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Stop Tipaimukh Dam echoes at river base

mphal, March 17 2010: Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD), Committee on Land and Natural Resources (COLNAR) and Action Against Tipaimukh Project jointly observed International Day of Action for Rivers under the theme, ‘Reclaiming Barak River’ at the confluence of Tuivai and Barak rivers at Tipaimukh of Churachandpur district on March 14 . The observance gathering comprising of Hmar, Zeliangrong and Meitei people and organisations from the Barak basin and others unanimously resolved to stand unitedly against any initiative that would disturb the inseparable relationship between Barak river and indigenous people of the river basin. The gathering also observed that any use and intervention of rivers should be carried forward with the full consent and agreement of indigenous people living along the river basin.

Declaring that Barak river must be allowed to flow its natural course, the participants also resolved to stand against any intervention that would disturb the natural flow of the river, including construction of Tipaimukh Dam. Giving introductory remarks of the observance, CCDD Secretary Joseph Hmar re-emphasised on the need to safeguard the rivers from ‘uncanny’ Governments and corporations. CCDD Coordinator Ramananda Wangkheirakpam outlined the importance of the observance and how various bodies have been working together in the revival of dead rivers and defending living rivers like Barak. Hmar Inpui President Lalthangsung explained how Barak river is significant in the economy of the community. Saying that oranges, bamboos and other produces go out through the river, Lalthangsung said that outsiders reach Hmar villages through this river. Maintaining that the river was the only route that served import of relief materials during the famine of 1960s, Lalthangsuang asserted that the river still continues to serve Hmar villagers as a key trade route. Hmar Students Association (HSA) member Jeffrey Songate who was very vocal against Tipaimukh Dam, said that the history, culture and other ancestral matters of Hmar people would be submerged under water if the dam is constructed. All Assam Tribal Sangha President Pantilung Ruangmei spoke on the relationship of Rongmei people with the river. He mentioned that the ritual of Nanu Ngai (piercing ceremony of new born child) and Gadui Ngai (yearly celebration signifying the importance of ginger in the Zeliangrong community) are not complete without the water from Barak (Ahu in Zeliangrong). Adaina who came from Tamenglong said that people derive their cultural and spiritual values from environment and surroundings of the forest. Adaina, an environmentalist, went at length how rivers are important like the veins and arteries in a human body. Saying that Barak river is the sole parent of the villagers residing at the river basin, Adaina said that the river has been looking after and nourishing the villagers since time immemorial. Jishnu from Lakhipur explained that many communities, more than 19, depend on Barak river. Saying that the river originates from Nagaland and flows through Kuki, Hmar and other villages to end at Bay of Bengal, Jishnu opined that downstream people are against the dam and construction of it can be stopped if they get support from upstream people.

Source: The Sangai Express via Zolengthe

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