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Arunachal Hydro Project Drowning in Corruption

Interview with Lama Lobsang Gyatso |
Interviewed by Babloo Loitongbam
Arunachal Pradesh: Rivers, Dams and a People’s Movement.

According to the National Hydro Power Policy, at least one third of the hydro power development is going to take place in Arunachal Pradesh. In the midst of this, many indigenous communities in Arunachal Pradesh are also feeling the fear of how this is going to impact on them in terms of their livelihood, their traditional lifestyle, their culture and overall conditions of the people living there for centuries.

Rough Transcript:

Babloo Loitongbam: Welcome to Newsclick. According to the National Hydro Power Policy, at least one third of the hydro power development is going to take place in Arunachal Pradesh. In the midst of this, many indigenous communities in Arunachal Pradesh are also feeling the fear of how this is going to impact on them in terms of their livelihood, their traditional lifestyle, their culture and overall conditions of the people living there for centuries. We are really fortunate to have Lama Lobsang from that (Tawang) Monastery. And recently Tawang hit the news because on May 2nd there was a flare up in which Lama Lobsang was arrested and then many people wanted his release and as a result there was a firing where at least two monks were killed in the police firing and we would like to know from Lama Lobsang, what exactly happened on that particular day?

Lama Lobsang (Lama): We had some clashes between politicians and our federation on small hydro electric project which is known as Mukto Shakangchu which was cost, which was built at the cost of more than 90 crores. But as soon as it was built, within three months it collapsed. So we were against the reconstruction of that project also and I was arrested on 25th and I got bail. So they could not digest that one, so they again frame of me and they put behind the jail and on 28th, I was also threatened by Lobsang Zila Parishad member. He threatened me to kill in front of, in public meeting and we lodged FIR but he was not arrested whereas I was arrested and put behind the bar. And he was shown just arrested on 29th, but he was granted bail at the same time and I was, my bail was rejected and on 2nd also my bail was rejected. So, that’s why people feared that I will be killed by hooks and crooks, maybe in fake encounter and all these things so they tried to get me out of the jail. In that process, police without following any standard operation procedure, they didn’t use tear gas, they didn’t use fire cannon and they didn’t use even the rubber bullet and they directly lathi charged and along with lathi charge, they just fired and also they fired at the head on my friends on the head and other also on the upper body and two were killed in which one was monk and one was slave people. And another so many are seriously injured and one is half dead almost because he is paralyzed because the bullet in his head could not be removed out and another one I think, his leg will be amputated soon.

Babloo: But could you please explain again why, how are these dams, the mega as well as the medium sized dams going to really affect the people in your region, in the monries of Arunachal Pradesh?

Lama: You know, Mon region we have two major river that is, one is Tawang Chu at the east and Nyamjang Chu at the west. And both of these river attributed is the want to build 13 mega hydro power projects but people, all the villages are inhabited on the river bank of these two rivers. And now they got a very very marginalized farming land left on the river bank because the most of the part, upper part were taken by military for military establishment and middle portion was taken by the district administration for the set up of urban development and the district administration. Now people are left with only the marginalized farming land and all mega hydro power project are proposed on this marginalized sector. So, people are surviving on this farming land only and if this farming land are taken from them, then the people could not survive here. And each project, even on the proposed project is not very small. One is 600 megawatt and one is 800 megawatt. That will be executed by NHPC, National Hydro Power Corporation Limited against which we successfully managed to get Gram Sabha Resolution to reject all this project by more than 24 villages and on Nyamjang Chu also we succeeded that. So, not only that and our population itself is, one civilization in our district is only merely not more than 40,000 ethnic tribal Monpa community. So there is a danger of getting this civilization wiped out and not only that, both of these two rivers there are so many Buddhist Pilgrim sites which will be destroyed forever. And not only that, it is really really very eco means geographically fragile because Tawang could not sustain just four days of heavy rainfall like a cloud burst that happened in April, yeah April, then how could they means our fragile geological means ecology can sustain such a mega hydro power project.

Babloo: I’m also hearing that there is a gradual built up that is going on. This incident is perhaps the tip of the iceberg of a tension that has been going on in this region for a very long time that your movement has been bringing forward and recently the National Green Tribunal had perhaps cancelled one of the EIAs that the government have actually conducted in what can you explain a little bit about that, Green Tribunal’s movement which really angered the politicians in your region.

