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Locals of Dzongu submit memorandum to Governor; demand scrapping of two hydel power projects

Local Governing Body of Hee-Gyathang GPU, Dzongu, North Sikkim, consisting of the Panchayats, along with ACT members and general public, submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Sikkim, Ganga Prasad on his visit to North Sikkim regarding scrapping of hydel power projects, NHPC Stage IV power project and Panam Project in Dzongu, North Sikkim.

Owing to the fact that these two projects fall at UNESCO World Heritage Site (KNP) transition zone, and also owing to the ethical fight of the indigenous people.

The ethics of it transpires around the tremendous cultural hurt to the sentiments of locals. The Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) established in early 2004, since the proposal of hydropower projects and dams near Dzongu, is a forum which consisted mainly of indigenous Sikkimese (Lepchas) have been advocating against the hydropower projects. ACT has been stipulating the riddance of all hydel projects to protect environmental and socio-cultural ethos in the region.

A few years ago when Government of Sikkim announced the supposed approval of the Stage IV dam and to save the last free-flowing, untouched stretch of Teesta, the campaign Save Teesta was spawned. A team of young Sikkimese people under the banner of ACT took up the mantle to dismantle the proposal of the alleged “unholy” Teesta Stage IV, that would molest the last remaining stretch that is just about 11 Kms. The Lepchas of Dzongu, opposing the 520 MW Teesta Stage-IV project and 300 MW Panan project, the couple of which are constructed in Upper Dzongu, have been fairly vocal and in a constant fight since the proposal of these, let alone the construction.

“ACT was established in the early 2000s and has been striving to raise concerns and voices against the big dams in our rivers and has been doing so tirelessly till this day. Since the recent government started pushing for the implementation of Teesta Stage IV hydropower project, a group led by young members of the ACT, named Save Teesta, has been set up as a campaign,” Gyatso Lepcha, General Secretary of the ACT forum had said in a previous conversation pertaining to the Save Teesta movement with Sikkim Chronicle.

“There are almost a 100 members who have been doing this campaign and our social media is also flooded with the pictures with hashtags, poetry and songs, and we also are advocated by international organizations like UNESCO and International Rivers Organization and we hope more people join the cause,” he added. The main course of action for the Save Teesta movement and for ACT to act against the newest threat against the violation of free-flowing Teesta have been campaigns through social media and petitions that give a people’s mandate.

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The ACT has been against the hydel projects since the early 2000’s and it was informed that the submission of memorandum in which governing bodies as well as the public of Dzongu stood together was “welcoming and heart-warming.”

“All the dignitaries, the panchayats, members(of governing bodies), and the people (inclusive in the memorandum), they are all part of this struggle. We found it really welcoming, the state Chief Minister, concerned ministers, and concerned bureaucrats had already been submitted the memorandum,” Gyatso said talking about the recent memorandum and the welcoming reception it got.

“In case of the Governor, in his visit to Dzongu, the sole demand of the public was to scrap these projects, which is a big thing. It also makes things clear that the most important issue in Dzongu is Stage IV and Panam project.” He added

“The panchayat members, the public and the President (ACT) handed the memorandum over to the governor and we hope he reads through the memorandum when he gets time and hopefully we get a positive reaction after he reflects upon it,” Gyatso concluded.

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