Hydro Disaster

International Day of Actions for Rivers 2022: Resistance against Destructive Hydro

March 14 marks 25th anniversary of International Day of Actions for Rivers, a unique campaign dedicated to indigenous communities striving to protect and preserve their rivers from a whole range of destructive anthropogenic activities. The Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) are among key threats affecting rivers eco-system and riverine communities greatly, in multiple ways.

The resistance against destructive, unviable HEPs growing stronger in India. Over the past one year there has been several protests against hydro projects across the country particularly in Himalayan states. On the occasion of International Day of Actions for rivers celebrating people’s resistance, SANDRP has compiled top ten stories of such community led opposition during the year, along with relevant additional stories. .

1. Hydropower faces to Significant Slowdown The growth of hydropower plants worldwide is set to slow significantly this decade said the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a new report. The projected growth for the 2020s is nearly 25% slower than hydropower’s expansion in the previous decade. For reversing the trend, the required measures include providing long-term visibility on revenues to ensure hydropower projects are economically viable and sufficiently attractive to investors. This is acceptance of the long known fact that hydropower projects even with all the plethora of overt and covert subsidies, are no longer viable.

– Between now and 2030, $127 billion – or almost one-quarter of global hydropower investment – is set to be spent on modernising ageing plants, mostly in advanced economies. This is notably the case in North America, where the average age of a hydropower plant is nearly 50 years, and in Europe, where it’s 45 years. Still, the projected investment falls well short of the $300 billion that the report estimates is necessary to modernise all ageing hydropower plants worldwide. https://www.albawaba.com/business/iea-hydropower-growth-set-significant-slowdown-1436858  (04 July 2021)

Don’t Use Climate Funds for Hydro Projects A landmark Global declaration titled “RIVERS FOR CLIMATE” was launched on Sept 21, 2021, endorsed already by 300 organisations from 69 countries calling on governments and leaders attending COP26 (Conference of Parties meeting 26) to protect river ecosystems and stop using scarce climate funds to finance false climate solutions such as hydropower. https://sandrp.in/2021/09/22/dons-use-climate-funds-for-hydro-projects-300-organisations-from-69-countries-to-un-govts-at-cop26/  (22 Sept. 2021)

Representing the views of civil society, peoples movements, Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, scientists, and conservationists, the declaration called out the proliferation schemes being peddled under an erroneous pretense of sustainability. https://www.internationalrivers.org/news/press-release-300-organizations-from-69-countries-call-on-governments-to-not-use-climate-funding-for-so-called-sustainable-hydropower-schemes/  (21 Sept. 2021)

The signatories urged govts not to use climate funds for “false climate solutions” such as new hydropower dams. The appeal included 26 environment groups from India. Environmentalists point to studies conducted in the past decade that have shown that hydropower dams are major emitters of methane, a greenhouse gas 28-34 times more potent than carbon dioxide. https://www.indiaspend.com/climate-change/why-environmentalists-want-india-to-stop-backing-hydropower-projects-784998  (02 Nov. 2021)

New case for ending big dams The argument against major hydropower projects — ravaged ecosystems and large-scale displacement of people — is well known. But dam critics now say that climate change, bringing dried-up reservoirs and increased methane releases, should spell the end of big hydropower. https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-warming-and-drought-increase-a-new-case-for-ending-big-dams (4 Nov 2021)

2. Meghalaya Opposition to HEP on Umngot river Stiff resistance from at least 12 villages has cast a cloud on a 210 MW hydroelectric project on Umngot river, considered India’s clearest river. The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) had on Apr 9, 2021 scheduled a public hearing for the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) project.  Hundreds of people obstructed officers from conducting the public hearing at Moosakhia in West Jaintia Hills district. The MSPCB officials faced a similar situation at Siangkhnai in East Khasi Hills district on Apr 8, 2021.

– “Everyone is against the mega-dam project as their livelihood is dependent on the river,” Alan West Kharkongor, president of the Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum, said. The locals fear that the project, if executed, would cause irreparable losses by wiping out their areas from the tourism map, besides affecting many villages in the downstream areas dependent on the Umngot. The project documents say people of 13 villages along the Umngot are likely to lose 296 ha due to submergence if the dam comes up. The Umngot river attracts many tourists to Dawki bordering Bangladesh. The water of the river is so clear that boats seem to rest on a crystal glass surface besides casting their shadows on the river bed. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meghalaya-locals-oppose-dam-on-indias-clearest-river/article34291199.ece  (11 April 2021)

The first public hearing at Siangkhnai village under Mawkynrew Block could not be conducted on Apr 8 2021 after protesters prevented officials including the additional district magistrate at Mynsang village, 20km away from the venue of the public hearing. The officials could not proceed to Siangkhnai village to conduct the public hearing as villagers sat on the road at Mynsang the whole day from 5 am on Thursday (April 8) by not allowing any vehicles of the officials to move. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/meghalaya-farmers-oppose-dam-over-umngot-river-disrupts-public-hearing.html  (10 April 2021)

Locals protest against the proposed mega dam project on the Umngot river. (The Shillong Times)

Hundreds of residents of Umsawwar, Mawsir, Mawdulop, Ksangrngi, Jatah Nonglyer, Jatah Lakadong, Mawlong, Mawjatap and adjoining villages — under the banner of Ka Kynhun Ki Nongrep Harud Wah Umngot — prevented officers of MeECL, MSPCB and the district administration from going to Siangkhnai village for the proposed public hearing. https://theshillongtimes.com/2021/04/09/anti-umngot-dam-voice-grows-louder/ (9 Apr 2021)

The hydro project to be executed by MeECL estimated at a cost of Rs.1,853 crore in an area of 390 hectares straddling on Jaintia Hills & East Khasi Hills districts. http://www.uniindia.com/meghalaya-villagers-disrupt-public-hearing-for-mega-dam-project/east/news/2367053.html  (09 April 2021)  

“The construction of the dam would affect agricultural lands and forests, which are the main sources of our livelihood,” said the villagers. https://thenortheasttoday.com/states/meghalaya/meghalaya-umngot-hydro-project-villagers-oppose-proposed/cid2693775.htm  (09 April 2021)

Especially for precious spots such as the Umngot river, which supports many in their day to day lives & is a national treasure; the marring of its beauty being a greater concern than it is currently assumed to be. The mainstream media needs to amplify the voices of the marginalised, especially when they are already weakened & silenced. https://feminisminindia.com/2021/04/15/umngot-river-dam-project-meghalaya/ (15 Apr 2021)

This report rightly asks why is the mainstream national media not covering this important issue?  https://www.zee5.com/zee5news/why-is-media-not-covering-meghalaya-farmer-protest-over-dam-construction-on-umngot-river  (12 April 2021)

“You cannot put a price tag on our ancestral ties to the land,” Merrysha said.

