Vulnerability of Leimatak River

Jajo Themson *

  Consultation : Protection of Land, Rivers and Forest in Leimatak  : 15 November 2021
Consultation : Protection of Land, Rivers and Forest in Leimatak on 15 November 2021 :: Pix - Centre For Research And Advocacy, Manipur

Like arteries of human body, rivers circulate water and nourished the earth planet. Among the precious free gifts of nature, rivers constitute the most essential being for people's sustenance, development and the best host for living creatures. Above all the multiple significant roles of rivers, the indigenous river based communities have inseparable historical chain, cultural relationship, social attachment and key factor for their survival over generations.

Rivers have been source of folk songs and folklores for many communities around the world. It is due to these reasons why Maori tribe of New Zealand termed the River Whanganui as their forefather and still some other communities considered their rivers as god.

Manipur is gifted with several beautiful small and big rivers. Among them, the Leimatak River is a remarkable and enchanting one. It is a major tributary of the Irang (Alang) River. Originating originated from Churachandpur district, it flows towards the western side of Manipur. It is a unique river which runs northerly directions unlike others that usually flow from north to south. This river flows with a fresh water with crystal clear appearance.

Leimatak River is also known for its profuse and tasty fishes. It has been tiding freely and elegantly since the beginning of ages. According to folks living nearby, the original name of this river is Leimata meaning, rejecting bridge building over it. It was told that people in the past made attempt to construct bridge along the said river, but supernatural creature (as their belief) destroyed at the very night the bridge was built.

The Leimatak River is enchanted not only for its free and natural flow but also encompasses boon and associates with indescribable chain of relationship with the river based indigenous communities. Thousand of indigenous people sipped the shower of blessing from this river.

With the Leimatak River, the indigenous people living in the valley range were blessed with fertile land suitable for permanent wet rice cultivation and for animal grazing. River water and its resources such as fishes, primps, crabs, snails etc. feed the incumbents as a source of food and economy and its sand and stones provided free material for construction purposes since forefathers.

It is worth reflecting that many rivers across the globe have been granted legal entity as human being today. They are no longer mere rivers as one sees but as a legal personhood. River Whanganui has been legalized by New Zealand Parliament on 15th March, 2015, River Ganga & Yamuna in India on 21 March 2017 by Uttarakhand High Court, the Colombia's constitutional court granted legal rights to the Atrato River on 22 May 2017, Bangladesh also became one of the first countries to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans in August, 2019. River Magpie in Canada has also been recognised as a legal person in February, 2021.

Remarkably, the Earth Law Centre (ELC) based in the New York City had made a historic Universal Declaration of Rivers' Rights (UDRR) on 29th September 2017. Like the declaration made, the Leimatak River in Manipur deserves the same legal rights which enshrined five fundamental rights such as Right to flow freely, Right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem, Right to be free from pollution, Right to native biodiversity and Right to restoration.

This implicates that any infringement on Leimatak River will be a serious violations too. Aforementioned rivers received legal status with the fact that rivers are significant to different communities on their cultural, social, economic and religious perspectives, so is the Leimatak River significant to the indigenous river based communities.

Factors ailing Leimatak River

It is saddening that the natural flow of Leimatak River was drastically changed ever since commissioning of the 105 MW Loktak Hydro-electric Project in May 1983. Water discharge from this project not only kills the natural flow of Leimatak River but also changed its pattern. Thousand years of tranquillity and cordial relationship between this river and river based communities were shattered when the Leimatak River became hostile due to rise and fall of its water level in the post Loktak project era.

The changed flow of this river has even claimed 5 precious lives in Taoshang Khunou, 3 in Thangal and still so many more which are not recorded. Frequent loss of animal doesn't confined at a place but entire villages in the river range. Besides this, normal way of community fishing and collection of sand, stone, chips etc. from the Leimatak River becomes a risk.

