Protest over proposed dam

Arunachal activists slam Centre's Siang plan

By Ranju Dodum in Itanagar
  • Published 12.06.15
The Siang

Itanagar, June 11: Activists in Arunachal Pradesh today protested against the Centre's proposal to build two massive dams on the Siang.

Union water resources minister Uma Bharti had said in New Delhi on June 4 that "the solution to the Brahmaputra's perennial flow lies in middle Siang" and that the river was "the answer to floods in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam".

After Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi claimed that his state had not been informed of any such proposal, Siang People's Forum, an NGO, raised its voice against the proposal. It called the Centre's plan discriminatory, imperialistic and an example of neo-colonialism.

In a statement faxed to Bharti and the Prime Minister's office today, the forum said the plan to build the dams was "yet another example of Delhi's stepmotherly treatment towards the people of the Northeast".

It criticised the Centre's policy on rivers, stating that "on the one hand you are diligently busy in Clean Ganga and Save Ganga and on the other hand you are planning a disaster on the Siang."

The forum's general secretary, Oyar Gao, also raised the issue of the river's sanctity, saying the Siang was referred to as aane (mother) just like Ganga was called maiya.

Criticising the plan, the forum questioned the minister: "Which part of Arunachal did you visit and with which stakeholder did you interact before making the statement?"

Over 40 dams have been planned on the Siang which originates in the Tibetan plateau as Yarlung Tsangpo and flows into Assam as the Brahmaputra. While none of the projects have taken off yet, activists from both Arunachal and Assam have been opposing the plans.

In February last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won the support of dam activists when he had said in an election rally in Pasighat, the epicentre of anti-dam protests in the state, that he would prefer small hydro power projects and honour the sentiments of the people of the region. The irony of Bharti's statement was not lost on Gao who wrote that such move "creates doubt and confusion".

Gao also said he was "saddened" by the U-turn on the issue by the BJP since coming to power at the Centre.

Questioning its motives, the forum asked if the Centre was attempting to "bail out the state government from financial crisis through mega dams" or if it was working for the benefit of "power developers by bulldozing concerns of affected citizens".

The Siang flows for 294km in the state and many of its tributaries serve as a lifeline for close to 2.5 lakh people most of whom belong to the Adi and Galo tribes.