-Once the dam is built upstream, the river downstream will be rendered dry, slowly draining into a watery graveward for fishes. A report by the SANDRP states the diversion of water through dams has collapsed downstream ecosystems and fisheries in the Krishna, Godavari, Mahanadi, Pennar, Narmada, Tapi, Sabarmati, Mahi, and Cauvery rivers.

-The EIA summary for the Umngot project fails to mention the river’s biodiversity. “Unless you specify the aquatic biodiversity under the water, you cannot calibrate the environmental flow needed to sustain freshwater ecosystems,” Navin Juyal, Ph.D., a geologist formerly with the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad noted. More ominously, the EIA report downplays geological and seismic risks. https://theswaddle.com/in-meghalaya-the-umngot-river-keeps-tribal-livelihoods-afloat-a-dam-project-threatens-that-balance/  (06 May 2021)

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) against Umngot Hydro Electric Project (HEP) petitioned Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma to scrap the project. “Several villages located along the Umngot river have strongly opposed the move of the state government to implement the Umngot project,” the JAC stated in its petition to the CM on May 7, 2021. “We will not allow either the government or any private firm to carry out a survey. We had earlier prevented the SPCB from conducting the public hearings since it had violated the order of the EIA,” it stated. https://theshillongtimes.com/2021/05/08/scrap-umngot-dam-project-jac-to-cm/ (8 May 2021)

Plea to save the Umngot river for future generations. https://theshillongtimes.com/2021/05/13/save-umngot-today-save-a-generation-tomorrow/  (13 May 2021)

State Power Minister James Sangma vouched for the viability of the Umngot project and said the State will take all stakeholders on board. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meghalaya-govt-defends-plan-to-dam-river-umngot/article34331095.ece (13 Apr 2021)

Interesting to see a debate on the Umngot Dam. https://thenortheasttoday.com/oped/umngot-dam-is-the-dam-in-the-best-interest-of-its-citizens/cid3483437.htm  (02 July 2021)

The Project hit a major stumbling block after a conglomeration of pressure groups and traditional heads demanded scrapping of the project while asserting that they would not entertain any discussion on the issue. https://theshillongtimes.com/2021/07/06/jac-reiterates-opposition-to-umngot-project/  (06 July 2021)

JAC submits memo to CM Conrad K Sangma, demands scrapping of the proposed dam project. https://www.eastmojo.com/meghalaya/2021/07/13/scrap-umngot-hydro-electric-project-jac-to-meghalaya-cm/  (13 July 2021)

Umngot dam project ‘scrapped’ But the JAC is wary of the “ambiguity” of the announcement as the govt had sought public hearings on the project in April 2021, a year after it was said to have been terminated. What planted the seeds of doubt about Umngot was Power Minister’s statement that the government would seek the views of stakeholders if the project was taken up in the future.

“The Power Minister’s statement is ambiguous. He did not specifically say if the Umngot project will be scrapped,” JAC member Treibor Raul Suchen told journalists in the State capital Shillong. Tourism forums have also sought clarity from the government. “We shall not entertain any discussions on the views of stakeholders on any future projects on the Umngot, as the Power Minister said,” Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF) president Allan West Kharkongor said. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/after-protests-meghalaya-dam-project-scrapped/article36219044.ece (1 Sep 2021)

3. Himachal Pradesh Kinnaur Natives oppose Hydel Projects After massive environmental destruction, loss of rare biodiversity including an endangered forest species of Chilgoza and spate of human tragedies recently due to huge landslides, the tribal population in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur is up in their arms to oppose new hydel projects, much against the total carrying capacity of the fragile mountain ecology.

“No means, No “ is a powerful slogan coined by the locals supported by some social and environmental groups to stop sanctioning of any new hydel projects, almost on the lines of Uttarakhand’s famous “Chipko anadolan” – a mass movement to save the forests there. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-no-means-no-after-landslides-kinnaur-natives-on-warpath-opposing-hydel-projects/392902  (28 Aug. 2021)

People aged from 8 years to 90 are gathering on roads of Kinnaur holding placards in hands saying #SaveKinnaur #NomeansNo. This comes after the continuous landslides that have been happening in this area for quite a long time and the recent Kinnaur landslide accident gave the campaign a boost on social media. Kinnaur and nearby villages’ people are saying that the explosives in the tunnel excavations is causing major Landslides in the area and theirs’ lives are facing continuous threat. https://thedailyguardian.com/kinnaur-people-protest-as-hydro-project-induced-landslides-become-frequent/  (04 Aug. 2021)

Villagers gathered at the district headquarters of Reckong Peo in large numbers to send a strong message to the authorities and power companies that people won’t allow any more power projects. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/no-more-hydel-projects-cry-echoes-in-kinnaur-302502  (27 Aug. 2021)

Among the key demands of the protesters was a complete halt on any further hydropower development in the Sutlej Valley. They want that the proposed 804 mw Jangi Thopan Powari project be stalled. https://www.newsclick.in/Kinnaur-Hydropower-Project-Tribal-Lives-Environment-Line-Residents  (28 Aug. 2021)