Fate of Leimatak River in the wake of Twin dams

There has been acute apprehension of Leimatak River being completely damaged due to proposed twin dam over it. Like mentioned above, this river has already been maimed by the Loktak project long ago. The National Hydro-Power Corporations (NHPC) in hand with the Govt. of Manipur proposed to build the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project (LDHP) at Taoshang Khunou village over 30 years back and 70 MW Nungleiband dam at Nungleiband village about 15 years back.

During August, 2020 the Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporations Ltd (LDHCL) has signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Manipur State Power Distribution Company Ltd (MSPDCL) for 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project. The PPA of 2020 was finalized as a result of long intense pressure from the NHPC. Even Meghalaya and Tripura state signed PPA on 19 and 20 June 2003 for purchase of power from the Loktak Downstream Project.

The 66 MW LDHP is proposed to build a 28 meters (94.36 fts) high barrage over the Leimatak River right at Taoshang Khunou village in Noney district. Estimated cost of the project was Rs. 867.77 crores in 2006, which was escalated to Rs. 1,250 crores in 2015 and the latest cost increased to Rs. 1391.65 crores in 2018. Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Corporations Ltd was constituted in September, 2008 as a partner of the NHPC.

While trying to build it, 211.50 hectares of forest and wet paddy fields will be diluted. Stage-I Forest Clearance was accorded on 3 March, 2011 without compliance of the conditions contained in the FRA, 2006. A Public Hearing for the LDHP was carried out on 7 June, 2011 at Longjang (Thangal) village in Noney district, Manipur. Environment Impacts Assessment (EIA) and Environment Management Plan (EMP) have not been disclosed to the affected villagers. As per the villagers of Taoshang Khunou, land survey was done in 1982 but agreement was signed only in 2020.

Still, there is another plan of building 70 MW Nungleiband dam at Nungleiband which is 25 km in the upstream portion of the Loktak Downstream project. As per the concerned villagers, the proposal of the dam was made fifteen years back. But surprisingly, nothing of the Detail Project Report (DPR), Detail Impacts Assessment (DIA), Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) program and rate of land compensation etc. are opened to the villagers till date.

According to Village Secretary, satellite mapping for the Nungleiband dam was done in 2020. Land survey was carried out during April or May 2021. Public came to know only through news papers. It is being pursued without transparency and accountability and without Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the concerned community people.

The affected Villagers of Taoshang filed a case before the Guwahati High Court against the steps taken by the state Govt. to resurvey land. The same was stayed by the High Court which led to suspension of the survey works for some time. The Citizen Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) on 15 December, 2017 condemned the plan to start the construction of the LDHP.

Community people of Nungleiband expressed serious concern on 21st November, 2021 regarding the possible loss of land, river and forest in the village because of the 70 MW Nungleiband dam. Moreover, the people of Taoshang Khunou village exposed apprehensions on 15th December, 2021 about the 66 MW LDHP as they were not properly informed of the details of the project and detail impacts assessment disclosed.


Aggressive push of building twin dam projects over the Leimatak is a bad news for ecology, environment concern, rights of the river based indigenous people over land, forest and river and their long sustainable living. Building the 66 MW LDHP and 70 MW Nungleiband dam over the same river will be another chapter of disaster environmentally and socially. It will also completely destroy the Leimatak River and close its history.

Further, it will give adverse impacts in the downstream portions even deteriorating the Irang River. Moreover, it will aggrandise the menace of ecological imbalance and issues of indigenous peoples survival caused by the Ithai Barrage of the 105 MW Loktak Project, disaster to the affected people by the Mapithel dam, livelihood disruptive in the Khuga dam area, life hardship caused due to Dolaithabi barrage, devastation of land and resource by Khoupum dam etc.

It is quite irrational to build double more dams in Leimatak River of Manipur because Manipur state is still chronic from the previous dams associated with wide controversies which are not healed. It is also contradictory state Govt. plans to build the dams while the world is exhaustively finding solution to curb the threat of climate change.

As per a journal of Biodiversity and Conservation in Washington 2019, large dams are harmful to environment with the concern that living species are so specific to their habitat, any disturbance that alters their environment can put them at risk of dying off. Dams are big agent to climate change due to its carbon and greenhouse emission enhancing global warming @25%.

