Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 25+ 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. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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IT News
Imphal, July 02:

Relentless search operations by the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, Territorial Army, SDRF, and NDRF continued throughout the day at the incident site at Tupul, Manipur. Mortal remains of 8 more Territorial Army personnel and 4 more civilians were recovered during the search on Friday.
Through Wall Radar is being used to detect any human presence inside the mud pile. So far 13 Territorial Army personnel and 5 civilians have been safely rescued, while mortal remains of 15 Territorial Army personnel and 05 civilians have been recovered so far. Mortal remains of Territorial Army personnel are being despatched to respective home stations with full military honours. Search for 15 missing Territorial Army personnel and 29 civilians will continue unabated.
The Chief Minister of Manipur again visited the site to encourage the personnel engaged in rescue operations. Non-stop efforts from all agencies will be continuing till each missing personnel is found.
 It may be mentioned that Chief Minister N. Biren Singh visited the site for the second time after attending Kang Festival and personally reviewed the rescue operation being taken up at the site yesterday.
Briefing the media at the very spot, N. Biren Singh termed the massive landslide as one of the worst incidents that happened in the State adding that 81  persons had been affected, out of which 18 persons had been rescued. He continued that the rescue operation team consisting of Manipur Police personnel, NDRF, SRDF, and Army personnel had recovered 8 more bodies today in addition to 8 bodies that were recovered yesterday. Due to the soft condition of the soil, the road to the actual area of the landslide couldn’t be restored, he said, stating that the State Government had put all efforts using possible manpower and machines to recover the missing persons.
The Chief Minister expressed thankfulness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for showing much concern about the incident and providing assistance by sending NDRF personnel. He was hopeful that all the missing persons would be found within 2 to 3 days. He informed that equipment had been brought from Ladakh by the Army which could locate where the dead bodies using its through-wall radar system.
He lauded the rescue operation team for their tireless efforts to recover the missing persons.
N. Biren Singh was accompanied by Works Minister Govindas Konthoujam, Relief and Disaster Management Minister Awangbow Newmai, Social Welfare Minister Heikham Dingo, Transport Minister Khasim Vashum, Chairman, Hill Areas Committee, and MLA of Nungba AC Shri Diganglung Gangmei, MLA of Keirao AC Lourembam Rameshwor Meetei, MLA of Tamenglong AC Janghemlung Panmei, Chief Secretary Dr. Rajesh Kumar and other senior civil and police officials among others.        

IT News
Imphal, July 02:

Digging of a deep trench to facilitate as irrigational canal in the middle of the road between Rajaimai and Kangjang village, the only PMGSY road that link to Chakha village, the last border village of Senapati District bordering with Tamei Sub-Division, Tamenglong District has irked the Zelianrong Civil society organizations for causing extreme inconveniences to the commuters.
A joint statement by the Zeliangrong Civil Organisations (ZCOs) ZeliangrongBaudi, Zeliangrong Youth Front and Zeliangrong Students Union term the digging of the deep trench as “senseless act”.
It said the road between Rajaimai and Kangjang village was black topped recently under the PMGSY programme. The deep trench was dug by some individuals supposedly to allow water to flow into the wet paddy fields is quite disturbing.
“Even the kilometre indicator post erected on the roadside was uprooted and used to make a cross path for the vehicles to pass through over the deep dug up trench”, the statement added.
The Zeliangrong bodies while urging the State Govt to look into the matter and take up immediate stern action against those individuals who did the senseless act as per law said, “Instead of resorted to such wild and senseless act which have caused great inconveniences to commuters, those individuals who dug up the deep trench should have a second thought and approached the concerned authority to arrange for better, feasible alternative ways for an irrigational canal. The senseless act of those individuals simply shows total disrespect to other citizens’ rights to live as a dignified citizens which is condemnable. Executing developmental works in the hills areas cannot be happened frequently therefore causing damage and destruction to developmental works is anti-development and anti-people.”.