Zila Parishad member Priya said the Kinnaur movement is a fight for the rights of tribal people. 44 people were killed in landslides in Kinnaur this year. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/nomeansno-campaign-against-hydel-projects-resounds-across-kinnaur-101630008684813.html  (27 Aug. 2021)

The locals are determined to resist further degradation by exercising their right to consent, embedded in the rule that an NOC from the Gram Sabha is mandatory for setting up HEP. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/editorials/no-should-mean-no-303921 (30 Aug 2021)

Kinnaur has been hit by several landslides, the last such incident happened on August 11. Villagers blame the hydropower dams and have reignited their protests against these projects. https://en.gaonconnection.com/himachal-pradesh-kinnaur-landslide-hydro-power-projects-water-trees-environment-himalayas-climate-change-floods/  (12 Aug. 2021)

Villagers, environmentalists and NGOs staging a protest against the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan hydel project in Kinnaur on Thursday. (ANI)

A study carried out in Kinnaur between 2012 and 2016 found that a push for hydropower projects in the name of clean energy brought rapid land-use changes adversely impacting local terrestrial ecosystems and communities inhabiting them. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/himachal-pradesh-hills-creak-under-climate-crisis-construction-101628726630891.html  (12 Aug. 2021)

In the wake of the disasters in Kinnaur, there is a new wave of protests against hydropower projects. Sumit Mahar goes live from Moorang tehsil speaking to youth from the affected area of the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan HEP in the Sutlej valley. https://fb.watch/7oQLL471EY/; Webinar on increasing hydro disasters. https://fb.watch/7oSqNF-c9H/

In this talk, Mansi Asher of Himdhara zeroes in on tribal district Kinnaur’s tryst with hydropower projects. A similar resistance is brewing in neighboring Lahaul & Spiti too. The ‘natural’ disaster figleaf is blown off.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5_Zqa4HJmc 

Follow Endangered Himalaya & Dibang Resistance to observe the coverage around anti dam sentiments across the Himalayan belt. https://fb.watch/aid4TOeZOU/

Some More Reports on Hydro projects Resistance in Himachal Pradesh

Opposing the Jangi Thopan hydro project the villagers fear that the project would run dry their water sources. The construction and blasting work would pollute their streams and air. They villagers also decided to intensify their stir against the destruction. https://react.etvbharat.com/hindi/himachal-pradesh/state/kinnaur/villagers-protest-against-jangi-thopan-project-in-kinnaur/hp20210328163816148  (28 March 2021)

Affected villagers in Kinnaur demand to scrap the proposed Jangi Thopan HEP. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=OltDKOQ3PjA&feature=youtu.be (25 Jul 2021)

Armed with the stamp of approval from its local deity “Patharo”, the residents of Rarang panchayat in Kinnaur have decided to boycott the Mandi Lok Sabha by-poll in protest against the 804 MW Jangi Thopan HEP. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/himachal-bypoll-against-hydel-project-kinnaur-panchayat-to-boycott-ls-bypoll-329721  (26 Oct. 2021)

Tikender Singh Panwar: Kinnaur tribals launch campaign against the proposed 804 MW Jangi Thopan Powari Project on Satluj. https://www.newsclick.in/no-means-no-kinnaur-tribals-oppose-hydropower-plant-protect-fragile-ecology  (31 Dec. 2021)

Resistance in Lahaul & Spiti Residents of Lahaul and Spiti district – which is highly vulnerable to floods, avalanches and landslides – are a worried lot on hearing of the glacial burst in Chamoli district. The govt recently signed MoUs for five mega projects in Lahaul – home to over 100 glaciers, including Himachal’s largest glacier Bada Shigri – with SJVNL and NTPC. Nearly 16 mega-hydel projects are proposed for the Chenab basin, which has a highly sensitive and fragile ecosystem, in Lahaul and Pangi valley with the claim of combined power generation potential of over 5,000MW.

Warning about the devastation caused by these projects in Kinnaur district and in Uttarakhand, Lahaul residents have been opposing these projects and have threatened that they will not allow companies to start work. They are worried that construction activities, including building reservoirs, will not only destroy huge glaciers but also will put human lives at risk. They have warned they will not let a single tree be cut and will not let land to be submerged into water.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/shimla/locals-oppose-mega-hydel-projects-in-himachals-lahaul/articleshow/80740816.cms  (08 Feb. 2021)

Villagers of Tandi panchayat held a meeting today on Feb 8 to oppose the proposed hydropower projects in their region. Pic: Save Lahaul Spiti

Fearing Chamoli like disaster, tribals in Lahaul and Spiti are conducting meetings to pass another resolution against the proposed dams in the region and send it to the Governor and the President of India. https://en.gaonconnection.com/uttarakhand-disaster-over-300-km-from-joshimath-in-chamoli-ripples-of-alarm-in-himachals-lahaul-and-spiti/  (08 Feb. 2021)

13 organisations in the state said in a collective statement issued that many operational, as well as planned hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, are located in areas highly vulnerable to disasters such as landslides and floods. http://www.uniindia.com/~/numerous-power-projects-vulnerable-to-disaster-ngos/States/news/2314509.html  (09 Feb. 2021) 

On June 25 2021 the delegation of Tandi Dam Sangharsh Samiti met Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in Sissu. The delegation opposed the proposed 51 small and big hydroelectric projects on the Chenab (Chandrabhaga) river. The committee said that this area is going to become a hub of medicinal plants, herbs, off-season vegetables and fruits. In such a situation, the brown and black bears and snow leopards will also have a fatal effect due to the HEPs. https://www.amarujala.com/himachal-pradesh/kullu/tandi-dam-sangharsh-samiti-meets-nitin-gadkari-kullu-news-sml374866925  (26 June 2021)

 हिमाचल प्रदेश के जिले किन्नौर के मूरंग गांव में पावर प्रोजेक्टों के खिलाफ आवाज बुलंद करते लोग। फोटो: रोहित पराशर