It acts as a big factor of forest loss and also an agent to 48% loss of water and their hydro-ecological systems are affected by dam reservoirs. It is a proven fact that large dams are unviable in the seismic zone. Notably, NE region is under the most severe Seismic Zone V of India. Further, it is a bitter conclusion that dams damage indigenous lives and are not feasible in the backward region.

It is high time State Govt and dam building giants like NHPC review the plan of constructing 66 MW Loktak Downstream Hydroelectric Project and 70 MW Nungleiband dam project in the interest of protecting the inherent rights and free natural flow of Leimatak River in order to continue performing its ecosystem. Review the plan to build such dams so as to ensure sustainable living of the river based indigenous communities.

Let not the normal life of the affected villagers shatter in the name of development by damaging river, submerging land, forest, home-stead areas, animal grazing fields, loving ancestral homes and aged old settlement. Development plan at the cost of the indigenous land and resources is unjust and destructive more than upliftment. It is the need based development that is called for not through plundering land, river and resources.

Legally the Leimatak River should flow free without violating its fundamental rights. Environmentally, it deserves freedom to perform its own basic ecosystem. Socially and economically, the Leimatak River should move on unhindered so that the indigenous communities can enjoy its blessings through generations. Culturally, Leimatak River deserves to keep tiding so that people's life depending on it can retain the aged long unbreakable chain of relationship.

Blockade of Leimatak River by building series of dams over it amounts to multiple violations and creating disaster in varied perspectives. There is a need of change the prospect of development from such unsustainable manner to people and environmental unfriendly system.

Speculating the whole perspectives and possible impacts of the twin dams, the Leimatak River is at high risk today. It is the responsibility of every citizen to uphold its legal rights. Undermining its significant roles shall be a huge loss. It is our bounden duty to ensure the Leimatak River render its invaluable services and perform its own natural ecosystem without retarding.

Concerning the significance of environmental, historical, social, cultural and long sustainability of the river based indigenous communities, the Leimatak River should run free and enjoy its own rights through generations without infringement.

