The Government of Arunachal Pradesh has resorted to violence to push forward with the 2700 MW Lower Siang Hydro Electric Project on the Siang River despite stiff opposition from local indigenous communities and peasant and environmental groups.
On Monday 16 April, police fired live rounds in the air and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse activists who had sought to block access to the Public Hearing scheduled for 17, 18 and 20 April. Two protestors were reportedly injured and several of them assaulted, beaten and humiliated. The hearing itself was cancelled on Tuesday when people came out in the streets in hordes and anti-dam activists reportedly burnt the vehicles and site used for the public hearing in retaliation to intimidation from armed individuals deployed by Jaypee Co., who continue to pose a threat to local villagers.
Many see the public hearings that are conducted far from the affected areas as merely a rubber-stamping exercise and not one of genuine consultation with the local community on whose land such massive dams are planned to be built. Vijay Taram, spokesperson of the Forum for Siang Dialogue claims the locality where the hearing is scheduled has a population of barely 500 people but over 600 policemen have been deployed to carry through the verdict by threat and fear.
Local opposition to the dam construction had already forced the state government and Jaypee Arunachal Power Limited, the company working on the project, to postpone public hearings three times in the past. The groups argue that the project is against the interests of local communities and will have profound and adverse effects on local ecology, biodiversity and fragile way of life of the state’s 20+ indigenous tribes.
The Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh is home to the indigenous communities of the Adi and Galo tribes. Twenty-three of their villages are on the banks of the Siang River that will be directly affected by the project. The indigenous people of the area are mostly villagers who have an umbilical bond with the forests and rivers they inhabit. The wet rice fields that are the mainstay of the agricultural existence of the Adis are situated in land just above the Siang River; the project’s planned submergence of it is a significant threat to their right to land and livelihood – their very survival. Their right to free, prior and informed consent (as enshrined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) is not only being ignored, but deliberately avoided.
Furthermore, this project is only a part of India’s wider plans to generate some 40,000 MW of electricity from more than 150 dams in Arunachal Pradesh. The breakneck race to exploit the state's hydroelectric potential threatens the area's rich biodiversity and survival of the indigenous tribes. The protests against these hydropower projects, being implemented through a combination of deceit and force by companies and the government, have broken out all across the region. Their coercive acts are shattering an already fragile political environment. This all-out effort to build numerous dams quickly to claim “First Rights Use” is a reaction to China’s plans to build several dams across the Siang River upstream in their lands and possibly divert water to their own territories. Local people in Arunachal and Assam are against any dams, whether in China or downstream in Arunachal.
Please sign this petition to urge the Indian authorities to respect the rights of indigenous peoples for construction of development projects and stop all forms of militarization in their territories.
This urgent action has been prepared by the North East Peoples Alliance and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Foundation and is supported by the Siang Peoples Forum, Adi Students Union, Forum for Siang Dialogue, All Mebo Students Union, Paktu Ao Welfare Association, Dam Affected People of Sirit-Siyom, Siang Bachao Federation and Eastern Adi Students Union.