Lahaul-Spiti Ekta Manch formed by merging the several grass root groups of the district against more than 50 proposed HEPs on Chandrabhaga and Chenab rivers in Lahaul-Spiti. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/hindistory/energy/hydropower/people-s-anger-erupted-against-power-projects-after-increasing-natural-disasters-in-himachal-78233 (2 Aug 2021)

Lahaul-Spiti Ekta Manch held a press conference expressing solidarity towards Kinnaur tribals affected by hydroelectric projects. https://www.facebook.com/Save-Lahaul-Spiti-Society-1399025903505278/videos/1038897166927766/  (20 Aug. 2021)

After flash flood incidents in Lahaul Spiti and Kinnaur in 2021, people are opposing the HEPs on the Chenab basin in Lahaul Spiti. Sudarshan Jaspa, president of Lahaul Spiti Ekta Manch, said, “This tribal district is eco-fragile where setting up of power projects may prove disastrous. The power projects will adversely affect the ecology of area, which may result in melting of glaciers rapidly, resulting in natural calamities. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/lahaul-residents-oppose-power-projects-on-chenab-river-basin-301191  (24 Aug. 2021)

EXCELLENT: The first step is to realise that these hydropower projects are a threat to ecology and humans (in Lahaul and Spiti). Therefore, disasters and tragedies, including in places such as the newly opened Lahaul-Spiti district, having a similar topography and vulnerabilities, must be prevented at all costs.

Sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen should be exploited rather than hydroelectric power. The governments must ensure that the people are placed ahead of profit. Lahaul-Spiti is blessed with abundant sun and wind energy sources spread across an area of 11,000 sq km… It’s high time the state government too recognises this potential and revisits its over-dependence on hydropower projects which, evidence clearly shows, are detrimental to human lives in the hilly terrains. The various HEPs should be halted immediately. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/himalayan-crisis-looms-large-in-lahaul-valley-313931  (21 Sept. 2021)

Power project oustees threaten bypoll boycott Villagers of 16 panchayats, affected due to the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri HEP have threatened to boycott the upcoming byelection to the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/power-project-oustees-threaten-bypoll-boycott-in-himachal-304330  (31 Aug. 2021)   

No takers for surplus power In Himachal the generation in some 70 state-owned large hydropower projects is between 50-55 million units per day. Despite scanty monsoon rains, the daily generation is optimum due to the sufficient flow of water in rivers owing to the melting of glaciers. However, the state’s demand is 30 milllion units a day, while the rest is supplied to Punjab, Delhi, Goa, among others, according to their demand. The daily per unit rate to these states varies from Rs 2.50 to Rs 5, which is quite low. The cash-starved distribution companies in these states, which were earlier procuring electricity in bulk, are opting for power cuts. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/energy/why-flooding-raises-alarm-over-bearing-of-hydropower-plants-on-the-himalayas-78167  (29 July 2021)

4. Assam Organisations plan stir against NHPC mega dam More than 20 organisations have announced a joint movement against a mega hydropower project being built by the NHPC on the Arunachal Pradesh-Assam border. “We have decided on a string of protests including blockade of the project site against the NHPC from Sept 20. So far, 22 organisations have expressed support,” Asom Jatiyabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) leader Palash Changmai said.

The AJYCP on Sept. 11 organised a public meeting where geological and hydrological experts underlined the threat to areas downstream of the NHPC project. Leaders of the 22 organisations such as All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association attended the meeting. According to the AJYCP, work on the project was resumed without consulting 965 villages across four districts downstream of the project, as had been agreed upon in 2014. These districts are Biswanath, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Majuli. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-organisations-plan-stir-against-nhpc-mega-dam/article36412127.ece  (12 Sept. 2021)

AASU stages statewide protests to halt construction work of 2000MW Lower Subansiri Hydropower project; Photo Credit : NET Web Desk

On Oct 25, the AASU staged a state wide demonstration against the construction work of 2000 MW Lower Subansiri hydropower project. The students union demanded the state govt to immediately halt the work of this dam, which is believed to pose severe impact on the lives of those residing downstream, i.e., for the residents of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. According to an AASU leader, work for the same was ceased after tripartite talks were undertaken between the state government, AASU and NHPC in 2006. https://www.northeasttoday.in/2021/10/25/assam-halt-construction-of-lower-subansiri-hydropower-project-aasu-to-government/  (25 Oct. 2021)

‘Our laws fail to address issues in Northeast’ “There is no judicial or expert member in the NGT from any state of the Northeast. Against this backdrop, hardly anyone can convince the NGT on various environmental issues of the region,” Ritwick Dutta said. “We are facing many issues when the court hears the case of the Lower Subansiri (Hydropower dam) project. It was because the judicial officers of NGT do not know much about Assam and the Northeast,” Dutta also said. He added that in many instances, the people will have to take a proactive role to make their voices heard in the corridors of power. https://www.eastmojo.com/assam/2021/11/09/our-laws-fail-to-address-issues-in-northeast-lawyer-ritwick-dutta/  (09 Nov. 2021)

5. Kerala Athirappilly HEP scrapped The Kerala govt has called off the proposed 163-MW Athirappilly HEP on the Chalakudy river basin in Thrissur district, confirmed state electricity board officials. The decision came amid mounting opposition from environmentalists and tribal organisations against the construction in the biodiverse and state’s only riverine forest. The forest department will return Rs 4.11 crore deposited about two decades ago by the Kerala State Electricity Board as seigniorage for cutting and removing trees from the proposed project construction area. A high-level meeting involving top officials of the department and board decided to facilitate an immediate transfer of the amount.

