Thursday, July 12, 2007

Teesta river project: Heading for disaster?


Dzongu (Sikkim): With 22 dams being built on the river Teesta in Sikkim, entire tracts of tropical forests will be submerged which will kill the states' only lifeline, the river Teesta.

In a last ditch effort, the Lepcha community is on an indefinite hunger strike.

Teesta V project involves 18 kilometres of tunneling. It's also called a run of the river project in which the river water is diverted through a long tunnel, dropped downstream while the height is used to generate electricity.

There is much less obvious displacement because of this but the question is by playing with the forces of nature by making the river go underground is it going to cause one of India's biggest environmental damage?

And now angry citizens -the Lepchas have embarked on a satyagraha with a 16-day relay hunger strike to save this the national park and biodiversity under threat from the hydel projects.

"These are going to affect the mountains, the amount of digging, the amount of people, the amount of pollution, bulldozer that's rolling, the blasting will destroy this place,” said a Buddhist monk Sonam Paljor.

In a similar attempt the monks were able to stop the Rathongchu project in West Sikkim that had threatened their sacred landscape and this time to protect the Kanchanjunga national park.

“We are taking care of all concerns: environmental, population, culture, flora, fauna,” said Chief Secretary of Sikkim, N D Chingapa.

Silently watching the hydel power mania is the third highest peak in the world.

Surprisingly, the Environmental Impact Assesment did not even mention the national park, within a kilometre of the project.

"Does the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation even care?" asked Paljor.

High up in the clouds of the Kanchanjunga, the abode of gods, the Lepchas or the vanishing tribe who call themselves Mu-Tanghci Rup Kup or mothers loved ones are probably fighting a losing battle.