GANGTOK, June 19: Members of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), Concerned Lepchas of Sikkim (CLOS) and the Sangha of Dzongu began their indefinite hunger strike at the BL House here from today, protesting against the arbitrary sanctioning of mega hydel power projects in the State, especially in North Sikkim by the State Government.
Three members-Dawa Lepcha and Tshering Ongdup Lepcha of ACT and Tenzing Gyatso Lepcha of CLOS began their Satyagraha and indefinite hunger strike in front of the BL House, in an effort to draw the attention of the State Government to the long-term implications of mega hydro-electric power projects especially in the Dzongu area of North Sikkim.
This decision to go on this hunger strike has been prompted by total the lack of empathy shown by the State Government towards the concerns of the affected people over the mega hydel power projects planned in the State.
“The decision of the State Government to give the green signal to over 14 mega hydel power projects in North Sikkim without taking its larger environment and social implications into consideration is totally wrong,” Dawa Lepcha said.
“The double standards of the State Government is revealed in the fact that while on one hand, it has accorded primitive tribes status to the Lepchas of the State, on the other hand, it has plans to take away the very land and indigenous culture of the people is claims it is protecting,” Mr. Lepcha said.
Six projects have been planned in the Dzongu area alone, out of which, survey has been conducted for the 260 MW Panang project and the project already awarded to a private consortium.
“The Lepchas and their distinct culture and social fabric are being threatened by these projects. The Environment Impact assessment (EIA) done by the Centre for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain & Hill Environment (CISMHE) for the Panang project does not mention anything about the Lepcha tribes, save for a single line, under social and anthropological assessment. This shows utter disregard for the Lepcha people and their very survival,” Mr. Lepcha said.
The affected people of Dzongu has demanded a stop to all the projects planned in the Dzongu area in North Sikkim and review all the other projects in the pipeline in the rest of the State. It has also demanded restoration and protection of the true identity of Dzongu and protection of the environment and ecology and the Khangchendzonga National park and Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve. It has also voiced its protest against the decision of the State Government to go ahead with the Teesta Stage III project in Chungthung in North Sikkim.