This is great victory for the over 25 year old struggle against the dam lead by Chalakudry Puzha Samarakshan Samiti and River Research Centre, Kerala, under the leadership of late Dr. Latha Anantha. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/kerala-government-abandons-controversial-athirappilly-hydroelectric-project-amid-widespread-protests-79564 (7 Oct 2021)

6. Sikkim Dzongu residents opposing Teesta dams for 15 years For the past 15 years, the people of Dzongu, North Sikkim, have opposed the dam construction on River Teesta. The indigenous Lepcha tribe who live in Dzongu have long argued, protested and staged a 915-day hunger strike, fearing that their native villages would be affected after the dam construction. The hunger strike and protest in Gangtok and Dzongu started around 2004 and went on until 2009.

There are two dams that they oppose: the 520 MW Teesta-4 Project of the NHPC on Teesta river and the 280 MW Panam HEP on Dzongu’s native Rongyoung River. North Sikkim already houses Teesta-3 in Chungthang and Teesta-5 in Dikchu, further downhill from Dzongu. There are multiple stage HEPs by NHPC on Teesta in Sikkim and North Bengal. The Panam project was supposed to be finished in 2015 but was stopped due to financial constraints. Now, the NHPC has proposed to take over the Panam Project along with Stage IV, which they initiated around 2010. https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2021/10/10/sikkim-why-dzongu-residents-continue-to-defy-dams-on-teesta-river/  (10 Oct. 2021)

Voice Against Teesta Hydropower Projects Gain Momentum The Lepchas of Dzongu in North Sikkim resumed their protests against the proposed mega HEPs on the river Teesta. Hundreds of people gathered at Namprikdang to demonstrate their strong opposition against the 520 MW Teesta-IV power project and 280 MW Panan HEP, both in Upper Dzongu. Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) demanded immediate scrapping of all hydel projects to protect environmental and socio-cultural ethos. The protests also witnessed the presence of Bongthings – the Lepcha priests, who performed rituals seeking blessings to help them “Save Teesta”.

– Earlier, the organization strongly condemned the ‘Blue Planet Prize’ award given to NHPC Ltd for its Teesta-V 510 MW HEP at Dikchu, East Sikkim. https://www.northeasttoday.in/2021/10/07/sikkim-voice-against-teesta-hydropower-projects-gain-momentum/  (07 Oct. 2021)

ACT condemns IHA’s ‘Blue Planet’ award for Teesta-V HEP The ACT has strongly condemned the ‘Blue Planet Prize’ award given to National Hydroelectric Power Corp (NHPC) for Teesta-V 510 MW HEP. “This award is nothing but another attempt to depoliticise the woes and protests against dams that has been going on for 18 years on the stretch of Teesta river and finally to push the button to dam the belly of Dzongu near Mangan which has been resisted for a long time,” – asserted by ACT General Secretary Gyatso T. Lepcha.

– Gyatso further stated that communities residing around the river have been directly impacted by this project. The award could push more such projects across the region, which would be a shame, added the General Secretary. https://www.northeasttoday.in/2021/09/27/sikkim-act-condemns-ihas-blue-planet-award-for-teesta-v-hydropower-project/  (27 Sept. 2021)

Fear, concern, uncertainty of living space isn’t the only thing here that everyone should know about. NHPC Ltd is a ‘U-TURN’ company. While they say and declare soothing comments and commitments, they deliver the opposite almost like how ‘political parties’ work after getting elected. Once they acquire land for the HEP, their promises of compensation & relocation goes off in the air, it has so far. https://thelepchaeditorial.wordpress.com/2021/09/26/why-sikkimese-folk-should-protest-against-the-iha-award-for-nhpc-teesta-stage-v/ (26 Sep 2021)

IHA awards Blue Planet prize to NHPC’s 510 MW Teesta V project, based on claimed (without any substance) independent assessment of the project on some 20 criteria of Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol during Jan-June 2019. Its such a bad example that it would be bad advertisement for IHA claims. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/small_hydro/indiaa-s-teestav-hydropower-station-awarded-2021-20210923  (23 Sept. 2021)

Picture coursey: Karma Lepcha (Darjeeling Lepcha Youth Association was among the very first
organisation to join the save river Teesta campaign) https://thesikkimtoday.com/2021/07/27/these-youths-in-sikkim-are-fighting-for-river-teesta/

Lepchas reignite protest against the 520MW HEP. (DZONGU is not your gold mine!!! dig your own land don’t try to be a broker of Indigenous People’s land !!!) https://en.gaonconnection.com/turbulence-along-the-teesta-the-lepchas-of-dzongu-valley-in-sikkim-reignite-their-protest-against-the-520-mw-hydropower-project/  (11 Jan. 2021)

7. Arunachal Pradesh SMRF says no to govt’s renewed call for hydropower in Tawang  The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), which is led by the monks from Tawang region, has shot down the govt’s renewed plan to construct hydropower projects in the district. The SMRF said that it condemns the decision of the Arunachal government to revive the construction of hydropower projects in Tawang district. “Most of these hydropower projects are proposed to be constructed in the two major river basins in Tawang – the Tawangchhu in the east and the Nyamjangchhu in the west – which will damage the geographically volatile and highly seismic region of Tawang. Apart from endangering several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites, the HEPs also threaten the existence of the endangered black-necked cranes, considered a sacred embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama”. The SMRF reiterated that the signatures of the gram sabha for the Tawang Chu-II were obtained fraudulently by the NHPC.