Lama: Actually, 13 mega hydro power project is been proposed in our district itself in where already mini and micro hydrants, more than 28 of them are already constructed and they are malfunctioned. And our main demand is to make them function-able. All total 28 is already constructed and four in the process of making so we want them to be make function-able. And again about 13 mega hydro power project I think our area itself is very ecologically very fragile and seismic zone and we had a very limited farming lands left with us because most of the land were taken by Indian army for the national security that we already given them. But now people are left with very very marginal farming land which will be taken by mega hydro power project. Then the people’s livelihood itself will be in a grave danger. Not only that and so that’s why we challenge in National Green Tribunal the proposed 780 megawatt of mega hydro power project which is known as Nyamjang Chu which has violated wildlife protection act, not only that, forest conservation act also. Barak side, at proposed Barak side is the winter nesting ground of black neck crane which is considered as embodiment of 6th Dalai Lama and in by our Monpa community and not only that black neck crane is considered as schedule one of most and dangerous species in schedule term for I mean wildlife protection act. So for last four years we had a very tough battle in National Green Tribunal and at last the National Green Tribunal means gave an verdict that, in that verdict environmental clearance of Nyamjang Chhu project which was subsidiary of Bhilwara company was suspended, that was also suspended in April 7. So, all the arrest and all these things were the aftermath of this landmark judgment.

Babloo: So what do you think is the alternative for the growth of the Monpa people as well as Arunachal as well as the larger Indian need for energy? How do you think can this be addressed?

Lama: Yeah. They have already constructed mini and micro hydrant which has the capacity to produce more than 20 megawatts or 30 megawatts of electricity, but they could not provide even 2 megawatt of electricity until now. Whereas the requirement of our districts is only 6 megawatt at the peak hour, and the peak season that is the winter in which the heating system will be used. And not only that, about okay exporting or meeting the national’s energy we proposed that the please, for the time being we should build one mega hydro power project which is under 100 megawatt that is maybe 96 or something on trial basis at a very isolated area where there is no villages but even that also on experimental basis. But even then they are not really really willing to carry out.

Babloo: How do you think this killing has impacted your movement? I mean many people are still languishing in the hospital and even though the government have now got some positive reports and have given some compensation, the people who were involved in this killing, the police officers who were killing this peaceful protestors have not been suspended or criminal charges against them have not taken place. How do you think this has impacted the movement that you are leading? Are the people still very scared, is there a fear of joining your movement for a sustainable development in Tawang or is it giving more courage for people to fight back because you’re becoming more effective and threatening the people who are trying to build this mega development projects, could you please elaborate on that?

Lama: This is the worst example and people are losing faith in Indian democracy at our region. Just because, the one who directly killed, and there were caught red handed on video taping also, video coverage they were never ever put behind the bar. Whereas, the one who is working for the people are put behind the bar with some framed of accusations and not only that, now people they are really really very much encouraged and now they are, I fear if any situation like 2nd May happen again then there will be much much more stronger protest and this will really take in the shape of a very unpredictable situation of there.

Babloo: Final question is, you said it is not sustainable to have a, this mega dam. You’re also saying that there has to be a middle way but who are actually benefitting from these dams? Why are they pushing if they are not favoring the people living there, can you please tell us explain a little bit about the politics behind who are the ones who are propagating that these dams should be built?

Lama: Yeah actually these dams are mean to be export electricity out of Tawang Mon region because in our Mon region the requirement is on 6 megawatt whereas state government was going to build more than 2900 megawatts of hydro electric. So, it is very clear that only the companies and the government, they are getting benefit of all these things. And the real poor people’s land comes into a very dangerous way of being means forcefully taken.

Babloo: So interesting, it’s the corporate who are going to get the profit out of it and the poor people who have been living in these areas for many many years are paying the price for it. So it’s the corporate and the upper etalons of the government, the politicians perhaps a few bureaucrats are going to make huge money out of this project.

Lama: In this context, even minister of state, Kiren Rijiju saw when he visited Tawang after the May 2 incident, he has clearly stated that, state has taken so much advance money not only along with loan money, all this money are misused and there was a huge corruption involved and if this project will be stopped then company will go to court and in this process government of India should, no government of Arunachal will be forced to means sell out even the governor’s house, even the prime minister’s, I mean chief minister’s house and all these things. All these thing, government property will come into danger. So that we also got video clips also.

Babloo: My very best wishes and I hope all the success to your struggle. Thank you very much for being with us.

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DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for Newsclick are typed from a recording of the program. Newsclick cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. 



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