Meghalaya: Protests Against Constructing Dam Across Umngot River Continue

The villagers and especially the farmers have been protesting the idea of a dam on Umngot since 2017 when the idea of the said hydro power project was made public. 

Image courtesy: ED Times

Several villages in Meghalaya have been protesting the 210 MW hydroelectric project on Umngot river in the state. This river which is considered to be the clearest river in India and thus a major tourist destination will not remain the same, say the protesting villagers. Hundreds of people living near the river are afraid of the government’s plans. They are afraid that building a dam over it would gravely affect their livelihood which is majorly based on tourism.They are worried that if the dam is built over the beautiful river, present tourist spots won’t be as attractive and will not bring in visitors, affecting their livelihoods.

Protestors are however concerned beyond tourism. 13 villages located in West Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills, are likely to lose some 296 hectares of land due to submergence according to the project documents. According to a report in ED Times, ‘Villagers, especially landowners, are concerned because their lands will get submerged due to the project which will lead to loss of cultivable land. For many, the river is the main source of livelihood, which will then not be available to them after the construction of the dam.’ 

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Image courtesy: ED Times

Reportedly the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), has said that the dam was planned mainly to provide a source of hydroelectric power. However the corporation in its report has been vague about the displaced communities, as ED Times reported it saying says, “people around the project area are expected to reap many indirect benefits that would uplift their socio-economic conditions including road communication, health and school facilities.” The question now is, what are these benefits? 

The villagers who have been protesting also blocked routes of the officials who are enroute to have public hearings regarding the matter. Northeast Now reported, ‘The first public hearing at Siangkhnai village under Mawkynrew Block in East Khasi Hills district could not be conducted on Thursday after protesters prevented officials including the additional district magistrate at Mynsang village, 20km away from the venue of the public hearing…Similarly, at Moosakhia village in West Jaiñtia Hills district, the public hearing could not be conducted on Friday, as it was disrupted by protesters.’

Image courtesy: ED Times

We have to note that the villagers and especially the farmers have been protesting the idea of a dam on Umngot since 2017 when the idea of the said hydro power project was made public. 

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