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Chadong, the lake of tears or a site of tourism

The tears of the villagers of Chadong and the water gushing from Thoubal River make this artificial lake of Chadong destroying the lives of the villagers and their paddy fields. The Maphou or Mapithel Dam has submerged the three hundred years old Tangkhul settlement. The village was sacrificed in the name of development. The village of Chadong was almost a model Christian village after it accepted Christianity in 1935. It used to be a neat and clean village which produced its own electricity from the streams that flows its low lands. It produced 400-500 baskets of rice every year feeding its own population. For now all is lost.
Those who gave up their land in the old village at the face of carrots and sticks brought by the rich and powerful of Manipur have moved to a new site called New Chadong. But they have no fairy tale to tell. They lack sustainable livelihood and most importantly water at the new site. Those who chose to stay at the old village land, refusing to move to the new site, lack a proper school, electricity, health care and livelihood. Most importantly, they now immediately need means to master the artificial lake above which they must go to reach the valley, not for recreation but for the lives that they must feed. The old village authority still stays at the old village lands at the edge the lake along with hundred homes and they refuse to recognize the new site as Chadong.

The sadness and trauma of their lost wealth are now slowly surfacing as tears that float this artificial lake. The happiness of those, oblivious of the lake’s history, who come to visit the lake and the thrill of travelling in make shift boats without life jackets, for a moment, overwhelmed the sorrows of the hill men that the lake hides under its surface. For some time, people celebrated as they have a new place for recreation. But when three tourists died in a tragic accident caused by a cyclone, the time stopped for those who had hopes to earn money serving the tourists as their farmlands were submerged. Villagers say that there have been more deaths in the lake. It is now not just a lake of tears which has swallowed the wealth that Chadong villagers have earned through living there for hundreds of years but also a death trap that lures people in towards their destruction. But the sadness has resurfaced again when the noise of the tourists died down. Now that the tourism has stopped, the villagers at Chadong said that the fight over which village around the lake will earn more money from tourism, which village will operate the boats, has now come to halt.
It almost seems like the movie God Must Be Crazy where the African villagers fight over an empty Coca-Cola bottle and finally they had peace when one throws the bottle far away from their village. What do we do with the lake now? It does not matter what the grand answer is for the people of old Chadong as of now. Their immediate needs must be the first concern, a livelihood, safe means of transportation, a proper school, a proper village.

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.

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