By Oinam Doren
“Our feet has been tied with paya (a kind of rope made with bamboo strips) and left to die here”, laments Alungwon Muivah (52years old) who is accompanying her 7 months pregnant daughter in law Chonchon Horam to the hospital. As we sat together in the boat floating on top of a vast lake which was once a blooming green field, Alungwon says she is feeling giddy. She had never seen so much water in her life.
Chadong village which is located in Ukhrul district of Manipur is one among the 11 villages that will soon be submerged under the Mapithel Dam construction of the Thoubal Multi Purpose Project. On January 10 this year, the Thoubal River was blocked, leading the water levels to rise and submerging process has already begun. Mapithel Dam stands 66 metres high and 1074 metres long. The project is set to produce 7.5 megawatt of electricity while providing 10 million gallons of water daily to Imphal, the state capital. But the project comes at the cost of displacing over 12,000 people; submerge around 11 villages and 777.34 hectares of paddy fields, 110.75 hectares of homestead, 293. 53 hectares of jhum land and 595.1 hectares of forest land.
Chonchon Horam who is just 19 years old and pregnant is experiencing giddiness and going through complications as urination has stopped. The nearest hospital is in Yaingangpokpi which is about 2 hours away and all vehicular transport movement has stopped. The two bridges connecting Chadong to the outside world, the vast green fields surrounding the village and some houses has already gone under water. As electricity has been disconnected, there is no way to charge the mobile phones and make calls for emergencies. After waiting for our turns, the only boat in the village rowed by an amateur boy takes us for a 15 minutes ride. While I was in the boat, I came to know of the problem and offered both Alungwon and Chonchon to take them to the hospital in our car. But to reach Khullen where our car was parked, Chonchon has to walk for about an hour in the scorching sun in the rough terrains and over two newly built log bridge which was not secure.
As we walk along together apologising to Chonchon about the situation and our helplessness, Alungwon shares with us her dilemma. Her husband died after 10 years of marriage leaving her with 5 kids to raise. Her only source of income was piggery, cultivating rice in the fields and collecting wild vegetables from the hills surrounding the village to sell. But all this activities has been stopped as the rising water from the dam has submerged the fields and the jungles. Their house is just waiting to be submerged in a few weeks time and they have to relocate to a new place. As we reach Khullen, we took another rough ride in our car in the bad roads for about an hour and dropped them to the government primary hospital in Yaingangpokpi.
As for now, the people in Chadong village badly need more boats, medical attention and quick rehabilitation support from the government and other agencies before the water engulf the entire village in a few weeks or months time. But so far, no officials have visited the village except for making loud claims in local newspapers.
*The writer Oinam Doren is a filmmaker.