Destroying A Himalayan Paradise


The River Teesta

My last entry on the proposed development of the Kalabagh Dam in Pakistan, and the ecological damage it will do to an area of great tradition (the Sindh) along with the political powerplaying involved in calling for this project to go forward, and the war that may ensue from it is not the only story in this saga. Let me first then say in this opening that development in and of itself is not bad. However, development aimed only at making money for developers and states with the intention of displacing indigenous peoples, diverting their water resources, and in exploiting them for profit is unconscienable.

Again, water is a HUMAN RIGHT, although it seems that when it comes to corporate/state ownership human rights don't matter. Such is the case in Pakistan, and such is the case also in India.Consider this and once again note that the WORLD BANK is also behind it, and in my view their idea of "tapping a river" does not coincide with providing sustinence to the areas involved without a price:

FEATURE - Indian plan to dam northeast rivers stirs critics
By Simon Denyer Tue Jun 20, 7:31 AM

ETGANGTOK, India (Reuters) - Ambitious plans to build dams and hydro power projects throughout the hills of the remote northeast have trodden on some sensitive toes in the troubled region. The Indian government and theWorld Bank say there is enormous -- and so far unrealised -- potential to tap rivers throughout the eight northeastern states.The projects could generate around 60,000 MW of power -- which is double India's current hydro output and more than half of today's total generating capacity -- while the country's demand for energy is growing rapidly. Project revenues could potentially double the region's net domestic product and even curb flooding, experts say. But locals fear that tens of thousands of people will be forcibly evicted from their homes, the environment irrevocably damaged, and ancient ways of life imperilled.

In a region where dozens of insurgent groups are already battling Indian rule, the government knows it needs to tread carefully. It acknowledges the need to improve accountability and transparency, as well as involve local communities, and will hold a "workshop" in New Delhi on June 25-26 to finalise its plans. But trust is in short supply. Many people here equate government with corruption and misrule, and have little faith in the authorities' ability to behave responsibly and sensitively."For whose benefits are these projects planned?," asked Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. "All the social and environmental costs would be borne by the people of the region. And if past experience is any guide, these costs are going to be heavy and mostly paid by the poorest, who depend on the natural resources around them.

"HIMALAYAN PARADISE"

Fast-flowing rivers running through the Himalayan mountains of Arunachal Pradesh have developers licking their lips. The state government plans to build 89 dams and hydro projects but locals say they have not been properly consulted. "The state is auctioning off Arunachal Pradesh without the consult of its people," said Bamang Anthony of Arunachal Citizens Rights. "Promoters are talking development. We also want development but we want to know what kind of development they want in our land. There is no transparency." Anthony says the dams will submerge thousands of hectares of land, including some towns, and displace more than 30,000 people. India's track record in rehousing the displaced from major development projects leaves little room for confidence. Dam construction could also disturb the fragile ecology of the eastern Himalayas, home to thousands of plant species. A dam on the Subansiri river threatens one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered Gangetic dolphin, environmentalists say. Dam construction also poses a special risk in one of the most earthquake-prone regions of the world.

DAM IN TROUBLED LAND

On India's border with Myanmar, the tiny state of Manipur is home to a decades-old insurgency against Indian rule that has claimed more than 10,000 lives. For 20 years, the government has talked about a 1,500 MW, 162-metre-high dam in the rebel-infested south of Manipur, at the intersection of the Tuivai and Barak rivers.The Tipaimukh plan finally got the go-ahead during a period of direct rule from New Delhi in 2003, and construction work has started on what will become the biggest dam in eastern India. The government promises it will provide water to farms and villages in the area, control floods, and even promote tourism -- besides giving everyone access to electricity. But local people became angry when the company which built a barrage 17 km downstream from the dam failed to keep a promise to supply irrigation water to nearby paddy fields. Villagers attacked workers and burnt sheds at the site, prompting the government to send in 1,000 soldiers. Human rights groups allege the troops have harassed local women. "Instead of fulfilling our demands to review the whole project, the government has sent the military to suppress our voice," said Thanmi Kashung, head of the Dam Affected Villagers Organisation. "Soldiers are now threatening our people."

