Friday, Sep 23, 2022 12:15 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, Sep 23, 2022 06:42 [IST]
GANGTOK, : At a time when a section of people are opposing the Teesta Stage IV hydro-power project for about 17 years now, another section of the affected landowners identifying themselves as the “real victims” are in favour of the dam construction for 520 MW Teesta Stage IV HEP by NHPC at Lower Dzongu, North Sikkim.
For the aggrieved land owners, the concern is more towards land compensation and the local employment. They feel local employment will be generated after the project commences. The affected land owners staged a protest rally from Mangan Zilla Bhawan to Mangan Bazar on Thursday afternoon. The pro-dam landowners submitted a three point memorandum to ADC Karma Denzongpa at DAC, Mangan.
The memorandum mentioned, "If there is no substantial progress in the implementation and land acquisition process by December this year, the villagers will write to the Prime Minister. We will apprise him of lackadaisical attitude of the district administration and the project authorities in implementing the long term green energy goals of the country". The memorandum further cited, "If there is no progress by December, we can only assume that NHPC is in agreement with certain anti-hydropower groups. We will conclude that NHPC is not interested in increasing hydro power generation. We will ask the power developer to stop generation of Teesta Stage V further downstream. They must abandoned the under construction Teesta Stage VI project as well.”
The locals from the right bank of the river also demanded compensation for losses suffered by them during the last 17 years since Letter of Intents was issued to NHPC in 2003.
The construction of dam and ancillary construction such as the powerhouse, catchment area will cover an area of 4.5 kilometres in length with 650 metres devoted to reservoir in Chaadey village and the right bank Hee-Gyathang. Collectively 178 hectares of private land is being affected by the dam constructions, with 275 houses indirectly affected and only seven houses directly displaced.
The cost of the dam construction has risen to Rs. 6130 crore with the tariff rate increasing from Rs. 5 to Rs. 5.43 due to the delay. From the day the cabinet approves, NHPC aims to complete the construction within 74 months.
The major part of the delay has been the forest clearance stuck for sine years, largely because of the 10 GPUs affected, three GPUs are yet to give the clearance. Their stand is the proximity of the dam to the Kanchenjunga National Park which the NHPC claims to be six kilometres far from KNP. They have already paid Rs. 30 crore for catchment area to the State Forest department.
NHPC has also reduced the height of the dam by 13 m taking the topography and safety into account. To connect the left and right bank, NHPC aims to construct three bridges in three locations of lengths, 100 metres, 95 m and 82 m with two of them being Bailey bridges.
“The households under this project have suffered a lot. We seek immediate intervention of the State Government, either bring the project or scrap it provided they compensate the losses incurred in the last 17 years”, demanded one of the affected land owners.
Another agitated land owner highlighted, “It is not just the Lepchas who have been affected due to the delay of this project, a good number of Bhutia, Limboo and Tamang population is also bearing the cost of waiting for this project to start. It is alarming to witness how those who don’t even own a piece of land under this project are brainwashing our children and stopping the project from commencing. If they are really concerned about us and the future of our children then I invite them to buy our lands and compensate us for a better livelihood.”
When asked about the present status of the project, senior NHPC manager (Environment Division) Dr. A.K. Jha informed, “Despite all the first phase environmental clearances issued by the Ministry of Forest and Environment from 2017-19, followed by issuance of land acquisition no substantial development has happened. As per Forest Rights Act, it is mandatory to get consent from all the affected stakeholders. Out of the 10 GPUs which fall under this project, seven have already given their consent for implementation of project. However, three GPUs are yet to take their final call.”
NHPC Senior Manager further mentioned, “The initial project cost of Rs.3594.88 crore which has now climbed to Rs. 6113.12 crore and over Rs. 200 crore have already been used before the project has even begun.”