* Jajo Themson wrote this article for
The writer is from Kamjong district, Manipur and can be reached at thmsontezonge(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 20 2021.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Contribution of Leimayol Arts Centre
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Lotus plant: A multipurpose plant species
  • Primary School renovated at Joupi
  • Republic Day recollections
  • Huge skills gap making new jobs go abegging
  • National Voters' Day
  • Lining up for BJP ahead of polls
  • Lainingthou Sanamahi Complex #2:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • BAMCHAS biennial conference 2022
  • COVID Vaccine Booster: To give or not
  • Before I sleep... III
  • Indian Army as a career option
  • 20-yr MoU to set up Mini-Grid in Nagaland
  • Season of promises!
  • Election curbs; relief for commoners
  • First manifesto, then candidates list
  • Imoinu @Yumnam Leikai :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Our Ailing Planet: My locality as a facet
  • Stop Oil Palm Plantation in Manipur
  • General election in hard times :: Poem
  • Being free from freedom
  • Roaring 40 in first list of Cong
  • Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival #2
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Wake Up My People Wake up :: Poem
  • A tribute to Athokpam Indrakumar Singh
  • Stunted fingerling- Replacement of fish seed
  • Training Program at Dimapur
  • Gaan-Ngai @Kakhulong :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Classical Language Vs ST for Meetei
  • The Great Green Walls, conserving nature
  • Webinar: The Birds and Bees Talk
  • Covid Booster Campaign at Tamenglong
  • IVF Centre in Guwahati
  • Easing curbs as cases spiral
  • Third wave is on!
  • Ecotourism Complexes @ Ramrei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • No excuse not to end acute pandemic stage
  • Palm-oil in Manipur: Bad to worse
  • For sons and daughters :: Poem
  • Effective methods for facial hair removal
  • Subdued dissent over Sunday as poll day
  • Embracing the party hoppers
  • Gaan-Ngai @Iboyaima Shanglen #2:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Cultural Activists of Manipur honoured
  • Male infertility: What are the options ?
  • Is celebrating New Year Day really worth it
  • Third wave: State on record breaking spree
  • Compulsion of power politics
  • Imoinu Thouniba @Singjamei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • O Jonga! O Jonga :: Poem
  • Grey market for election tickets
  • Some common weeds of Manipur #2
  • Lilong Haoreibi College awarded 'B' grade
  • State used as transport route of drugs
  • Possible post poll scenario
  • Significance of Gaan-Ngai festival #1
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Lunghar path in springshed conservation
  • Lament of love :: Poem
  • Career options in Lift Technology
  • Brief tale of one year COVID vaccination
  • Bickering among allies in coalition politics
  • Low vaccination coverage
  • NH-2 : Remember Khongnem Thana
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • O Kolhen! O Kolhen :: Poem
  • Program on POCSO Act at Thoubal
  • The Killing Fields (2013-22) :: News Timeline
  • A spate of 'defections' in UP elections...
  • High performing individuals work alone
  • Onus on ECI to avert crisis situation
  • Keeping people informed is key
  • Gaan-Ngai @Iboyaima Shanglen #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • The church is & must remain apolitical
  • Tamenglong Battalion celebrated Army Day
  • How prosperous NE India became backward
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni @ Koubru #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Read all about Gaan Ngai
  • Justice, Peace and Change :: Poem
  • Mass Surya Namaskar at Tamenglong
  • Padmanabha Swamy Temple
  • Overcoming vaccine hesitancy
  • Nothing grand about 'Grand Old Party'
  • Lainingthou Sanamahi Complex #1:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Some common weeds of Manipur #1
  • How to keep your hair healthy this winter
  • Third wave: Litmus test for NE states
  • High TPR, low vaccination
  • Maharaja Gambhir Singh
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Rani Gaidinliu Open Air Lounge inaugurated
  • NAAC peer team visit for assessment
  • National Youth Day
  • Conservation Agriculture: intensified farming
  • Negligence galore as Covid cases rise
  • Back to the spike in three figures
  • How AFSPA undermines 'Act East' Policy
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • P Achevei : Mega Mister North East 2021
  • Stop Violence related to Election
  • Civil / Project Engineer @ R-Square
  • Business Development @ R-Square
  • Customer Representative @ Property Geo
  • No matter what :: Poem
  • Stealthy extension of AFSPA
  • Confiscating 'suspected heroin'
  • 188 Death Anniv: Maharaj Gambhir:: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG) 20th Call
  • Kalum Kai (House of worship) #2
  • Account Assistant @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • Business Dev @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • The 5G Race :: Samarjit Kambam
  • Manipur elections not for the faint-hearted
  • Guns & violence in run up to polls
  • Climate Change in Ukhrul in last 50 years
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Are we able to break chain of transmission
  • 100 new Sainik School- opportunities for girl
