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Khuga Dam: A Living Paradox

There is always a certain level of sentimental attachment, when one looks back at the years gone by and the changes that time brings. Nostalgia is perhaps an apt word to describe this sentiment and despite the modern amenities and the convenience the three all women market complexes may offer to the people, to many who had their formative years in the 80s and early 90s, will certainly remember  the Pudons (A local version of the Hurricane Lamp) being lit up by the women vendors and the fume of smoke that comes out from the Khwairamband Keithel, which many, in the smug comfort of their ignorance, talked about the air pollution caused by the Pudons, without thinking what would happen five or ten years hence.

It is in the genes of the human race to be swept by a spasm of sentiments and longings, whenever one looks back at the time gone by and the landmark structures that once stood out so prominently. The statue of King Bheigyachandra taming a wild elephant was once such a landmark, but today other structures have come up to dwarf this once outstanding landmark and another example we can give is the hump bridge or Thong Nambonbi over the Nambul river just next to the statue of the King and the elephant. Another example is the cinema halls. Who can ever forget the western classics that were screened at Imphal Talkies or the blockbusters shown at Usha hall, Pratap Talkies, Friends Talkies etc? Those were the days when the last show was something of a given, starting from 9 pm and winding up at 12 am.

It was during this period that the foundation stone of the Khuga Multi-Purpose Project was laid by the present Prime Minister, when he was the Deputy Chairman of the Union Planning Commission in 1980. Thirty years down the line and the initial inertia that gripped this project and led to its abandonment, seems determined to cling on to this project, if the complaints put up by the JAC are anything to go by. Blame it on the human genes or whatever, but while we recall the past structures and landmarks with a certain sense of nostalgia, we on the other hand balk at the very idea that nothing much have changed at Khuga Dam during the last 30 years, or more specifically after Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh decided to give it a fresh lease of life by announcing a number of measures to revive projects which had been lying defunct for long.

This was in November 2004, when the Prime Minister was constrained to fly down to Imphal following the historic nude protest in front of Kangla, the months long protests and the demand to revoke AFSPA, to protest the torture and killing of Th. Manorama by Assam Rifles personnel after she was picked up from her house the previous evening. Given this fact, will it be alright for us to say that the Khuga Dam was revived over bullet riddled and outraged body of Th. Manorama? Think about it, and one cannot erase the uneasy feeling of a project being revived over the life of a woman, who was done to death, probably after a series of tortures, not to speak about outraging her modesty. By all accounts, Khuga Dam does not come under the category of mega dams or mega projects and it is with a pinch of salt that the discerning citizens have been tolerating the numerous damage exercise control exercise taken up by the State Government.

And so it is, that the Khuga Multi-Purpose Project over Khuga River, locally known as Tuitha river, awaits the arrival of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to inaugurate it sometime in the winter of this year and despite the hiccups and the shortcomings we have witnessed all these years, we hope to see the dam working to its full potential soon. On the other hand, this may just amount to asking for too much, given the fact that apart from numerous allegations of shortfalls raised by the JAC, the power component of the dam is yet to be installed.

What are the technical constraints that have stopped the Government from installing the power component of the dam? Have the IFCD officials consulted the matter with the Electricity Department or did ‘˜some expert hands’ meddle with the power component? Only the Government can answer this but for the moment the multi-purpose prefix given to Khuga project will mean providing water for agricultural purposes and drinking water to the people of the surrounding areas and of course the district headquarters at Churachandpur.

It came as something of a surprise to hear the Chief Engineer of IFCD explain that generating power from Khuga dam is just incidental. This means that generating power did not figure prominently when the idea of Khuga Multi-Purpose Project began to take shape. This is fine and we have no complaints as there have been other such instances earlier. However, it needs to be spelt out what the Government had in mind way back in 1980 and then again in 2004 when the project was first kick-started and later revived. Was the dam planned to provide irrigation facilities to the nearby fields and more importantly, are the cost, time and labor spent on constructing the dam in consonance with the agricultural fields, it aims to provide irrigation facilities? Or did the dam take shape to tackle two pressing issues with one stroke which is to provide irrigation facilities to the nearby fields and meet the demand for drinking water to at least some people of Churachandpur?

The controversial Tipaimukh Multi-Purpose Project was also initially taken up or took shape in the minds of the powers that be to primarily tackle the flood menace in the lower Barak region, but with the shifting priorities and needs of the time, checking floods in lower Barak area is just incidental today with the main emphasis on generating 1500 MW of power. The Khuga dam straddles two centuries, the latter part of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st Century, but there is nothing to even remotely suggest that changes in the right direction have taken place in the last 30 years. There is nothing nostalgic about the Khuga dam of 1980 because time has stood still for the dam. This is irony of the human race, that while one feels nostalgic and have a certain degree of sentimental attachment with the past, the same cannot be said when things refuse to move and remain the same year after year. This is the tragedy of Khuga dam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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