At least 21 dead bodies have been recovered so far and as per report, the number is likely to rise. The tragic landslide that occurred at Marangching in Noney district of Manipur has taken so many lives – the disaster didn’t spare innocent villagers including women, children, government troopers and men on duty. As per report, at the time of writing this piece, it has been informed that nearly eighty people may still be buried. Some lucky individuals managed to survive but others are not so fortunate. Worst hit by the furious landslide occurred on June 30, 2022, morning was the 107 Territorial Army camp located at Marangching Part 5, deployed near Tupul Railway Station, Noney district. At least 43 TA personnel deployed at the site lost their lives, 6 dead bodies buried in the landslide have been recovered, while 37 are reported missing. As per initial report, at least 81 persons have been affected, 55 missing and 18 rescued, some with grievous injuries. These numbers are of those people working in Indian Railways, BIPL, TA and VSC, who were officially recorded by the respective authorities. As there are possibilities of many others who have not been registered but engaged by them as well as people of the nearby trespassing the area, the number of casualty could not be fixed.
Thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who had immediately reacted to the incident and non-delayed action for a rescue mission. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, Rajya Sabha MP Leishemba Sanajaoba and other state cabinets Ministers and MLAs had rushed the site to take stock of the situation and boost up the rescue work by showing their seriousness. Immediate order by the Chief Minister’s office to assigned 5 MCS officers to assist the Deputy Commissioner of Noney district immediately, in the aftermath of the tragedies is a sign that showed how emotional and serious is the N. Biren Singh led government. Besides, N. Biren Singh announcement of Rs. 5 lakhs as ex-gratia to those who have lost their lives and also Rs. 50 thousands to those sustain injury in addition to the central government assistance, yet to be announced, indeed is a sign of matured government. Above all, managing the hectic scheduled, people need appreciation to the team N. Biren Singh for sparing maximum time at the landslide site by stationing there and monitoring the situation.
In short, the immediate response by the state government and also by the central government needs to be appreciated by all.
Once in a lifetime, or perhaps in a year, the people of the state have been witnessing natural disaster either in form of flash flood, landslides, draught and famine. In other part of the world as well as in other coastal states of India, deadly hurricane like Tsunami had taken tolls of lives. In early Japan or at African countries many disasters occurred due to eruption of Volcanoes. These natural phenomena are considered as beyond human capability to control.
However, Marangching Tragedy of June 30, is perhaps the first furious disaster that occurred in this hill-locked state of Manipur. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh also stated that , the landslides at Noney district which kills many is the 2nd disaster occurred in the state after “Seven Years Devastation (1826)”. When one interprets to what Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had stated, it can be assumed that the Marangching Tragedy is a man made artificial disaster. Of course, it was not one man’s mistake, we all human being, particularly those staying in this state are all responsible about the catastrophe.
Deforestation that has been an issue of the state is one major reason for natural disaster of any kinds. In 2020, India State of Forest Report (IFSR) , published by the Forest Survey of India had stated that Manipur lost a total of 499 sq. km forest cover. Recently, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh had also expressed shock in seeing tonsured hill range at many part of the state. In the name of development too – many trees were cleared, for construction of roads, dams and other projects. These days, rich elite class of Manipur had also started occupying hill range for construction of artificial farm house.
The Marangching Tragedy gives shock to all of us. But it is the wrath of Mother Nature to teach us another lesson. Lets’ prepare and hope that no such tragedy occurred in the near future.

