It’s the 79th day of the second indefinite hunger strike by members of ACT and satyagrahis, Dawa Lepcha, Tenzing Lepcha and Ongchuk Lepcha. There is no official word from the government as to their demand of scrapping the controversial 280 MW panan hydel project that will cut right through their homeland, Dzongu. Though 4 other smaller projects have been scrapped, the panan hydel project remains and this has led the trio to their indefinite hunger strike in gap of less than 8 months from the earlier one of 63 days.
Dawa, Tenzing and Ongchuk are currently on their indefinite hunger strike outside BL house at
Meanwhile, a two day tour to study the impact of hydel projects in affected area in
The committee comprised of Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP(South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi, Souparno Lahiri, national Forum of Forest People & Forest Workers, Delhi, Ravindra Nath from Rural Volunteers Centre, Akajan Assam, Partho J Das from North Eastern Centre for Environmental Research and Development, Guwahati, Vimal Bhai from Matu Jan Sangathan, Delhi and Mr Arnab from Nespon, Siliguri.
The committee visited project sites at the 510 MW Teesta Stage V Project, the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III Project under construction in Chungthang and the 280 MW Panan Project coming up in Dzongu.
Suspend Panang HEP for Five Years & take up small Hydro projects
May 20, 2008
The Independent Committee on Big Hydro Projects of Sikkim has over the last 4-5 days visited a Completed Public Sector Hydro Project like the 510 MW Teesta V HEP, the under construction private sector HEP like the 1200 MW Teesta III HEP and the Dzongo area, including the site of the proposed 280 MW Panang HEP.
We have talked with the affected people, elected representatives, project officials and contractors (Teesta III HEP), NGOs, Public Relations officer (Himagiri), visited the Central Water Commission office (Dzongu), we have gone through the official documents, data and clearance letters.
We are very concerned about the indefinite fast of the three activists of ACT, now in 72nd day today, with the evident deterioration of the health of those on fast.
Broadly, we see that the Sikkim government, partly under pressure from the central govt, has hastily committed itself to develop large number (42 on last count) of big hydropower projects, without much consultation with Sikkim citizens, without considering the implications of the projects for the local people, environment, culture, future generations and even return on investment for the state and the people. It has also not seriously assessed the options available for electricity generation or options for development in general. This is evident in the way the Teesta V has been developed, the way Panang HEP MOU has been signed and Teesta III implementation has started.
For example, there is a huge potential of power generation in Dzongu & other regions of
Here it may be noted that the Panang Project still has not been given concurrence by the Central Electricity Authority under the Section 8 of electricity Act 2003. The project had applied for such a concurrence on Oct 17, 2006 and the application was returned without concurrence for lack of sufficient information on November 17, 2006. Without such a concurrence the work that has been now commenced on this project is illegal and should be stopped. This also exposes how improperly the projects are taken up in
On Teesta 3, the Teesta Urja Limited, the company that is developing the project has no track record on such projects. Here the govt should ensure that the company enters into and MOU with the affected communities to ensure that all possible impacts are avoided or minimised and properly compensated when unavoidable. The Environment management plan is implemented as required and local people benefit rather than suffer adverse impacts, as happens in all hydro projects. Complete videography of the houses, water sources, existing landslides and other structures should immediately be done to create a baseline data. The EIA-EMP should be translated in full in local language and made available. All this should be done before project is taken any further. If the project work continues without implementing all these steps, it would bring greater disaster than the Teesta V project, which has been a disaster as can be seen from the situation on ground.
All these steps should be implemented as a policy for all HEPs.
On Teesta V, it is important that the govt asks NHPC to institute credible independent review and resolution of the outstanding social and environmental issues in a time bound manner. We found that scores of houses have developed cracks, the water sources of the communities have dried up, the project site has been left ugly, without restoring the site as required and the tunnels are already leaking. We just found that the huge amount of silt has also been accumulated behind the dam already and the project had to stop generation of power for the last five days. The state govt should also penalise NHPC for not taking care of these problem before commissioning of the project. We also found from the affected people that there seems to be massive corruption in payments of compensations, unearthed by the affected people through RTI. In some cases, the affected people seem to have been paid Rs 5000/- when records show they have been paid Rs 35000/-. A credible independent investigation into this aspect is also urgently required.
We are glad that the Chief Minister of
For other proposed Big HEPs, the
These are the initial recommendations of the committee, we hope to submit a more detailed report to all concerned soon. We also hope to widely disseminate the report and also submit it to the Planning Commission, the Power Ministry, and other concerned ministries and agencies in the Central and the state Govt.
Soupana Lahiri (National Forum of Forest People and Forest workers, Delhi, email@example.com)
Ravindra Nath (Rural Volunteers Centre, Akajan, Assam, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Partho J Das (North Eastern Centre for Environmental Research and Development, Gowahati, email@example.com)
Vimal Bhai (Matu Jan Sangathan, Delhi, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Arnab (NESPON, Siliguri, West Bengal, email@example.com)
Himanshu Thakkar (South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi, firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- Himanshu Thakkar South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People
Independent Expert Committee on Big Hydro Projects in
c/o SANDRP, 86-D, AD block, Shalimar bagh,
email@example.com, Ph: 011 2748 4655
Shri Pawan Kumar Chamling,
Ph No 03592 204611 (Additional Secretary)
Sub: Big Hydro Power Projects in
We are encouraged to send this to you by your positive actions in deciding to cancel the Teesta IV Hydropower project, the Lingza Hydropower project, the Ringpi Hydropower project, the Rangyong Hydropower project and the Rukel Hydropower project, all affecting the Dzongu region. We learn that your government has said that these have been done in order to preserve and protect the sanctity of that Lepcha Abode, as you have said in the assembly and elsewhere.
We are concerned about the deteriorating health of the three activists who are today on the 74th day of their indefinite fast. We appeal to your statesmanship to resolve this stand off at the earliest. One possible way we have suggested in the note to resolve this situation is to suspend the proposed 280 MW Panang Hydropower project at least for five years and in the meantime develop small and micro hydropower projects in the Dzongu region. Development of small and micro hydro power projects will also economically benefit the people of this region, in addition to help
We hope you will seriously consider these and other suggestions in the attached note at the earliest. We would be happy to answer any questions or meet you if necessary in this connection. We will look forward to hearing you.
Thanking you for your attention,
On behalf of the members of the Independent Expert CommitteeMeanwhile, the indefinite hunger strike continues and i sincerely hope that something positive comes from the government as the health of dawa, Tenzing and Ongchuk is deteriorating by the day.