow has been created.  Simultaneously the Chakpi River as an obsequent tributary join the Manipur River and as a result the Manipur River water had continuously been impounded to form a vast sheet of water, before the present Manipur valley landscape has been transformed. Therefore, some of the renowned geomorphologies, clamed, the Valley of Manipur are fluvial lacustrine origin. This kind of scientific finding of the Chakpi River and formation of Manipur Valley and the legendary wisdom of the Wangbren’s touring route both in the Chakpi and in the upward flow of the Manipur River is a unique trend of the creation of Manipur Valley and its evolution of the human settlement in the vicinity of these riverine eco-system. Knowing and fully realizing the significance of the Sugnu Hump, the then Kingdom of Manipur worshiped the Hump as Sugnu Nungthong, locking it with iron log and key annually by Royal Court ‘Maiba’ (Priest) and ‘Maibi’ (Prtiestess). Similarly Valley dwellers of Manipur believed that the upward impounding of Manipur River flow from Sugnu taken symbolically as the visit of Sugnu Hanjaba (Prophet of Wangbren Shrine) to Capital Kangla signifies the Wangbren visit to Kangla the then capital of Manipur. During the period of Sugnu Hanjaba’s visit towards Imphal people were forbidden from accessing water bodies and Rivers as it signifies the visit of the Wangbren God. However, after the commission of Ethai Barrage intervention to this genetical functioning of its hydrological regime has been deformed irreparably. Now we are encountering with adverse consequences caused by the fatal alteration of the drainage systems of the Manipur Valley. Micro-eco-system of Loktak, Pumlen Ecope, Kharungpat etc has been seriously degraded. As a result many of the native flora and fauna are now in the impending danger of becoming extinct and some have already become extinct from the territorial space of the state permanently.  Currently the Government of Manipur is attempting the ancestral holy river Chakpi with the so called developmental intervention like Chakpi Dam project. The process of construction of Chakpi Hydel Electric Project which started and ensued without the prior informed consent of the communities of the Chakpi Basin has all the potential to become disastrously suicidal. This project will affect 65 villages and more than 600 sq.km of land in the catchment area will permanently submerged under water of the proposed dam. It will not only completely wipe out their livelihood, but also their traditional, Natural and Cultural Heritages will be lost permanently and gone forever.  Today, we are observing India Rivers Day with the conviction of preserving our natural resources and cultural heritage to sustain the riverine eco-system of the Chakpi River. Let the Chakpi River flow freely nurturing and nourishing the growth of biodiversity in the basin.

Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh
Convener INTACH, Manipur Chapter.

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