Why Ma­nipur is flooded

State's worst flood in re­cent history raises doubts over the role of dams


PEO­PLE LIV­ING down­stream of a mega dam in­Thoubal dis­trict of Ma­nipur could not con­tain their anx­i­ety. They had heard of re­ports of leak­ages. On July 25, res­i­dents of six vil­lages on the border of Bish­nupur and Thoubal dis­tricts reached the of­fice of Map­ithel dam.“We went to get an opin­ion from the en­gi­neers so that we could pre­pare for any even­tu­al­ity,” says Ten­ten­bam, a res­i­dent of Tu­munkhong vil­lage and spokesper­son for theThoubal Dam Down­stream Af­fected Peo­ple.“We were told that if we see muddy wa­ter we should evac­u­ate im­me­di­ately, but if clear wa­ter flows in the Thoubal river,we should stay.”By the next evening,about 10,000 peo­ple from th­ese vil­lages started mov­ing to higher grounds. By Au­gust 3, they had set up tem­po­rary shel­ters at T C Pokpi, Meitei Nong­dam and other ar­eas in the foothills. Some put up in trucks and trac­tors along a road.“Leak­age was vis­i­ble and soon we saw muddy wa­ter com­ing out of the dam,”says Ten­ten­bam.

Thounao­jam Shyamku­mar, mem­ber of Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly (mla) from An­dro,where the dam is be­ing built,says when he went to check the sit­u­a­tion of­fi­cials told him that the dam is leak­ing. State ir­ri­ga­tion and flood con­trol depart­ment, how­ever, says the dam is safe. Its ex­ec­u­tive en­gi­neer Irom Mo­hin­dro told Down To Earth that they are re­leas­ing 20 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter—the vol­ume of a medium-size Sin­tex tank—per sec­ond and “fix­ing some of the leak­ages re­ported”. On Au­gust 1,the wa­ter level was 876 m,nearly 2 m above the spill­ways.

As rains in­ten­si­fied in the first week of Au­gust,peo­ple on ei­ther side of the dam faced floods. Ar­eas up­stream have been sub­merg­ing since March be­cause of the dam,and ar­eas down­stream due to rain­fall and release of wa­ter. The au­thor­i­ties say this could be the worst flood in 200 years. About 60,000 hectares (ha) were in­un­dated and 500,000 peo­ple dis­placed by Au­gust 3,ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate by the state rev­enue depart­ment.Most of the paddy crop has been de­stroyed.The worst af­fected are the low-ly­ing Thoubal,Bish­nupur and Imphal dis­tricts,which lie in the flood plain drained by small rivers that flow into Myan­mar.The flood’s in­ten­sity was so se­vere that three big bridges were de­stroyed.

Up­stream, the dam has sub­merged 1,200 ha of land, in­clud­ing

Flood dis­placed about 500,000 peo­ple in Ma­nipur by Au­gust 3

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