Monday, May 07, 2007


Lachen vows to “adopt extreme measures” to oppose the Teesta Stage-I hydro-electric power project

GANGTOK, May 6: The discontentment of local people over mega hydro electric power projects in the State, especially those planned in North Sikkim seem to be gathering more steam, with Lachen joining in the protests against the Teesta Stage-I hydro electric power project, proposed to come up in the area.

The Dzumsa of Lachen has rejected the Teesta Stage-I hydro electric power project, saying that the project will have “far-reaching adverse affect on the people of Lachen.”

In a strong-worded letter to the Himalayan Green Hydro Energy Pvt. Ltd, a private consortium handling the Teesta Stage-I project, a copy of which was faxed to the local media, the Pipons of Lachen Dzumsa, Chowo Rabjor Lachenpa and Goekay Lachenpa, while expressing their apprehensions over the Project, has said that the people of Lachen do not accept the Project in their area and stand firm in their determination to do so.

“In the capacity as the elected Pipons of Lachen we, on behalf of the people of Lachen strongly reiterate the stand of the local people for non acceptance of the project in our area. To protect our land, forests, age old tradition and places of worship where our Gods and Goddesses reside we will even sacrifice our lives. We may even adopt extreme measures if need be,” the Pipons have said.

Bringing the attention of the implementing agency’s communiqué H.G./LHP/08 of 27.04.07 to the District Collector, North Sikkim, on the Survey and Investigation at Teesta Stage-I Hydro Electric Project sites, the Lachen Pipons have termed the “attitude” of the State Government as “arrogant” in the implementation of Teesta Stage-I Hydro Electric Project at Lachen. “The motive behind the State Government's insistence to have the Project implemented much against the will of the people of the area by hook or by crook is perhaps to destabilize or completely annihilate one of the oldest living communities of Sikkim from the face of Sikkim. We have tendered our reservation or obligations on the implementation of the said project umpteen times on various valid grounds but the State Government seems to be determined to proceed ahead with the project for the reasons best known to the people at the helm of affairs and the implementing agency,” the letter read.

Voicing their apprehension over the Project and outlining their main areas of concern, the Pipons have said that the Project would “not only interfere with the tradition being followed from the time immemorial but also dilute the customs and tradition of the people of Lachen.” “It is a well known fact to all that Lachen remains covered with snow for six months in a year and during other six months the people sustain their livelihood through cultivation of high altitude crops like potato, cabbage etc. They have no other source of income and are fully dependent on the land and forests as they have become totally inseparable. The people of Lachen perform a series of religious as well as traditional rituals to appease the Deities through annual regular ceremonies, who provide them protection against all types of adversaries.” Any disturbances through implementation of the Project in question will have detrimental affect on the customs and traditions of the people, it added.

The letter further states that the traditional Pipon system has been allowed to function undisturbed by the Central Government considering its “uniqueness” and has been accorded protection to this system of local governance, despite Constitution 73rd amendment facilitating reorganization of the Panchayati Raj Institution all over the country. The people of Lachen have also expressed their apprehension in view of the resultant influx of population in the event of implementation of the project could not only disturb the Pipon system but such system may get replaced by some other system of that could be totally alien to the local people. The Project would bring in adverse demographic changes wherein the local population will be out numbered by the people coming from outside,” the letter added.

Security concerns have also been adequately highlighted in the letter. Sikkim has been peaceful despite its strategic position with three international borders and disturbances in its neighbourhood. “But the authorities should not compromise with the nation's security in the name of development particularly when they know that situation may turn fluid and explosive if the otherwise peace loving, simple and god fearing people of Lachen are pushed too far to the extent of losing their patience,” the letter said. “Let us not create another Kashmir or Nagaland by forcible implementation of the project which has not been accepted by the local people. We have not signed the MoU pertaining to the Project and as such we should not be held responsible for any untoward incident resulting from the implementation of the project in question,” it has warned.

The letter further adds that while the people of Lachen “are ful1y aware about the importance of the Project, the authorities concerned must bear in mind the Order of the highest Court of the country whereby acquisition of land for public purpose cannot be done without the consent of the concerned people of the area. Such Order must be honoured to uphold the dignity of the Highest Court of the country. The Project is certainly going to have far reaching adverse affect on the poor, peace loving, god fearing people of Lachen.”

Six Projects have been envisioned on the Teesta in Sikkim out of which Stages I-IV are in North Sikkim with an installed capacity of 2315 MW. Stage V (510 MW), which is located in North and East Districts is already under construction. Stage VI (360 MW) will be located further downstream in East and South Districts.