A massive protest against big dams in North-Eastern states

18 march, 2012, Arunachal Pradesh

On March18, Jansatyagraha Samvad Yatra reached Arunachal Pradesh. The first stoppage of the Yatra was Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, where a meeting was organized on behalf of Rastriya Yuva Yojna and other local organizations. Addressing the meeting, Mr. Hari Vishwash, the in-charge of Rastriya Yuva Yojna, said that Arunachal Pradesh was basically a tribal dominated state with 26 major tribes and about 120 other tribes. He further shared that it was not possible to travel round the year through the roadways in almost 12 districts out of 16. In far-off districts like Ajja and Kusumbkumai, no significant infrastructure development has taken place till now. Even to reach Koyalagog and Thali Headquarters, one has to travel on foot for nearly 24 to 48 hours. The coalmines have been started in the Changtong, Kharsang, Leso and Jagon from the year 1998. From the year 2003, oil-digging has also been started in Kharsan area while cement industry in being developed in the Syang and Lohit districts. Most of the industries and mines have been established violating the norms of environment. Consequently, on the one hand, forest and agricultural resources are being damaged and there is violation of human rights, on the other.

Moreover, dams are being built on the river Swarnasiri in Yazali. The information on environmental impact of these dams, being built by Nifco, has not been provided to the local community. That is why there is wide suspicion prevalent among people about these dam projects. He further said that it should be only after undertaking an integrated study on the social, economical and cultural impacts of proposed 168 dams on river Brahmaputra and its tributaries that projects should be implemented in accordance with public opinion. The general secretary of a tribal organization ITCSAP, Mr. Gijil Teza told that the land resource was very fertile and full of vegetation but as no public hearing was organized before declaring dam construction in the region, the dams are now being protested. He expressed that better planning could have been done through proper communication between Arunachal Pradesh government and social organizations but most people at present were against the dams. The representative of Man and Environment Society, Dr. Olek Bertichu, shared that the biggest construction work of 4 dams was proposed on Siyang, a tributary of river Brahmaputra. It was believed that public hearings organized at Tepag valley project and at other places were only formalities. As no response has come from the state government on the complaints lodged by the people, public-organizations are protesting together. He said that it was a scientifically known fact that most of these dams were being built in the earthquake prone region. During any disaster involving these dams, there might be great devastation in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. He blamed that due to dam projects, forest and culture of forest-based society was being badly affected which had not been estimated so far. Moreover, the public organizations in Assam have come forward unitedly and openly in protest of dam projects. Senior journalist, Mr. Pradeep Behra told that traditional Panchayati Raj in Arunachal Pradesh is very strong. In the last Panchayat election, women got 38% positions. According to the norms of the traditional community rights, no outsider could buy land but these norms had been contravened for the dam projects and land transfer or mutations were being preceded politicizing the tribal autonomous councils. He shared that the traditional institution of Gaongura (village council) in Arunachal Pradesh is very strong and transparent. So on many occasions in recent times, District Administration and local courts have also made request to Gram Panchayats to help solve the problems through their interference. He requested that the voice of Arunachal Pradesh must reach the central Government through the Jan Satyagraha Samvad Yatra. For this purpose, media and public organizations were together. Mr. Vishal Rai from Arunachal Pradesh Sarvaseva Sangh shared that about 13 Lakhs population of this state believed in non-violent means of struggle. He assured that a delegation from Arunachal Pradesh would join Jan Satyagraha.

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