By - Paojakhup Guite

Time and again, a fear psychosis resurfaces over ill structures of Khuga Dam with this year’s heavy monsoon. Zoumunnuam village is a case in point in the most recent flood induced by the dam. The entire village was waterlogged to almost a house-deep. Every concerned individuals and civil societies dole out their helping hands both in cash and kind. But, assistance from the government side is yet to be heard.
The Khuga Multi-Purpose Hydroelectric Project, also known as Khuga Damis located near Mata village, some 10 kilometres away from Churachandpur town and is one of the 38 projects that had been put forth by the Advisory Committee in the Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) in 1980. The projects had got clearance and were meant to bring about techno-economic viability of irrigation, drinking water, electricity and flood control as per a report from South Asian Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
Geographically, the contour of nearby town areas is such that the turn of the Khuga river around it was so steep. Therefore, the town and vicinity areas were prone to flood and inundation of lands during monsoon season. To tide over locals from this natural catastrophe, the Churachandpur town was earmarked for the construction of a multi-purpose dam downstream the Khuga River.The dam has a height of 38 metres from ground level and a width of 238 metres.
The multi-purpose driven hydroelectric project of Khuga Dam serves us a misnomer. As per data of SANDRP, 7.5 MW of hydropower will be generated; 15,000 hectares of land will be irrigated and up to 10 million gallons of drinking (MGD) water per day will be provided to communities in Churachandpur town and its vicinity of the dam like Bishnupur district.
Started in 1983, construction of the dam discontinued for almost two decades partly due to the ethnic violence which communities of the construction area had gone through. The construction resumed in 2002 by which time the construction cost was revised from time to time from original 15 crores of INR in 1980 to 433 crores of INR in 2012. On completion, it was inaugurated on 12 November, 2010 by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the then President of the Indian National Congress. Ever since, the dam has been lying untapped and defunct till date.
Collateral Damages
As much as the promises so are the plights meted out by the dam to both biotic and abiotic ecosystems. It, rather than functioning, apparently serves us more of unintended damages than that of intended benefits and promises. In other words, enough volumes of water are stored in the reservoir despite which are languishing in disuse . The issue in question is that of lack of canal system, and as a result the catchment areas of the reservoir are found wanting during an excessive monsoon, that the water has done severe damages to the environment. This leads to submergence of vast tracts of lands such as agricultural lands, forests, wetlands and a number of villages. This has incurred us a great deal of cost on the surrounding environment.
The implementing body, the Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD), Government of Manipur should own responsibility in these damages. The Department has been renamed as Water Resources Department.
Without environment clearance over 40 hectares in the Dampiforests have been damaged by the overflowing water from the reservoir.
Over 22 villages have severely been affected. The traditional means of livelihood of the indigenous tribals in the construction belt have been put to topsy-turvy. The forests, agricultural lands, the Khuga river and wetlands in Khuga valley are sources of their living and other economic activities. It even caused displacement to such villages as Sehken village, T.Kotlien village, Changlian village, Belbing village and Geltamjang village to name few. The villagers are forced to shift their bases to nearby town and villages.
The Chief of downstream village called M. Semoul village has always been averse to the dam authorities for their substandard quality in canal construction. He questioned the purpose of the dam: What use is a dam when it cannot provide water to the people?
According to a response to one Mr. Haokip’s RTI Application in August 2016 by the IFCD, nearly 250 hectares of land including homestead land, agricultural land and forest land were acquired for Khuga Dam with due process of law under LAAR Act, 2013.
Over 30 human lives have been lost in the dam. The latest drowning case was reported in January this year and the dead body was identified as V. Suanbiaklal aged 28, from Pearsonmun village in Churachandpur district. Hence, the Khuga Hydroelectric dam looks like a death trap in Manipur.
These hardships inflicted upon the indigenous tribals of Churachandpur district is a gross violation of International human rights provisions envisaged in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. Responsibility has to be borne by the State government or the Centre.
Unintended Failures
All the three intended primary objectives of irrigation, electricity and drinking have met with failures. Agricultural farmers are faced with an irrigation ire. Unfortunately, the purposes and promises of the dam do more harm than good. The prominent irrigation issues rise up due to lack of proper maintenance of the canal system. The sub-standard canals break when the water is released from the reservoir. Hardly any 25 kilometres downstream of the right side canal is functional while the remaining parts remain dry. Like drinking and electricity purposes, agricultural objectives have come to naught.
The Khuga Dam Right Side Canal Farmers Association (KDRSCFA) had to vent out their frustrations over insufficient supply of water into their farmlands. The Association was formed by farmers living in MisaoLhahvom village and its vicinity villages of Churachandpur district. According to the Association, the right side canal should ideally serve over 900 hectares of land. But, hardly any 300 hectares are served and had witnessed a breach in the canal repeatedly in the past. They had approached the concerned department, but to no avail citing lack of fund! The farmers themselves collected a kitty of Rs. 1000 per household and some pledged to contribute the value of selling their food grains, with little assistance from the District Administration.
The right side canal famers protested in 2018 against the non-provision of water in their farmlands. They have witnessed many breaches in the canal: the first one on 16th March, 2009 in a portion of the canal between Lingsiphai and Tangmual, leaving a side-opening of 40 ft., and another one on 18th June, 2016 at Moulbem village. In July 2019 Chairman of KDRSCFA, SeikhopaoMisao warned the state CM, IFCD Minister and the CE of the department of a hunger strike, “So, we have no other options left but to stage an indefinite hunger strike”, adding that the need to call for such measures was due to the lackadaisical and apathetic attitudes of the government. After having done in their own capacity they came to realise that the problem was beyond their capability, hence required government intervention.
