Manipur, India

Tipaimukh High Dam

Villagers Protest Tipaimukh Dam
Villagers Protest Tipaimukh Dam
Photo Courtesy of ACATP
For more than 15 years, communities in both Manipur State (northeast India) and Bangladesh have resisted the proposed Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River. The 163-meter dam has sparked controversy in both countries over India’s failure to provide public consultations and information sharing with both Bangladesh and indigenous communities. The Indian state-owned utility North East Electric Power Corporation Ltd. (NEEPCO) originally planned to build the dam to control floods but now plans to generate electricity with the dam, which has a capacity of 1500 MW. Most of the electricity would be sold to cities outside the region. According to the Sinlung Indigenous People Human Rights Organization (SIPHRO) of India, “the process for choosing [the project premises] ignored both the indigenous people and the recommendations of the WCD (World Commission on Dams)."

Tipaimukh Dam rests in an ecologically sensitive region in one of the most seismically volatile areas on earth. The dam will submerge more than 275 square kilometers of forests and displace 60,000 people in Manipur, including the indigenous Zeliangrong and Hmar communities, and negatively impact 40,000 people in Bangladesh. One Lungthulien villager from Bangladesh explains his situation thus: “The Tuiruong (Barak) flows like the blood that keeps us alive. The endless talk for damming the river has brought us nightmares as we are never told what the structure would be like.”

Lalakhal River in Sylhet is one of the first phase victims of Tipaimukh Dam in India.
Lalakhal River in Sylhet is one of the first phase victims of Tipaimukh Dam in India.
Zakir Hossain, Krisoker Saar
According to critics, the Indian government never officially informed its lower riparian neighbor about the construction of the dam it planned to build 100 kilometers from its border. The dam will virtually dry up Bangladesh’s Surma and the Kushiara Rivers, thus choking the northeastern region of Bangladesh. Experts predict that the dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river, agriculture, irrigation, fisheries, drinking water supply, navigation and ground water levels with negative impacts for both wildlife and the people living along its banks.

An expert appraisal committee of the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests in New Delhi found NEEPCO’s application deeply flawed. Despite their conclusion and the countless petitions, rallies, and sit-ins protesting the project and India’s lack of meaningful public consultation, environmental clearance has been given by the Ministry and the Manipur government.

Latest News:

In July 2013 The Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest in India rejected forest clearance for the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River in Manipur. "The FAC after detailed deliberations concluded that requirement of forest land for the project is large and is disproportionate to its power generation capacity. Also very high ecological, environmental and social impact/cost of the diversion of the vast tract of forest land will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project. The FAC therefore, strongly recommended that approval for diversion of the said forest land should not be accorded."

More information: 

"Gaining Public Acceptance: Tipaimukh Dam in India, Concerns in Bangladesh," paper by Zakir Kibria, Executive Director of the NGO BanglaPraxis

"Communities Say No to India's Tipaimukh High Dam," Dr. R.K. Ranjan Singh, September 2009 World Rivers Review 

BanglaPraxis, a public interest research, policy analysis and solidarity organization based in Dhaka, Bangladesh

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