In the gram sabhas conducted by the people, and recorded by the SMRF, the majority of the participants from 27 villages and the Tawang monastery had said no to these projects. It further added that the “Arunachal government should learn from the disaster at Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, where the Rishiganga and Tapovan hydroelectric projects were completely destroyed by a glacier avalanche. This event highlights the harsh truth of how little the govt of India and various regional Himalayan states are focusing attention on appreciating the fragility of this range,”. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2021/02/23/monks-led-smrf-says-no-to-govts-renewed-call-for-hydropower-in-tawang/  (23 Feb. 2021)

SMRF says no to govt’s renewed call for hydropower in Tawang. https://eastnews.in/latest-arunachal-pradesh-news/arunachal-smrf-says-no-to-govts-renewed-call-for-hydropower-in-tawang/

On Feb 22, the monks-led SMRF said the proposed HEPs would not only affect the nesting grounds of the endangered black-necked crane but also threaten several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tawang-monks-oppose-arunachal-govts-fresh-push-for-hydropower-projects/article33910552.ece (23 Feb 2021)

Buddhist Monks in Tawang continue to oppose the hydropower projects proposed there. https://religionnews.com/2021/10/14/in-remote-himalayan-india-buddhist-monks-and-indigenous-tribe-fight-government-hydropower-projects/  (14 Oct. 2021)

Some More News Reports on Hydro Projects Resistance in Arunachal Pradesh

Pro-dam group wants 142 power projects scrapped A pro-dam group in Arunachal has demanded the scrapping of 142 power projects across the State. The Pro-Dam Movement of Arunachal Pradesh (PDMAP) said the memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed between the State government and private power companies for these 142 projects need to be cancelled for violating the terms and conditions of the agreements. PDMAP president Taw Paul said the organisation had on April 28 submitted a memorandum to CM Pema Khandu seeking the termination of the deals for these power projects as the govt failed to commission any of them in more than a decade. “The State govt should come clean and give the people all the details of the expenditure incurred on these projects till date, as ₹1,495.73 cr had been collected from private and public power developers as upfront cost for the HEPs,” he said.

Another demand of the organisation was a white paper on the revenue obtained from at least three commissioned HEPs — the 600 MW Kameng, the 110 MW Pare and the 405 MW Ranganadi.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/pro-dam-arunachal-group-wants-142-power-projects-scrapped/article34449250.ece  (30 April 2021)

PPA demands review of hydro projects The People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) slammed the Arunachal state govt for not taking any action against power developers who failed to commission hydroelectric projects despite deadlines set in the memoranda of agreements. The PPA, the only regional party in Arunachal Pradesh, has asked the Pema Khandu-led govt to review the status of these power projects and take action accordingly. “Not even one of the 143 power projects for which deals were signed has taken off, in total disregard of the terms and conditions that specified their date of start, date of completion and date of commissioning. The deadlines have exceeded many years but there has been no follow-up action from the govt,” Kaling Jerang, the party’s secretary, said.

– The party also alleged that the hydropower developers used the pact documents to borrow money from the banks in India and abroad and augmented their own businesses with the money without investing a single paisa in hydropower development in the State. He said all the hydropower agreements were carried out in total violation of the Forest Rights Act, which clearly states that valid clearances should to be mandatorily obtained from the competent district authorities, legislators, panchayat leaders at the grassroots level and all the primary stakeholders. But no such consent was taken. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/peoples-party-of-arunachal-demands-review-of-hydro-projects-in-state/article37592404.ece  (20 Nov. 2021)

8. Uttarakhand Open Letter to PM Restarting 7 under-construction hydro projects in Ganga Himalaya unjustified. https://sandrp.in/2021/09/23/open-letter-to-pm-on-uttarakhand-hydro-in-sept-2021/  (23 Sept. 2021)

64 prominent environmental activists and academicians term ‘profound error’ and ‘self-defeating exercise’ the recommendation of going ahead with more hydro-electric projects in upper reaches of the Ganga river in the Uttarakhand Himalayas.

The activists also reminded the PM of the observation of the Jal Shakti ministry itself: “As may be seen from the views of experts and expert organizations indicated in the foregoing para, the HEPs will adversely affect the ecology of the Himalayas, leading to an irreversible loss to the Himalayan eco system and to the national river Ganga which is the nation’s identity and symbol of faith and heritage.” The letter ended with saying that they “sincerely hope” that the Prime Minister will reconsider the recent MoEF&CC recommendation to restart the seven HEPs. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/no-dams-in-upper-reaches-of-ganga-open-letter-to-pm-modi-309298  (10 Sept. 2021)

MoEF has previously said that approval for construction must have scientific backing – but experts say the new decision doesn’t. https://science.thewire.in/environment/unjustified-experts-write-to-pm-modi-against-hydro-projects-in-ganga-himalaya/  (10 Sept. 2021)

“6 out of the 7 projects (except Tehri Stage II) recommended, lie in para-glacial zones, or in its buffer.  The EB-I Report had explicitly highlighted the dangers of building dams in the para-glacial zone, now understood as the region upstream of the MCT. Several scientific publications thereafter have also supported the EB-I recommendation against building dams in these areas. The destruction of the Vishnuprayag, Phata-Byung and Singoli Bhatwari HEPs in 2013 & the Rishiganga & Tapovan Vishnugad HEPs in Feb 2021 are recent examples. https://science.thewire.in/environment/unjustified-experts-write-to-pm-modi-against-hydro-projects-in-ganga-himalaya/  (10 Sept. 2021)

Priyadarshini Patel Of the 7 projects that have just received the green signal, two lie under heaps of debris. It is unsound reasoning to argue that these projects must be completed simply due to the initial error of starting them. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/voices/code-red-for-ganga-himalayas-restarting-hydro-projects-in-uttarakhand-an-open-invitation-to-disaster/  (22 Sept. 2021)

Brahamchari Atmabodhanand staging fast at Matri Sadan ashram in Haridwar.(HT PHOTO)

Brahamchari Atmabodhanand of Haridwar’s Matri Sadan ashram who has been on a fast since Aug 18 wrote to PM Modi demanding the prohibition on stone crusher units within 5 km periphery of Ganga riverbed, a blanket prohibition on quarrying from Raiwala till Bhogpur, the formation of Ganga Council, speedy enacting of Ganga Act and ensuring a free unhindered flow of Ganga river. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/seer-on-fast-for-closure-of-all-hydel-power-projects-on-ganga-writes-to-pm-modi-101615118659282.html (7 Mar 2021)

Swami Atmabodhanand also demanded ban on the 4 HEPs. https://www.newsclick.in/haridwar-seer-indefinite-fast-hydroelectric-projects  (19 Sept. 2021)

Some More News Reports on Hydro Projects Resistance in Uttarakhand

Local agitations against Vyasi HEP Bhim Singh Rawat, an associate coordinator with SANDRP said, “The region is susceptible to cloudburst, flash floods and recurrent landslide incidents. Above that, the careless handling of muck generated during the construction of 2.7 kilometres long, 7-metre dia tunnel in last eight years has added to the woes of local people and Yamuna river.” The dumps are so close to the river that construction debris keeps spilling into the river, more so during Monsoon which has raised the river level. The prevailing situation can trigger more flash floods in future.”

