The Mapithel dam construction has violated series of International standards on human rights and development rights. As India is the State party to United Nations, India has the obligation to respect, promote and implement the guideline prescribe by UN Development Programme (UNDP).However, the Govt of India and Manipur have the legacy of violating the International Obligation in many of the large scale development projects specially Mapithel Dam construction, Khuga Dam etc. Mapithel dam construction represents today several of various international development norms, including the UNDP’s Environmental and Social Safeguard Policy, the World Commission on Dams and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007.
UNDP violations: UNDP’s policy requirements and procedures, as elucidated in its Programme and Operational Policies and Procedures (POPP),promote environmental and social safeguard for sustainability and seek to prevent undue harm to people and the environment. A strong stakeholder engagement requirement is central for such an approach. UNDP adopted a comprehensive Environmental and Social Screening Procedure (ESSP) in 2012, which mandates project-level screening UNDP-wide.
In the case of Mapithel dam, the process of construction has violated the forests laws in addition to the failure to consider the rights and consent of affected indigenous peoples. The recent blocking of Thoubal River to finalize completion of the dam is despite the submergence of forests under challenge before the National Green Tribunal of the Supreme Court. The dam will affect 595 hectares of forest and submerge more than 1000 Hectares. The lapses and violations of 1993 is the premise for setting up of the Expert Review Committee of 2008 to address the matter of rehabilitation and resettlement in a holistic manner, which unfortunately is now defunct. It testifies Mapithel dam failed to protect undue harm to people’s livelihood and environment. The violations of UNDP safeguards are outlined:
Violation of UNDP Minimum Standard 1: Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA): UNDP adopted a comprehensive environmental and social screening and assessment procedure in 2012. UNDP requires varying types and extent of environmental and social assessments for development projects, scaled to risks and project type. Mapithel dam construction is marked by absence of a detailed and participatory impact assessment. The dam will seriously impact on forest, flora and fauna in upstream and downstream portion of Thoubal River. The construction is already marred with violations and disregard of community voices recognised under Forests Right Act, 2006.
Minimum Standard 2: Natural Habitats: UNDP’s policies and procedures require mainstreaming of environmental and social sustainability into all operations, including those regarding natural habitats. Fifty Six (56) villages inhabited around the Thoubal Rivers, especially in the catchment area of the river, depend on this river for their livelihood where they get fish, collect sand and earn their basic livelihood. Thousands of domestic animals use this water for drinking. The dam will also affect the seasonal migration of fishes in Thoubal River.
Minimum Standard 3: Involuntary Resettlement: UNDP’s policy requirements seek to avoid involuntary resettlement in its programs and projects. Communities affected by Mapithel dam are now threatened with forced eviction. The government offered meager amount of money as compensation without consultation with affected villages and also without conducting a detailed impact assessment. This has also led to social divide and confusion among communities already affected by this dam.
Minimum Standard 4: Indigenous Peoples: UNDP’s Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples (PEIP) states that UNDP promotes the recognition of indigenous rights to lands, territories and resources, and laws protecting indigenous lands. UNDP policy requirements seek to ensure that its programs foster full respect for Indigenous Peoples right to self-determination, human rights, and cultural uniqueness; ensure Indigenous Peoples’ full and effective participation in designing, implementing, and monitoring programs or projects that affect them; and apply the principles of free, prior and informed consent.
Mapithel dam construction is a classic case of violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and where development projects are pursued with brute use of force and extensive militarization. Affected communities who sought detailed impact assessment and a rehabilitation process acceptable them are threatened and threatened with forced eviction.
Minimum Standard 6: Physical Cultural Resources: UNDP requires that its programs and projects conserve physical cultural resources and avoid the alteration, damage or removal of any physical cultural resources (PCR). Its screening procedure identifies projects that may affect areas of physical or cultural significance. The centuries old grave yard of Chadong village will be under water by this dam. The question is how and where the affected communities will performritual ceremony to their ancestors.The Government of Manipur has failed to initiate any concrete steps to rehabilitate their burial sites.
Minimum Standard 7: Safety of Dams: In terms of support for construction and/or rehabilitation of dams, UNDP generally only supports small dams and small-scale and water infrastructure. UNDP applies its specific environmental and social screening, assessment, and risk management procedures to such projects. Now the project authority of Mapithel dam construction does not have any dam break policy and preparedness. If this dam break, the people at downstream will be completely waste away.
Minimum Standard 8: Accountability and Grievance Systems: UNDP’s “Proposal for Environmental and Social Compliance Review and Dispute Resolution Processes” (July 2013) requires all projects to ensure justice and accountability. The Mapithel dam is a classic case of fraud, corruption and manipulations. Several fictitious names are included in awarding compensation to a section of affected villagers. There is no accountability and justice for the affected villagers affected by the dam.
Gender Mainstreaming: UNDP began to strengthen its competencies to advance gender equality in 2008 by adopting its Gender Equality Strategy. The UNDP Programme and Operational Policies and Procedures (POPP) guidance document; and the Results Oriented Annual Report (ROAR) section on gender. stipulates that a wide range of stakeholders should participate in the formulation of projects, in particular to ensure Women’s participation throughout the project cycle. The Mapithel dam construction is marked by insensitivity to gender considerations and violation of women’s rights. Several women were brutally tortured and beaten up by the Manipur police for demanding justice and to stop violating their rights by Mapithel dam in the year 2008.
Conclusions and Demands:Given the violations of Mapithel dam of all international human rights and development standards, including the UNDP’s policies on Environmental and social accountability, the Mapithel dam construction should be stopped. The Govt. of Manipur should stop blocking the Thoubal River and filling up Mapithel dam reservoir. The demands of the affected communities to review the Mapithel dam construction should be conceded. The recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, 2000 and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 need be respected.
By: Sanaton Laishram,
Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur
Sega road Imphal, Manipur 795001