Forum raises mega dam issues, submits memo to UN South Asia Business and Human Rights Forum

ITANAGAR, 29 Mar: The Siang Indigenous Farmer’s Forum (SIFF), which has been spearheading the anti-mega dam movement in Siang valley, raised the issue of the proposed 10000 MW dam over Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh in the recently held UN South Asia Business and Human Rights Forum in Kathmandu, Nepal.

In a representation to the Forum, the SIFF sought ‘suggestions, guidance and inference in the matter so that the damages to the people can be averted with amicable discussion with the government.’

The forum said that it has been fighting collectively against the construction of the dam since 2013, when the MoUs were signed by the Arunachal Pradesh government.

“Since then we have been targeted, our members were harassed and threatened by the police and the authorities,” the SIFF said.

The project proposed at Siang Stage-II has been allotted to NHPC.

It alleged that the NHPC is forcefully conducting survey activities during the night time in spite of the strong opposition from the dam affected farmers and the members of the SIFF.

“They are also threatening to use army and paramilitary forces in the coming years,” it said.

The forum said it had earlier appealed to the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister, the then minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharati and then union minister Gajendra Shekawat.

The SIFF informed that it had filed a PIL at Itanagar Permanent Bench of the Gauhati High Court in 2014 and the case was disposed in 2022 in favor of the petitioners with an instruction to the state government that “in the coming future the consent and consultation must be sought from the affected locals for any such dam project.”

However, the authorities are not following the High Court Order,” the forum rued.

“The Siang River is the life-line for the people living in the Siang valley. It is the common property of the entire Adi population and some of its portion is the property of individuals and clans. Since time immemorial, it has been etched strongly in the psyche of the people and has become an essential part of the myth and mythology of Adi people. It is so entwined with the evolution of history of the people living in this valley that the name has found a place in the culture, history, folklore, folksongs and whatnot. Its cool climatic effect-fog, dew drops has greatly influenced the agriculture, horticulture and livelihood of the people. But the proposed construction of dams will inundate many villages and towns and render the poor farmers landless,” the representation read.

The SIFF said that the proposed dam, if constructed, will lead to large-scale devastation in the Siang valley and ‘any quantum of compensation will not suffice to rehabilitate the people.’

“There is also lurking-danger of wiping out the rich cultural heritage and history of the people in such eventuality,” it said.

The Siang valley is among the bio-diversity hotspots of the world. Inundation of large tracts of land will destroy a large number of rare species of flora and fauna, the forum said.

“It is a fact that tribal people have suffered disproportionately from the effects of mega dams built on their land while, potential benefits rarely reach them. The proponents and builders of large dams have historically failed to recognize the myriad ways in which the tribal people use their land, forest and rivers and how they depend on it for everything.”

“Construction of the dams and its resultant impact on the environment will bring about severe climatic change in the region, leading to global warming. No money can reverse such a catastrophic impact on the fragile eco-system of the region, rather huge deposits of minerals and forest resources will be submerged, which will be of great loss to the people and the nation.”

“The World Commission on Dam recognized that large dam projects have led to the impoverishment and suffering of millions of peoples and has established firm standards and guidelines for future mega dams, which include projects being guided by affected people. It is mandatory that free, prior and informed consent be taken from affected people/families,” the representation said.

“But, in the case of Siang dams, no consent and interaction of any kind with the people to be affected by the project was solemnized prior to signing of the MoA with the power developers,” it said.

The forum said that construction of such mega dams is a direct attack on the environment and eco-system, which may trigger natural calamities like, landslides putting the life and security of the people of the valley in great danger.

“This, in turn, may have an adverse impact on the demographic profile of the indigenous people of the eastern part of the Himalayan region due to influx of large number of immigrant labour forces needed to construct the dams. More so, such proposals are against the interest of the indigenous people as declared by the UNO,” it said.

“It is also a clear violation of “The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006″ wherein the tribal people are given rights to use forest, forest products and other resources,” the representation read.

The project will have a huge geo-political fall-out on the people especially, people living in the Siang valley. Thousands of people will lose their homes, their livelihoods and their lives.

The entire Himalayan region is seismically very active. Studies indicate that enough strains have accumulated to generate earthquakes of 8 or larger magnitudes in the Himalayan region. Therefore, construction of mega dam on Siang river will make things worse in the event of an earthquake, the forum added.