Three weeks after NITI Aayog had come out with a proposal to construct a single multi-purpose river valley project on the Siang river in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang Indigenous Farmers’ Forum (SIFF) has opposed it and asked the government to stop it in the larger interest of the tribal communities of the area.
“While we have been opposing the earlier proposed Siang Stage I and Siang Stage II hydel projects on the ground that those would displace hundreds of indigenous tribal families in the larger Siang region, the NITI Aayog is now bent upon wiping us out in the interest of producing power for people of other regions of the country. Our communities are small, and thus don’t appear to be important for the government and the NITI Aayog,” Tasik Pangkam, general secretary of the SIFF said here on Tuesday.
Pangkam said the proposed single multi-purpose dam project that would replace the proposed Siang I and Siang II hydel projects would not only submerge villages and displace the tribals, but also “wipe out” a civilization.
“There is lurking danger of several of our small tribal communities getting wiped out from the face of the earth. Once uprooted, our culture, or language, our heritage will be all lost simply because some people elsewhere require electricity. Can this be justified,” Pangkam asked at a press conference. He said several towns including Gelling, Tuting, Yingkiong and Geku would also get submerged once the dam was constructed.
The NITI Aayog had on September 26 made a presentation before Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu and several of his senior cabinet colleagues in New Delhi on the Siang single multi-purpose river valley project which would replace the earlier proposed Siang Stage I and Stage II projects. To be constructed at the proposed Siang Stage II location as a single storage project instead of two separate projects as earlier scheduled, it would submerge over 300 tribal villages and produce 10,000 MW of hydro-electric power.
“No amount of compensation in terms of money, land and housing can help us preserve our history, folklore, music and culture. Humanity will lose our rich heritage forever. And above all, the very character of the Siang, which becomes the Brahmaputra in Assam, will be changed,” Pangkam said. The Siang, which originates in western Tibet as the Tsang Po, is called Brahmaputra in Assam, Jamuna in Bangladesh and finally Padma as it meets the Ganga (also in Bangladesh) to meet the sea at the Bay of Bengal.
Opposition to the Siang single multi-purpose river valley project comes at a time when the construction work on the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro-electric dam project has remained closed since December 2011 amid protests in downstream Assam.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu had last month said that opposition to hydro-electric projects in his state were fueled by narrow vested political interests and hence required adequate awareness programmes to dispel the fears. People in his state often fall prey to misinformation and thus carry a lot of negative notions about large dams, Khandu had said.