Northeast India gets the highest rainfall in the country and its thick and extensive forests give birth to huge rivers. With a view to tapping the hydro power potential of these rivers, a nexus of policymakers, technocrats and contractors have mooted plans for the construction of dozens of dams. In the process, however, little regard is being paid to the short and long-term consequences on the ecosystem, biodiversity or the local people in the river’s watershed and drainage. One of the largest projects proposed for northeast India is the Tipaimukh dam on the river Barak in Manipur. This 162.8 m. high earthen-rock filled dam also has the potential to be one of the most destructive.
Water is indispensable for all living organisms as well as for industrial growth and development. The last five decades have seen a quantum increase in water demand due to rapid population growth, consumptive lifestyles and the spurt in industrialisation and urbanisation. Developmental planning should primarily be based on the wise and judicious use of available natural water resources in the region. Any development work undertaken should have as its objective the upliftment of the majority of the people of the area, not just the benefit of a few better-off sections. In the case of northeast India, the lifestyle of different ethnic communities will need to be taken into consideration in an effort to evolve a sustainable system of development. Background
The proposed Tipaimukh dam will be constructed 500 m. downstream from the confluence of the Barak and the Tuivai rivers in the southwestern corner of Manipur (24°14’ N and 93°1.3’ E approximately). The river Barak is the second largest drainage system in northeast India. It starts from the Lai-Lyai village in Senapati district of Manipur and meanders through the Senapati, Tamenglong Churachandpur districts and also through the Jiribam sub-division of Manipur. The upper Barak catchment area extends over almost the entire north, northwestern, western and southwestern portion of the state. The middle course lies in the plain areas of Cachar (Barak plain/Tampak) of Assam, while the lower, deltaic course is in Bangladesh. The Barak valley or the Cachar plain is the natural flooding plain of the Barak river. Floods are frequent in the Barak drainage system and part of the natural cycle. In an attempt to control frequent flooding in the lower Barak plain, several proposals to dam the Barak river have been raised within government and political circles since pre-Independence days. In 1954, the Assam government requested the Central Water Commission and the Planning Commission to identify a suitable location where the monsoon waters of the Barak could be impounded to form an artificial flooding zone. Accordingly, the North Eastern Council (NEC) entrusted the investigation work to the Central Water Commission (CWC). The CWC submitted their report in 1984, which proposed the construction of the Tipaimukh high dam at a cost of Rs. 1,078 cores. However, the report was turned down for the lack of proper environmental impact assessment of the submergible areas. Again, in 1995, at the request of NEC, the Brahmaputra Board prepared the Detailed Project Report. There was no progress after this. Finally in 1999, the Brahmaputra Board handed over the project to the Northeast Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO). On January 18, 2003, the project received the all-important notification under section 29 of the Electricity Act. Main features
The project envisions a 390 m. long, 162.8 m. high earthen-rock filled dam across the Barak, 500 m. downstream of the confluence of the Tuivai and the Barak on the Manipur-Mizoram border. The dam will be at an altitude of about 180 m. above mean sea level with a maximum reservoir level of 178 m. The dam was originally designed to contain floodwaters in the lower Barak valley but hydro power generation was later incorporated into the project. The project will...