As Greenko set to buy Teesta stage III in Sikkim, ACT activist asserts ‘Our rivers are not for sale’

As Greenko set to buy Teesta stage III in Sikkim, ACT activist asserts ‘Our rivers are not for sale’

The August 2019 wildfires in the Amazon rainforest had the world in split for the lungs of this blue Earth were burning for weeks. Earlier this month, at the beginning of a new decade, a bushfire in Australia burned 10.7 million hectares of land, killed 28 people while making already endangered species tetter on the verge of extinction. This is yet another pre-Apocalyptic premonition of the climate crisis. Yet closer to home, India’s leading Renewal Energy company Greenko sets to buy $1.5 bn Teesta Project in Sikkim.

In conversation with the president of the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), Anum Gyatso pours his heart out with great concern about the upcoming venture of Greenko’s purchase of Teesta Stage III.

The tribal group that has always been upfront to voice against the greedy capitalism is set to educate the society against this social evil that still plagues the meandering stream. Their voice cries out to be heard and ring into the minds of every citizen at the foothills of the Himalayas and the world.

Affected Citizens of Teesta, commonly known as ACT is an organization of indigenous Sikkimese citizens working together to protect the land and people from the threat to the Biodiversity Hotspot (Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve). It is a group of passionate indigenous tribes that raise voices against the corporate that threaten the serenity of the peace-loving society.

It fights the invisible battle for the right of the people who want to live in one’s homeland with dignity and security against the implemented mega hydro-electric power projects shoved down the system of the docile citizen. It is time now, the cry from the Teesta river banks are not just noise but is the foreboding sound of an ominous prophecy.

In 2017 Teesta Urja Limited (TUL) took a development river scheme project which All India Power Engineers Federation ( AIPEF) slammed as a failed public-private partnership because the Teesta- III power sold at a rate below Rs 3 per unit in open market, though TUL denied signing the MoU of Rs 6 per unit for the revenue. The TUL was forced to sell the power at half of the price as per its own MoU. The Government of Sikkim spent 40% of public money to fund the PPP project, which has incurred loss, a big blow for the economy of Government of Sikkim, which the State should take into consideration regarding its future in such projects.

The hydel power project is a farce when it comes to ecological and economical balance. The power generation of Teesta -III was estimated to be 1200 MW but the project could not generate beyond 700MW, the scepticism is high with proof in print.

The history of Teesta Urja has scared the river beds as such that Greenko though comes with promises of clean and green sustainable development will not be able to salvage the wreckage. As per the latest news report, Greenko is making its best bet to buy Teesta Stage III in Sikkim, the largest private hydroelectric project in Asia.

(THE TRANSACTION WILL FURTHER BULK UP THE OPERATING RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO OF GREENKO, BACKED BY SINGAPORE’S GIC AND ABU DHABI INVESTMENT AUTHORITY, TO 6.2 GIGAWATTS AND GIVE A MUCH-NEEDED EXIT TO THE PROJECT’S ORIGINAL FINANCIERS — A GROUP OF MARQUEE PE INVESTORS WHO HAVE BEEN STUCK FOR ALMOST A DECADE AFTER PUTTING IN $425 MILLION TO BANKROLL THIS HIGH-PROFILE VENTURE IN 2010. 

TO START WITH, GREENKO WILL BUY A 40% STAKE IN TEESTA URJA LTD (TUL) FOR $200-250 MILLION (RS 1,400-1,750 CRORE) FROM SINGAPORE-BASED ASIAN GENCO PTE LTD, A COMPANY MAJORITY OWNED BY PE INVESTORS SUCH AS GENERAL ATLANTIC, GOLDMAN SACHS, MORGAN STANLEY, NORWEST PARTNERS AND EVERSTONE CAPITAL. GREENKO HAS ALREADY APPLIED FOR APPROVALS FROM THE COMPETITION COMMISSION OF INDIA, ADDED THE OFFICIALS. 

THE GOVERNMENT OF SIKKIM OWNS THE REMAINING 60% IN TUL, AFTER HAVING TO TAKE IT OVER TO ENSURE COMPLETION OF THE PROJECT THAT GOT EMBROILED IN A SERIES OF ISSUES RANGING FROM CLASHES BETWEEN FOUNDER-PROMOTER VIJAYKUMAR TV AND HIS INVESTORS THAT LED TO PROLONGED ARBITRATIONS, TO REGULATORY AND INFRASTRUCTURE LOGJAMS, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM AND EVEN AN EARTHQUAKE. VIA THE ECONOMIC TIMES)

“The state government had taken a Rs 3,000 crore leverage for project completion and its stated position has been to dilute (the stake) over a period of time. Greenko is a long-term asset developer and as a policy does not take minority interests in projects or companies. A phased takeover will, therefore, be inevitable,” said an official in the know. 

The ACT president Anum Gyatso further speaks about the new ruling government of Sikkim as how it could impact the coming generation against such atrocities implied by the masked propaganda.

Sonam Gyatso stands with an appeal in the bank of river Teesta

He states his message to the reader of SC with a clear conscience without sugarcoating, he speaks

“It is time we the people of hills forget about our boundaries and politics and forget about the region we belong to and come together to save our Himalayas and the rivers. The river belongs to all of us. We have already destroyed Teesta with our ignorance. Let’s keep some rivers free-flowing”

When asked what message he would like to send Greenko. He further added, ” We (ACT) condemn this kind of corporate assault. Our Rivers are not for sale. Just do good research, a proper one and also find out the history of Teesta Urja, think twice before investing in a project which is not economically viable, is completely uprooting indigenous people and their lives, and of course, the fragile and rich biodiversity that we have.”

Gyatso is alarmed at the greed of corporate sectors that have been the same everywhere across the globe. Avarice has played an active role covering its face as reason, a pragmatic approach to modern life.

The State is bought and sold, over and under the table, whether it is land or rivers. A sad truth, a reality which the common people are unaware of, or maybe indifferent.

These rivers that flow from snow-capped mountains flow without any promises to return, hold no grudges against avalanches or pebbles on its way, has only one purpose in life – to be one with the ocean. Teesta has been a perennial source of joy and home to many diverse cultures and species and should not be restrained. It has been abused a number of times due to which the monsoon wrath is evident and inevitable every year.

The hydel project across any rivers has more cons than pros as it disrupts the general ecological balance of the water bodies, polluted the water and is never clean and green as it preaches to be.

Sikkim is the first organic state of India and has always stood its ground when it comes to the wellbeing of its citizens and its heritage. Teesta is not only a part of Sikkim and North Bengal but it is a river that binds and connects cultures without boundaries and prejudices.

It should not be one man’s project to save the river or one organisation against a capitalistic Goliath. The river is everyone’s, as Anum Gyatso says, it’s time to unite and let the corporate assault be put to an end.

The anti-dam movement in Sikkim is not an unknown, unheard issue, it all began in Yuksom (West Sikkim), the first capital of Sikkim in 1994, without any hidden agenda where the Monks stood against the mighty Government’s proposal to build three dams. Though the stand due to religious beliefs but they had ecological concerns too.

Twenty-five years later, we still face the same evil. The problems remain the same yet the faces are different. The world needs to know about the little knowledge that destroys the balance of the universe. The figures are spread and the calculation of risks are open, how blind can we be?

Thus the question remains, the rivers do not complain, the rivers do not cry for help, it gives and gives. How far are we going to abuse its silence?