Anti-dam activists opposing hydroelectric projects on the Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh decried a public hearing scheduled for next week as a sham, arguing that the state government has deployed three companies of paramilitary troops (or about 360 additional police) to intimidate locals who oppose the proposed 2700 megawatt Lower Siang Hydro Electric Project.
Those of you who are still waiting for my series on the dam crisis in Arunachal Pradesh, this is the latest development. And don't lose hope. We're finishing up the edit of the last article in the series so it should be published soon. The deal is that Arunachal Pradesh--an unspoiled, sparsely populated state in India's northeast--plans more than 150 dams to tap its potential for hydropower. But environmentalists and locals alike say that the state government has overlooked concerns about ecological damage and the threat to the local indigenous tribes in the race to sign lucrative memoranda of understanding with dam builders -- which have already netted them some $300 million.
On Friday, members of various people's organizations, including the Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD), the Siang Peoples’ Forum (SPF), the Adi Students’ Union (AdiSU), the Lower Siang Dam Affected Land Owners’ Union (LSDALOU), the East Siang District Students’ Union, the Mebo Area Bachao Committee (MABC), and the Mebo Area Downstream Village Welfare Association gathered in Pasighat to oppose next week's public hearing -- which is a mandatory step in seeking environmental clearance.
Everyone present resolved to oppose the proposed public hearings in all the local districts to save the river, the organizations said in a joint press release.
The meeting also questioned the state government's "unnecessary and intimidating act" of requesting the deployment of three additional Paramilitary Companies to the area (which will be 360 police) to ensure that the public hearing can be held despite local attempts to block it.
"Is it going to be a Public Hearing or a Police Parading at the behest of the Jaypee Company and above all to create fear psychosis in the minds of the poor villagers and stage manage the Hearing?" the press release asked.
Speakers also questioned the government's decision to hold the public hearing some 150 kilometers from the villages that will be affected -- Riga, Pangkang, Riew, Sitang, Parong and Raasing villages in East Siang district. Because of the difficulty of traveling during the rainy season, and the ongoing university exams, the activists claimed, the decision will essentially prevent the affected public from attending the public hearing where they're meant to voice their concerns.