Siang body opposes hydro power projects

NEW DELHI, Nov 24 – A day after Centre announced firming up of proposals to execute the proposed Siang (Upper) and (Lower) hydro power projects, the Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD) opposed the projects citing submergence of thousands of hectares of land and threat to indigenous tribes.

The Forum has joined Sangharsh that includes a host of organisations including National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) and has organised a week-long ‘national action against displacement and land acquisition’. The Parliament gherao programme is also joined by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).

Yesterday, demonstrators undertook a symbolic march to the Parliament against dams especially in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh. The demonstrators that comprised over 300 persons from Assam, plans to march to the Parliament on Wednesday.

At a rally held at Jantar Mantar, Bijoy Taram of FSD said that a number of memorandum of agreements and understandings have been signed by Arunachal Pradesh Government with big corporate houses including those which have no experience in construction of hydro power projects. In 2006, at least 136 such MoAs and MoUs for dam projects were signed, he alleged.

Taram alleged that local people of the area have not been consulted by the State Government before signing of the agreements and only now meetings have been convened.

He said they fear that about 1.5 lakh hectares of land may be inundated by water because of the projects. He also warned that there may be an invasion by the outsiders, as over 30,000 labourers may have the State to be imported from outside to work on the projects. These labours, with their family, would far outnumber the local people, who belong to smaller tribes, he argued.

Addressing the rally, Akhil Gogoi said that rights of the Adivasis living in forest areas in BTAD area has been hit in Assam, as they were served eviction notices. People living in at least 40 villages have been served eviction notices in total violation of the Forests Right Act. He held both the Government of Assam and BTAD authorities responsible for the act.

He further alleged that the Forests Rights Act has not been implemented in Assam. The Government of Assam is not even aware about the Act and its implications, he further alleged.

Addressing the rally, Medha Patkar said that Government of India is not even prepared to listen to the voices of the people of Assam and North-east.

She demanded implementation of Forests Rights Act in all forest areas of the country and any change in the land use in any forest area and any land acquisition be subject to settlement of claims and entitlements under the Act.

Patkar said their struggle is not just about resisting displacement or implementing people’s forest or other resources rights. It is also about the very right to struggle.

The nine-point charter of demands also includes issues of a White Paper on all the land acquisition, displacement caused and rehabilitation completed since independence. The White Paper must also make public the extent of land utilised, unutilised and land acquired for public purpose but remains occupied by sick and non-functional industries and other infrastructure projects.