  • Joyjeet Waikhom / Ksh Maradona: Mr India
  • Money flying in or out ?
  • Will partial lockdown help curb transmission
  • Voting during Covid pandemic
  • Food items @ Singjamei, Pishum :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Curfew : Measures to combat COVID
  • IMFP - Indian Made Foreign People
  • Happy 2022 to you !
  • Manipur Press Foundation Day :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Politician must practice, preach on COVID
  • Makeup routine during pandemic
  • Third wave threat no more a mirage
  • Queuing up for BJP
  • Thangal Lambi & Ima Keithel :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Before I sleep... II
  • Election Brawl :: Poem
  • Impact of Covid on Employer Branding
  • Chasing peace in Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Kalum Kai (House of worship) #1
  • The art of New Year's resolution
  • Cong struggling to keep its house in order
  • Manipur's place in the eyes of Delhi
  • Makru bridge, Oinamlong Waterfall : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Depression : A New Time Bomb
  • School & Student Championship Quiz
  • Concern over child labour
  • ECI on sluggish vaccination rate in state
  • Vaccination rate in hill districts
  • Fusion of contemporary dance & theatre
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Crackdown on violators
  • AMAND, Pune released 2022 calendar
  • Rising poverty in Manipur
  • Sunset, the most memorable!
  • Election time season of plentiful promises
  • Interesting role of NPP, NPF
  • Pineapple @ Ngariyan Hills #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • kLlQtre :: Seireng
  • National Day for our feathered friend
  • Value of purposeful life
  • Homemade face packs for winter beauty
  • Dreadful start to New Year as cases spike
  • Manipur steps into Year 2022
  • Tarpon Katpa @ Loktak #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • OneHealth: towards pandemic preparedness?
  • Before I sleep...
  • Meitei ST demand & the opposition
  • Bye Bye 2021 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2021 #6: Gallery
  • Manipur : National Futsal C'ship 2021
  • 'Unlocking Locks Under Lockdowns' released
  • Baby corn cultivation for livelihood
  • Extension of AFSPA to Nagaland
  • Hoping for a better New Year 2022
  • Appeal of AMCO to Chief Minister
  • NK Sanajaoba- Star in Dark Sky of Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Danube Kangjam : Miss North East 2021
  • In search of Christmas party
  • Demise of Film Producer: Guruaribam John
  • Disturbed Area Act in Nagaland extended
  • Thyroid cancer- The Good, Bad & Ugly
  • Same old order to tackle most potent threat
  • Putting tighter restrictions in place
  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • January Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Carol on Christmas :: Poem
  • Formation of 13 Farmer Producer Orgns
  • Indian Army Inquiry Team visits site in Oting
  • Review home isolation rule or punish violator
  • Lining up for saffron party
  • Red Ribbon Manipur Idol, 2021 #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • curaNTbdi nYte AE :: Seireng
  • Marriageable at 25 not 18 or 21
  • IMA Manipur wins 7 awards at NATCON-2021
  • Impact of climate change in agriculture
  • Dual threat to state in election season
  • Another panel to study AFSPA
  • Indigenous under-utilized fruit crop Manipur
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Can we deliver on #HealthForAll
  • Business Executive @ Property Geo, Imphal
  • 13th Seniors National Futsal C'ship
  • National Curling Championship
  • Centre benevolence crucial for development
  • Taking the elixir of life to all village
  • Omicron now in town
  • Job-Fair 2021 @ Imphal : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Remembering great grandmothers :: Poem
  • Grand finale Mega Miss North East 2021
  • Kodo - A miracle food millet crop in Manipur
  • Preparing HCWs for long battle against Covid
  • Bid to arm twist the media
  • Christmas Eve @ Imphal : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • My idea of justice- For the old aged folks
  • Amit Shah holds conclave with Naga leaders
  • Horses - some tidbits
  • The best skincare routine for teenagers
  • Christmas Eve @ Churachandpur : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • My Christmas
  • Mary : The Unwed Mother
  • O Come, let us adore Him
  • Violence in election: Will it sustain?
  • Hymn on autumn :: Poem
  • Crackdown on liquor sale in election
  • Another Christmas comes
  • Red Ribbon Manipur Idol, 2021 #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Secy raises CCpur ambush with Myanmar
  • Gossiping with flowers, bees & butterflies
  • Careers with Migrants
  • Climate literacy to tackle climate crisis
  • Violence in AC with 2 fmr education minister
  • Heirok AC: Shooting to kill : Abhorrent
  • Of AFSPA, Manipur and NE States
  • The Price of Justice!
  • Seminar on 'Bioeconomy from Bioresources'
  • Shija: 1st Pvt medical college in NE
  • Water saving techniques in hill agriculture #2
  • Plight of women in land of brave-hearts
  • Not a question of If but
  • Heisnam Savitri (Legendary actress) #2
  • Painting: Tribal Freedom Fighter #1: Gallery
  • New Barak Bridge @Jiri highway : Gallery
  • Heisnam Savitri (Legendary actress) #1
  • RK Meghen tribute @ Nupi Lal : Gallery
  • Protest: massacre of Naga Brethen: Gallery