While blaming the communication gap that led to the entire issue of power projects come as ‘bolt from the blue’ to the clueless stakeholders, the white paper on ‘development of hydropower resources in Sikkim’ points out that the protracted hunger strike carried out by the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) against the power projects proposed in North Sikkim as an blatant example of this ‘institutional failure’.
The white paper has been prepared by Entecsol International and had been tabled by Sikkim government in the concluding day of the budget session in the Assembly yesterday.
Devoting a chapter exclusively to ACT in its executive summery, the white paper claims that there is no dedicated State level mechanism to seriously look into the grievances of the affected people.
“The State government has taken a piecemeal approach to address the concerns of the affected people”, the white paper states adding that there is no permanent institution to seriously look into the concerns raised by ACT.
The white paper further slams the State government by rejecting the high level committee led by Chief Secretary. “The setting up of the high level committee led by the Chief Secretary did not provide any durable solution to their concerns”, the paper states. It also expresses its concerns that the concerns raised on hydro power projects are increasing becoming a volatile and sensitive political issue which is not good for a border and otherwise a peaceful State of Sikkim.
“Interestingly even basic facts are not available in the public domain which would in fact enable people to formulate informed opinion and sound judgement on the issues raised by ACT”, the white paper says. It also exposes few interesting variables and parameters not known to the public at large regarding the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the controversial Panan project.
The white paper states that land for the Panan project will be required from five revenue blocks -Lingtham, Lingdem, Sakyong-Pentog, Lingzya and Salim-Pakel while the affected families is 80 and the land acquired for various project components from these families vary from 0.002 to 0.734 hectares only.
Highlighting the issues associated with the power projects, the white paper said that all these issues need to be seen from a single but overwhelming overarching fact that the State government also does not have any consistent experience of dealing with such projects and their developers in the past.
“For almost fifty seven years (1947-2004) after independence, Sikkim developed its hydropower potential at the rate of 1.67 MW per annum. And today suddenly, the State is going to develop a capacity of 8,000 MW in just 5-15 years. All this is happening without any major up-gradation of professional management capacity of the Energy & Power and other related departments. On the one hand, this shows the later realization of the latent developmental potentials of the State and on the other, it raises the need for capacity development of State machinery to manage and cope up with these developments”.
The white paper added that the State government should have been very open in its approach, transparent in its handling and receptive in its management considering the above facts. “This is apparently lacking in the very initial phase of the hydropower development in the State”.
Regarding the Panan project, the bedrock of the anti-hydel protests in North Sikkim, the white paper seeks to wave off the environmental and other concerns being raised. The submergence created by 56 m high dam proposed in the project does not constitute critical habitat of any plant or animal species and hence any major negative impact on any species or its habitat is not expected, the white paper states.
The threat perceived from large labour population generally employed in such developmental projects will be a temporary phenomenon as the labour has to vacate the site within 6 months of the commissioning of the project, the white paper points out. Moreover, as per the conditions of MoEF while issuing environmental clearances to the project, the developer shall construct its labour camps outside Dzongu, it added.
The white paper also underlines the absence of educational and research institutions to study the hydel power project issues on a long term basis. This has made the situation more precarious, the paper admits.
Even the old established institutions including ICAR, Geological and Botanical Survey of India, GB Pant Institute and even Sikkim Manipal University seem to have shown little interest in studying the likely impacts, both positive and negative even from their respective fields of concerns, the white paper says.
source: Sikkim Express