Local Aspirations and National Mining Laws

Local Aspirations and National Mining Laws

In our local folklores Manipur is described as Sanaleibak or liberally translated as land of gold which is a very accurate description considering the rich natural resources present here, both under the ground as oil, minerals and ores and above in the forms of rich flora and fauna and water resources. Manipur sits under two bio-diversity hotspots which is a very rare thing and thus is capable of triggering a spurt in its economy by marketing the varieties of medicinal plants and orchids available here alone. Elaborating on the presence of huge natural oil reserves and mineral resources including chromium, nickel, platinum, copper etc in areas spread all over Manipur, as well as the strategic moves being taken up by New Delhi with an apparent unstoppable intent to lay hands on them in partnership with global corporate giants, many environmentalist have warned that the local populace must stop their activities at any cost. The laws of mining in India as well as the present neo-liberal plans of New Delhi have no place for local aspiration and local benefits but satisfaction of the greed of large corporates from all over the world and decision makers at the Centre. Yet promotion for the extraction of mineral resources under the guise of development is going on in full swing but the state is sure to end on a predictable line similar to the experiences of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Assam. These states have abundant natural resources but are among least development states, because under vicious Central policies the resources have been plundered, the local communities displaced from the environment they had depended for ages for survival and systematically thrown into conflict. The solution is recognition of local ownership of the land and resources and rightful share for them from marketing. New Delhi might as well opt for militarization of key spots to ensure that there is no public upheaval and interruption to its business agenda, many fear.

Community leaders have shown disappointment that the Hill Areas Committee which looks after the welfare of hill districts has no decision making power on mining and environmentally destructive activities like dam construction. As a fall out of mining projects the villagers will be displaced automatically and they will struggle to get proper rehabilitation which is a nationwide phenomenon. Many leaders in the hills areas agree that full operation of mining exercises in hill areas will cause massive destruction to the topography, raise health hazards and steal the livelihood of the villagers, while repeating the militarization threat. The debacle of Loktak Project needs to be reminded when the supposedly pro-development project ruined thousands of acres of cultivable lands and brought unwanted lifestyle changes to settlers around the lake. The state planning commission is weak and people are feeling the heat from its lack of vision. Surmising the essence of the opinions in Manipur on exploration of resources through the initiation of the Centre, we must make it clear that temporary development is not needed but sustainable development is and at least under the present arrangement mining projects should be opposed.

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