Local Agitations And Disasters Hit Hard Already Delayed Yamuna Dam Project

Manoj Misra, head of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is of the opinion that whether the project shall deliver the benefits as claimed in its benefit: cost ratio is anybody’s guess since most HEPs in the land are underperforming. In the Himalayan belt, the influence of climate change is also an unknown determinant which this and similar projects have not been assessed for. As usual amid cost escalation, delays, looming geological, climatic threats, norms violations and social injustice, the tall claims of the hydro project developers continue to be contradicted by the ground realities. https://www.newsclick.in/Uttrakhand-Local-Agitations-Disasters-Hit-Hard-Already-Delayed-Yamuna-Dam-Project  (29 Dec. 2021)

On the 38th day of the ongoing dharna in Juddo under the banner of Yamuna Ghati Lakhwad Vyasi Dam Affected Committee, the villagers of Lohari held the DGM of Jal Vidyut Nigam and his associate hostage for two hours. The villagers of the dam affected Lohari have been staging a sit-in near the foundation of the dam for 38 days demanding land for land, job for a family member. https://www.jagran.com/uttarakhand/dehradun-city-vks-21825603.html   (13 July 2021)

About 90% of the dam construction work has been completed. In such a situation, there is a danger of the village being submerged soon. The villagers warned that if no immediate action is taken regarding the displacement, the agitation would be intensified. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/vikasnagar/story-villagers-of-lohari-accuse-the-government-of-step-motherly-behavior-4217503.html  (13 July 2021)

On Jun 21, villagers sitting on a dharna at the Lakhwar-Vyasi dam project site Juddo staged a 2-hr protest on the Delhi-Yamunotri NH. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/vikasnagar/story-lakhwar-vyasi-dam-project-villagers-protest-blocked-road-kalsi-vikasnagar-4144888.html (21 Jun 2021) https://react.etvbharat.com/hindi/uttarakhand/state/udham-singh-nagar/woman-created-ruckus-during-marriage-ceremony-in-kashipur/uttarakhand20210713211517435 (12 Jun 2021) 

The agitation completed 100 days on Sept. 13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4-bjfm2mso (13 Sep 2021)

Inhuman administration and hydropower developers jail the local people for demanding proper rehabilitation for the displacement due to the controversial Lakhwar Vyasi project which has no justification. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/dehradun/villagers-sitting-on-protest-against-acquiring-land-for-hydropower-project-in-ukhand-picked-up-by-police-jailed/articleshow/86737145.cms  (04 Oct. 2021)

The villagers took out a rally in Juddo against closing of dam gates on Nov. 28. They  said until the displaced are rehabilitated, water will not be allowed to fill the lake of the dam project. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/vikasnagar/story-dam-affected-people-took-out-public-anger-rally-in-juddo-5187853.html  (27 Nov. 2021)

Battle to preserve Raini village after Chipko Following the dismissal of the petition in the high court, the residents of Raini village are preparing to appeal to the Supreme Court, despite limited resources. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/battle-to-preserve-nature-resumes-in-uttarakhand-s-raini-village-48-years-after-chipko-78142 (28 Jul 2021)

Matter of worry is not just the dismissal of the petition that irked the environment activists who moved the petition, but also the fine of Rs 10,000 slapped on the petitioners just for approaching the court with their concerns. https://www.thequint.com/news/law/activists-approached-court-to-protect-ecology-got-fined-instead#read-more  (29 July 2021)

On 17-18 Jun 2021 Raini was affected by devastating floods, which destroyed the lower part of village. On 24 Jul 2021 substantial landslide hit Tapovan Vishnugad HEP at site of tunnel portal near to Selang village. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2021/07/30/tapovan-vishnugad/  (30 July 2021)

Villagers protest against Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP Villagers affected by the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP of THDC on Aug. 20 allegedly attempted to immolate themselves in protest against the forcible demolition of their homes near the project site, police said. The villagers were protesting against the forcible demolition of their homes near the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/vishnugad-pipalkoti-hydel-project-uttarakhand-villagers-protest-against-hydel-project-attempt-self-immolation-2515221  (20 Aug. 2021)

Podcast on impact of dams Ravi Chopra, founder Director of the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun on MoEF permitting 7 controversial hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and how hydro power projects are causing disaster, vulnerable to increasing disasters apart from being economically unviable. https://www.thehindu.com/podcast/the-impact-of-dams-in-the-himalayas-in-focus-podcast/article36838970.ece (5 Oct 2021)

Trailer of Ladenge Jeetenge: Release of online Documentary on Dams In June 2013, Uttarakhand was inundated with floods. Unplanned development with disregard for the effect on the ecologically sensitive landscape further exacerbated the scale of destruction. One community that was gravely affected were residents of Pouri, Uttarakhand. However, they stood resilient in the face of destruction and brought to justice those who worsened their misery. ‘Ladenge Jeetenge’ tells the story of their courage and resilience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX2Zt4oA6_A&feature=youtu.be (20 Jan 2021) https://vidhilegalpolicy.in/events/screening-of-ladenge-jeetenge-a-documentary-on-dams-in-uttarakhand/; https://youtu.be/21Udw9CBNDo

9. Manipur Villagers call to let Manipur River flow free  The call to let Manipur River flow free arises from the intense protest by local communities of the adverse negative impacts of Ithai Barrage on the natural e-flow of the river and considerable degradation of its ecosystem during these past four decades. The barrage is built at the confluence of Manipur River and Khuga River near Ithai Khunou village in Bishnupur District of Manipur, and it was commissioned in 1983. Since then, the barrage had impounded the water of the river at a constant height of 768.5 m above mean sea level. This is primarily to achieve required volume of water storage in Loktak Lake for generating power by the 105 MW Loktak HEP. https://thefrontiermanipur.com/arong-nongmaikhong-villagers-call-to-let-manipur-river-flow-free/  (15 March 2021)

In an interview in the state Imphal in Feb 2020, Ram Wangkheirakpam, from the NGO Indigenous Perspectives, explained that the effects of the dam run deep for the local community. “This is not a one-time experience. For the local people the impacts are long. Even after 30 years people are still suffering. It has been three decades and people are still trying to make sense of their lives. They have lost their habitat and are still trying to locate themselves legally or otherwise.”

