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Gumti Hydroelectric Project, Tripura, India


Gumti Hydroelectric Power Project is located at Thirthmukh, Tripura, India [1]. The Gumti hydel project was commissioned in 1974, despite fierce protests by nearly 40,000 indigenous tribes people whose fertile lands went under water. Not even one-fifth of the people who were forced to give up their land were compensated because most tribesmen had no land records to prove ownership [3]. Also, during 1970’s rehabilitation policy was not in place, nor land records by the original land holders available. As a result many land less youths become insurgents and perhaps the problems of militancy of Tripura has gained ground.

In 2007, the water level of the dam had fallen tremendously and the land masses emerged from the earlier submerged land. The land losers gather on the emerging land and wanted their original land back. However, they had been chased away by the state police force [3]. Still today, there is a strong demand from the tribal people to the state government to return their land.

The project is not generating power right now, because of low water level and heavy silting of soil on the catchment areas.

The government’s stand is that it will not return the land because hydel power is still cheaper than other form of power generation and it does not want to scrap the project [2]. On the contrary, the government has formed a committee to conduct a feasibility study to revive the dam [2].

Over the years, the conflict has also brought about a high rate of deforestation, due to agricultural practices of the displaced people in the surrounding hills. There's also rampant illegal logging by timber smugglers. That's badly affected rainfall levels and led to heavy silting in the Gumti reservoir.

Local people and advocacy groups call this an historical injustice against the tribal communities of Tripura. However, it seems very unlikely the dam project will be scrapped. The northeast of India is in fact becoming the hydropower region of the entire country.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Gumti Hydroelectric Project, Tripura, India
State or province:Tripura
Location of conflict:Thirthmukh
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Gumti Hydroelectric Power (GHP) Project is operated by Tripura State Electricity Corporation Limited. The Project has three units with a design capacity of 15 MW. The project’s first unit was commissioned in 1976 and the last in 1984 [1]. Hydro-electric power plant and is used to store water for running the turbines to produce electric power. At GHP it is of natural type and total catchment area of reservoir is about 45 sq. km. The length of the Dam is 103 meter and height is 30 meters[4,5]

Project area:4,634
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:40,000
Start of the conflict:1974
Company names or state enterprises:Tripura State Electricity Corporation Limited from India
Relevant government actors:Government of Tripura
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local Tribal People, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (political party, INPT)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsTribal who lost their lands due to the project become landless and unemployed. It has fulled violent insurgency with young men and women from landless families joining the state's two major rebel groups [3].


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Negotiated alternative solution
Project cancelled
Strengthening of participation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Fostering a culture of peace
Under negotiation
Land demarcation
Development of alternatives:The tribal people, allege that the state government did not do anything for their uplift in terms of infrastructure and basic facilities [2]. They demand to scrap the Gumti dam because it is no longer generating electricity. Instead of revival of dam they want dam lands to be redistributed amongst Tripura's landless tribal population so that they can earn their livelihood form that land [3]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Very few people were compensated in 1970’s because most tribesmen had no land records to prove their ownership at that time. It was an injustice to the indigenous people of Tripura. The tribal are marginalized (now their number is less than 30 percent) in their own land by the perpetual inflow of Bengali settlers from Bangladesh [3].
Tribal people who had lost their lands due to the hydro-project settled in the upper areas of the project. The land less people there did heavy primitive agricultural practice (Joom Cultivation) and deforestation. Beside this due to illegal tree cutting and timber smuggling on the upper ridge areas, rainfall pattern was severely affected. This leads to heavy silting and ultimately dying of Gumti reservoir [3]
State government will not allow people to settle down on the lands emerging from the reservoir. According to the state power minister, government will not allow anybody to settle on the land and will revive the project. In the process government has set up an expert committee to look into the condition of the reservoir [2]

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Forest Rights Act 2006

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] Tripura tribals want Gumti Hydro-Electric Project scrapped

[1] Gumti Hydroelectric Power Project

[3] Land reclaim dispute over drying dam

[4] Gumti Hydro Dam D01449

[5] Gumti Hydel Power Project

Meta information

Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update18/02/2015



The land emerged after a drop in the reservoir's water level

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