Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dzongu projects stalled

Gangtok, Sept. 6: The Sikkim government has ordered that work on all the five hydel power projects in Dzongu, North Sikkim, be stopped for now.

The government has also constituted a committee to review the projects. The projects were supposed to have come up at Ringpi, Lingza, Rukel, Rangyang and Panam.

The government order is being seen as a victory for members of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) who had been protesting against the hydel power projects.

The decision was notified through an order issued today by the home department. The review committee will have Sikkim chief secretary N.D. Chingapa as the chairman, additional chief secretary T.T. Dorji, the development commissioner and ACT president Athup Lepcha as members. Pintsho Namgyal Lepcha, a resident of Lingthem in Dzongu, and environmentalist Sanjay Kumar Jain will also be part of the team. The principal chief engineer-cum-secretary for energy and power, D.D. Pradhan will be the member secretary.

The committee has been asked to submit its report within 100 days from today.

ACT had begun its agitation more than two months ago with the demand for scrapping of all the five projects proposed for the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu in North Sikkim. It had argued that the projects would disturb the ecological balance of the area and hurt the religious sentiments of Lepchas.

The members of the organisation simultaneously began relay and indefinite hunger strikes in support of their demand. With time the movement secured support even from people in the Darjeeling hills. Later, the organisation scaled down its demands and asked for an impartial committee to review the projects. Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling then appealed to ACT members to call off the fast and resolve the issue through talks.

The government today also advised the ACT president to call off the relay hunger strike immediately to enable the committee to deliberate on the matter in a congenial atmosphere.

The relay hunger strike has completed 77 days.