Worst is that barely 4 months after its inauguration, the left canal experienced a severe breach on 8th December, 2010 and again on 9th February, 2011 at Kawnpui area and in 2014. The eastern canal also was shattered during a trial run of about 3.1 km from the dam site on 9th July, 2008. The left canal is said to be totally non-functional. Thus, the target of 15,000 hectares of land irrigation still remains a pipe dream.
Electricity is one of the principal public utilities. The electricity woes of the people of the district remain unsolved until today even while a great deal of hope was pinned onKhuga Dam to address the issue. The installed quantum of water is sufficient enough to generate a target of 7.5 MW of hydroelectricity (SANDRP).
Hydroelectricity generation plant is installed by RN Sinha and Co. while the dam, canals and spillway were designed and constructed by NPCC.
As of today, not a single unit of electricity has been generated. Neither any powerhouse for generating electricity exists, nor any machinery installed except for that of a tunnel at the mouth of which has been blocked. Media reported that generators and the turbines to generate electricity were already auctioned and there is no investigation to ascertain these facts. IFCD had confirmed in 2016 that revenue generated from the dam since its commissioning is simply nil.
Churachandpur is infamous of its water scarcity during dry season. It has had a series of dire situations related to drinking water. To provide quality drinking water is one of sole purposes of the multi-purpose hydroelectric project of Khuga Dam. The project administration claims that it provides 1.2 million gallons per day (MGD) of water to the residents who have in turn contested strongly the claim of the Project.
A water treatment plant is constructed on a hill-top close to the dam. The plant draws water from the left canal and treat it for drinking purposes. The water treatment plant cannot function now at an optimum level, and that quality water drinking is yet to see the light of day. The machineries of the plant are lacking of state-of-the-art technology. While the project serves neither of other two purposes (agriculture and electricity) and nor does to the drinking purpose, therefore need is not felt for constructing the dam. Water could have been drawn from the undisturbed Khuga River directly through whatever means, be it traditional method that gives no threat to lives of any kind.
Taking advantage of the malfunction of water supply, private players are booming in investing on drinking water in the town and vicinity, the likes of which are ESTEE WATER, PUPU-TE WATER, etc. to name few. If the government could play a role in providing drinking water at a subsidized rate, competition in pricing of water among private investors would have been so high.
At least the left canal has to be refurbished, failing which pumping of water from it won’t work out. Moreover, the water treatment plant will not function until and unless water is drawn into the plant. The low hanging fruit would be to make the left canal function effectively so that failure of water treatment plant can be overcome. The functioning canal would at best carry required quantity to each household of the target beneficiaries.
“Wind of Change”
Unanimity in political will from the concerned 3 MLAs such as Shri PaolienlalHaokip of Saikot A/c, Shri LM Khaute of Churachandpur A/c and Shri Chinlunthang of Singhat A/c has come to the fore. Spearheaded by the Saikot MLA, the three legislators inspected the dam in presence of Water Resources Minister, Shri AwangbouNewmai on May 10. The multi-purpose Khuga Dam is affecting farmers in particular and the public in general of the three constituencies.
Saikot MLA Pu PaolienlalHaokip took a noble initiative of inviting the Minister. The two concerned MLAs were so receptive of the initiative, that they all together had joined the inspection overture of the dam with the Water Resources Minister.
This is the latest development taken so far for a restoration of the dilapidated structures of the dam esp. like spillway and irrigation canals.
With the coming of the Minister also comes a “wind of change”, the pet slogan of the sitting Saikot MLA. The slogan was conceptualised in the electioneering of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly election held earlier this year.
During his visit, the minister was accompanied by department officials including chief engineer Robindro Sharma, additional CE RemmeiAlimmei, SE (KPC) RohitAhanthem, EE B Govind Sharma, EE MdTafsirAlam and C Sangluaia. He inspected various sites of dam like spillway and irrigation canal.
They also assessed the irrigation canal at Bohlui area where the river bank had collapsed some years back and a makeshift pipeline was laid to pave way for supply of water for irrigation to nearby farmlands.
Awangbow visited to inspect some portions of the dam which remained defunct and repair the same so that people of Churachandpur get water from the dam.
There are some technical problems which local engineers could not solve and experts from outside are required to plug it. To repair it, a DPR has been prepared and an expert firm from Mumbai has studied and given a preliminary report.
A whooping 115 crores have been borrowed from World Bank. It is believed that with this amount of money all the structural irregularities would be solved. Apart from this, Pu PaolienalHaokip has chalked out an ambitious plan of a pipeline system rather than the canal system. Due to the contrasting nature of the contour of the area, a canal cannot be dug out in a desired way. This is capital-intensive. The meticulous design of Pu Haokip includes extension of a pipeline to carry sufficient water for agriculture till Saihenjang village of the constituency proper. The land contour lies sloping from this village, from where a canal of desired ones can be easily dug out to carry water till Twikuol area. Mention may be made of paddy fields which lie uncultivated last year in the area due to scanty rainfall. The Constituency MLA is so much concerned of this unfortunate incident. These are the most-touted changes that are likely “blowing like a breeze” from the waters of Khuga Dam in days ahead.
The stakeholder communities of the Khuga Multi-Purpose Hydroelectric Project are looking forward to positive developments happening sooner or later. The State government has also shown its interest and concern for the long neglected irrigation facilities in the Churachandpur district. Restoration of the dam will accrue significant revenues and agricultural produces to the state. It will lead to cultural developments as well. The dam has a great potential as a tourist hub. Constructing a proper Approach Road may be done to attract more tourists. The tourism department could also work on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode for tourism development. Loktak Lake is not far from the dam. Therefore, Khuga Dam and Loktak Lake have a potential of sharing tourists in them. Lastly, but not the least, it is advisable toprovide accommodation quarters to all employees of the dam from engineer to peons in the Churachandpur town only.

(The writer is pursuing an MA in Media Studies at the Central University of Hyderabad. Currently, he is undergoing a media internship with Imphal Review of Arts and Politics undertaken by Free Press School of Journalism under Pradip Phanjoubam. He may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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