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Dams and development: Corporate interests and Manipur's struggle for justice

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Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS

Jiten Yumnam, senior development justice activist from Manipur
Jiten Yumnam, senior development justice activist from Manipur
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Video interview with Jiten Yumnam is here:

(CNS): In the Northeastern part of India lies the state of Manipur -- characterized by its lush terrain, flowing rivers, and diverse flora and fauna -- a fertile ground for large-scale corporate-backed 'development projects' that exacerbate human rights violations and unbridled exploitation of natural resources.

While in New York for the UN Summit for the Adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Jiten Yumnam, a journalist and senior development justice activist from Manipur, India, shared his concerns with Citizen News Service (CNS), about the severe impacts of unbridled exploitation of the environment and natural resources in North East India through the building of mega dams.

Jiten is the Secretary of the Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur, and is also a member of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Post-MDG Working Group.

As Manipur lies in armed conflict zones, its development issues often get mired with conflict situations, exacerbating human rights violations, and providing fertile ground to promote large-scale unsustainable development.

According to Jiten, since India adopted liberalization policies after the 1990s, it has facilitated the corporatization and privatization of community land and resources like water, forests, and agricultural land in NE India, including Manipur, subjecting its people to untold miseries.

One of the key struggles faced by the people of Manipur is the construction of big dams under the Manipur Hydro Power Policy. The construction of mega dams has resulted in the displacement of entire communities, destruction of agricultural land, forests, and the rich biodiversity of the region. One such example is the Mapithel Dam located in the Thoubal River in Manipur. Because of the strong community resistance, dam construction remains unfinished till today. But other communities have not been as fortunate -- dam projects that were built previously have submerged 80,000 acres of the agricultural land effectively depriving the people of their source of livelihood, land, and life.

"There are already 10 functional power projects in NE India, generating more than the region's power requirement. The plan now is to make another 200 dams (20 of them in Manipur alone) that will generate more than 20-30 times of power than what is locally required. And yet, Manipur, which already produces surplus power, faces one of the highest power outages and load shedding in the entire country," says Jiten.

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