Dam-Building by Armed Forces despite Public-protest

20 March 2012, Lakhimpur

On the 20th March, the first stoppage of the journey was Ghager in Lakimpur District, where Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti has been protesting for the last three months against of Gogamukh Dam on the River Swarnsiri. Jansatyagraha yatries (marchers) met the protesters at the place of Dharma (sit out) which was going on since 27th Dec. Subhash Gogoi of Sangram Samiti informed that the dam was being constructed by National Hydel Power Corporations for last 8 years in Gogamukh. According to the plan declared in 2002, a dam of 116 meter height was to be constructed and 2000 MW electricity was to be produced. Earlier due to breakage of dam on the River Swarnsiri thousands of people were killed and fertile land was completely destroyed, so the local inhabitants are protesting against the proposed dam in Gogamukh. From the year 2005, when protest against the dam started, the Assam Government has continued the construction of the dam using police and armed forces. During this, cent percent people vehemently opposed the dam construction in the public hearings. Despite that, construction work continued. On 26th Dec 2011, 17 persons were arrested and sent to jail during a peaceful movement in Lakhimpur and many were accused of criminal cases. When the Dharna spot was completely destroyed, people started again sitting in front of a road made for dam construction from the 27th of Dec. Vimla Gagoi of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti shared that their main demand was to stop the dam construction work completely. According to her, all the government and environmental committee reports were not in favour of dam construction. Since this region has been earthquake prone area, the people are frightened. She said that the most dangerous effect of dam construction in Arunachal Pradesh would be seen in the already flood stricken areas like Lakhimpur and Dhemaji of the Upper Assam. Powerful mass struggle of Sangharsh Samiti continues in the districts like Jorahat, Shivsagar, Dibrugarh, Golghat, Tinsukiya Tejpur and Navgaon.

The Second stoppage of the journey was at a school where a meeting was held with the villagers. A representative of Peoples Movement for Swarnsiri-Brahmaputra River Valley Region, Mr. Keshav shared that the dam construction on the River Dabang, Siyand and Swarnisri in Arunachal Pradesh would have its 95% percent affected area in Upper Assam. In the Upper Swarnsiri project in Arunachal Pradesh, only 70 families of Arunachal Pradesh will be affected and compensation of a sum of Rs. 200 crores is proposed for those. Where as in Upper Assam nearly 70000 families would be affected directly or indirectly and there is no scheme of them. He informed that dam construction work had been started from year 2000, whereas the agreement with National Hydel Power Corporation was made in the year 2010. In this way, it was doubtful that Government would be able to abide by its own laws. He informed that in the year 2006-07, a study of environmental impacts of this dam was made by a central scientists’ team whose conclusion was in the direction of stopping this project. In the year 2010, a legislature team was sent to study the project by present government. According to the report of the legislature party, it was proposed to stop the dam project. The hard instructions were also sent by the Wildlife Board in 2011. But the state government has made 4 camps of Indian Army in the construction areas from the very beginning of the year 2012, ignoring and violating the instructions, studies and reports. Local police stations are being trained to control the protesters. He said that the behaviour of central and state government is creating a violent environment gradually. He shared that dam construction is not the necessity of the local inhabitants but the fulfillment of industrial and commercial greed and needs of remaining India. Through these dams, it is being tried to draw up a divisive line between the people of Assam and that of Arunachal. Therefore, it will now be a violent situation in coming days. He expressed suspicion of armed attack on the protesters.

The next stoppage of the journey was at the meeting organized by the Marwari Yuva Samaj in Dhemajee District. Senior Journalist, Mr. Umesh Setiya shared that Dhemajee has also been flood-stricken area, where people cultivate every year on the fertile land drawn by the flood in the River Gai and Swarnsiri but more than 1000 acres of land is being destroyed by the flood every year. He said that after the dam on the river Swarnsiri and its tributaries in Arunachal Pradesh, there will be direct effect on the fertility of land in the districts like Dhemajee and Lakhimpur in lower region. In some regions, there will not be extra water for the fruit-production. He shared that the scientific conclusion related to the project was doubtful, whereas earthquake protecting wall suggested by National Hydro Power Corporation is a very impractical proposal. Mr. Haria Bhai shared that the fertile soil brought earlier by the River Gai and Sawarnsiri has been a boon for the local farmers. This process would be stopped after the dam construction in coming years. Consequently, millions of farmers will face the danger on their livelihoods. In the lower region, there will be a serious problem of water-logging and water leakage. People have estimated that about 7 lakhs population of 90 villages will be directly affected due to dam-construction. Mrs. Anita Barua of Maitreyee Ashram shared that dam construction can be challenged only by non-violent struggle. Therefore, Therefore people need to come forward after being united in support of mass movements like Jansatyagraha.

The final stoppage of the journey was the Grameen Karyakarta Kendra in Dhemajee. This centre was established in the year 1992. This centre works with the local people for very important matters related to flood and agriculture. Mr. Ravindra Bhai told that local organizations are collectively opposing the 168 dams proposed to be constructed on all important rivers in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. About 60% of dams will be constructed mainly on the river Depang, Siyang, Sawarnsiri and Lohit. The Central Government has approved the construction of 137 dams so far and the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has contracted with big companies. This part of eastern Himalayas is very tender where dams are being built by digging stones. Therefore, the whole region will be full of sand in future after dam- construction. Earlier on 11th June, 2000, when a small dam broke, its 30 feet high water swept away 13 villages completely. He shared that the amount being spent on dam construction is much more than what has been spent on regional development so far. In fact, once again, rest of India is going to be profited at the cost of lives and resources of North Eastern states. People are struggling for their livelihoods and political rights. He expected that the situation can be challenged only through the mechanisms like the Jansatyagraha.

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