He continued, “Loktak brings an example of how dams can affect people. For people not affected by a dam they will never understand this. Many people in Loktak have not been compensated. Even when people have been compensated and rehabilitated, the impact goes on. It passes down generations.” https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/loktak-lake-the-human-and-environmental-costs-of-hydropower/  (11 Dec. 2021)

How Hydropower Development Devastated the Loktak Wetlands and the Livelihoods of Women and Communities https://www.internationalrivers.org/news/how-hydropower-development-devastated-the-loktak-wetlands-and-the-livelihoods-of-women-and-communities/

The Meitei people call the Loktak Wetlands in India’s North East region Loktak Lairembi or, the mother goddess. The wetlands are the foundation of their socio-economic development and rich cultural heritage, but has been decimated by the controversial 105 MW Loktak HEP. https://www.internationalrivers.org/news/how-hydropower-development-devastated-the-loktak-wetlands-and-the-livelihoods-of-women-and-communities/  (08 Dec. 2021)

‘Revoke MoUs for mega dams, oil exploration, mining, agri-business’ The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur and the Youth Forum for Protection of Human Rights in Manipur have called for revoking of all MoUs for mega dams, oil exploration, mining, agri-business, namely oil-palm. During a “Consultation on Climate Change in Manipur in Context of COP26 of UNFCC” held at the Manipur Press Club, Imphal on Nov. 8, the two bodies stated that the MoUs were pursued without the people’s consent. https://www.ifp.co.in/10818/revoke-mous-for-mega-dams-oil-exploration-mining-agri-business  (09 Nov. 2021)

10. Nagaland Land owners oppose plan to divest Doyang HEP Reacting to the state-run NTPC drawing a Rs 15,000 crore divestment plan to list North Eastern Electric Power Corp (NEEPCO) Limited, which runs Doyang Hydro-Electric Plant (DHEP) by March 2024, the Land Owners’ Union (LOU), DHEP has appealed to the state govt to impress upon the Centre against selling/divestment of DHEP to any private entities. The union has demanded withdrawal of the disinvestment/privatization of DHEP to any private entities by NTPC, which it said was against the interest and breach of trust with 17 land affected villages of DHEP by NEEPCO Ltd. and govt of Nagaland. https://www.nagalandpost.com/land-owners-oppose-plan-to-divest-doyang-hydro-electric-plant/244243.html (9 Nov 2021)

Water-powered generators bring electricity This shows how HYDROGERS, basically micro hydropower projects are providing power to unreached villages in Nagaland and also in Manipur, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Some lessons also for Uttarakhand, J&K and Himachal Pradesh. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/energy/water-powered-generators-bring-electricity-to-nagaland/  (24 Sept. 2021)

Some Other Relevant Reports

Podcast SANDRP Coordinator on Hydropower Sector in India. https://player.captivate.fm/episode/76282546-b794-4567-b8a1-a9481c3ae11f 

Jammu & Kashmir Are New HEPs Economically Viable? While the ecological implications of hydropower projects are not unknown, the government may also have overstated their economic benefits. It’s not easy to calculate the revenue from all projects. For most of them, critical information like project costs and shareholding terms between J&K and the Centre aren’t public.

– In the Ratle project’s first year of operations, 1% of the power produced will be given to J&K. This will be incrementing every year 1% over the next 11 years. And then, for the duration of the project, J&K will receive 12% of the project’s output – of 850 MW – for free. https://science.thewire.in/environment/kashmir-new-ratle-hydroelectric-power-projects-economically-viable/  (24 June 2021)

Stop axing trees for Ujh HEP Plea to stop axing trees for Ujh project. Will the Supreme Court look into this as it says beneficial trees cannot be axed for development? https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/stop-axing-trees-for-ujh-he-project/  (18 Feb. 2021)

Western Ghats SHPs not green “There is no governance mechanism surrounding small hydel projects in India, that is the main problem,” said Parineeta Dandekar, associate coordinator of the SANDRP. “They are exempt from the EIA notification of 2006 and entire environment clearance procedures.”

Being exempt from the EIA notification implies there is no need for a public hearing before a project moves forward, which means local communities affected by it have no way to voice their concerns. https://www.article-14.com/post/small-hydro-power-projects-are-seen-as-green-in-the-western-ghats-local-communities-disagree-6181f91fb3efc  (03 Nov. 2021)

Karnataka Power project along Sharavathi river faces green hurdle The proposed 2000 MW pump storage project of Karnataka Power Corp Ltd on the Sharawathi River will destroy some prime natural forests and biodiversity. There are better options available than going for such destructive, unviable projects. This report also provides example of better options.

“While the clearances are awaited for Sharavathi, we have already resolved to set up a 25 MW power storage battery unit in Pavagada,” Kumar said. The minister said the govt will give more of a push to similar power storage mechanisms under the new renewable energy policy scheduled to be unveiled later this year, or early 2022, to ensure energy security. “We are expecting more private players to get involved in setting up the storage mechanisms for energy,” he added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/power-project-along-sharavathi-river-faces-green-hurdle/articleshow/87615919.cms (10 Nov 2021)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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