Monday, August 6, 2007

Sikkim locals protest hydel projects

Bano Haralu
Monday, August 6, 2007 (Gangtok)
Prayers and protests have come together in Sikkim to stop the 26 hydel projects cleared for construction on the Teesta river. This is the longest ever hunger strike in Sikkim over any issue and is raising fundamental questions on the random sanctioning of dams along the Eastern Himalayas, considered one of the most volatile seismic and ecologically fragile areas in the world.
The total power generation expected from these projects is over 5000 MW, 25 times more than the states' requirement. The protest has been loudest from the indigenous Lepcha community as 13 of the 26 projects are proposed in this area.

The Lepchas say the hydel projects will destroy the protected Dzongu Reserve in North Sikkim, considered the cradle of Lepcha civilisation. But the government says it is a question of the greater good. The lepchas are only a small constituent in the area.

''We are very concerned about the strike by our young people especially from Dzungo and we are looking into it,'' said M G Kiran, Secretary Information and Public Relation. The protests have brought the issue of large dams to the centre stage. Nearly 150 of them are across north east India in some of the most ecologically fragile areas.

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