RUN OF THE RIVER

In order to avoid similar problems, other northeast state governments are focusing on "run-of-the-river" projects: rivers are diverted through underwater channels but no dam is constructed, no reservoir created, and few people displaced. But in the Himalayan state of Sikkim, plans to build six such projects along the River Teesta to generate more than 3,000 MW have proved no more popular with local people. The ancient Lepcha tribe traditionally revere the river, and fear its disappearance into a series of tunnels will be accompanied by their own progressive marginalisation. Tunnelling and blasting have already caused landslides, and springs are drying up. Locals also complain that muck and rock debris is being dumped in the river, while thousands of migrant workers are entering the state and swamping the local culture of the Buddhist, Christian and animist Lepchas. "The history, the ethos, the folklore of Sikkim is connected with the Teesta and it is practically going to vanish," said Tseten Lepcha of the Affected Citizens of Teesta. (Additional reporting by Biswajyoti Das in Guwahati)
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The dams proposed to be built along the Teesta River should be of grave concern to environmentalists and all who believe in human rights. The Teesta River, the "lifeline of Sikkim" is exactly that to its people, as it flows for almost the entire length of the state. The emerald river connects Sikkim to West Bengal, finally flowing as a tributary into Bangladesh. It is a beautiful and scenic river in a Himalayan paradise filled with various vegetation, deciduous trees, and shrubs that color the hills in a rich green splendor. Its foaming white waters are also ideal for water rafting which is a business which draws in tourists from all over the world...but that will soon change should these projects go forth. And my question is, why should they go forth? Why build these expensive projects in such high numbers at the risk of displacing thousands of people and disrespecting their traditions and their way of life? That risks forever destroying the ecological balance of these pristine areas?

To the Lepcha people,the River Teesta is sacred:

And of course, this government is looking at opportunities here as well concerning China, which borders Sikkum to the North.

So there is the answer to the questions above, and it is always the same answer: PROFIT. And once again it is reported (as with the Kalabagh Dam) that the people of the region affected were not given any imput in this project's approval.

So once again I ask, what gives governments (and supposedly Democratic ones) the right to just take a sacred source of water of an indigenous people and exploit and pollute it for their own gain? And why are we suddenly seeing such a great number of these projects springing up in this area now? Could it be that governments see that the global water crisis is at a stage where control of the resources by corporate backed state governments is essential in maintaining control over the people?

It certainly isn't for their good if they are not even consulted beforehand (and as the article above attests to) and the people in these affected areas are displaced, mistreated, or denied the water they need to irrigate their mainstay crops.Sikkum has an agrarian economy, and traditional farming methods are practiced on terraced slopes because of the rocky terrain.

They grow cardamom, oranges, apples, tea and orchids. Rice is also grown on the terraced hillsides in the southern parts of the state. Sikkim also has the highest production and largest cultivated area of cardamom in India which is their cash crop. Breweries and distilleries are also a few of their main industries... and what do all of these businesses and crops need to thrive? Water. What then happens to these people with tunnelling, blasting, and diversion of their sacred river? Are they and a source of sustinence they see as a God worth the price of "progress?"

How long before Coca Cola goes to the Teesta River to bottle the water of the Lepcha people?

Coke In India

Stop Exploitation Of Ground Water

To me, disrespecting something others revere as sacred is abominable. What we are doing to our world in the name of "progress" is killing her. For once you exploit her soul there is nothing left. These government tactics to simply take over sources of water to then control their flow for profit is a human rights abuse that will lead to widescale war in the future if we do not stand up against the World Bank and those aligned with it to exploit the poor at the profit of the rich.

Notice also how these projects are going in areas where the people are esentially poor and weak in standing up to them. Pakistan is one example, and now India.... how many more will we see in the coming years as the global water crisis increases, especially in the most underdeveloped but most populated areas of the world? Where there is a higher demand with less access, we are seeing and WILL see exploitation. It is then up to us to fight against such exploitation now before it embroils us in a global resource war that will make wars for oil look like a family picnic.Pakistan is one example, and now India.... how many more will we see in the coming years as the global water crisis increases, especially in the most underdeveloped but most populated areas of the world?

Where there is a higher demand with less access, we are seeing and will see exploitation. It is then up to us to fight against such exploitation now before it embroils us in a global resource war that will make wars for oil look like a family picnic. As with the climate crisis we face an emergency involving our global water resources and their management, and we are running of time on both counts unless we also get this truth out to people and work to support a more sustainable world.

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