Northeast India

The Indian government calls the Northeast of the country its future power house. The Central Electricity Authority has identified more than 150 sites for large hydropower projects in the Brahmaputra Basin alone. More than 80 of those projects are located in Arunachal Pradesh, promising a plus of more than 50,000 MW of energy in the coming years. Several unique features of the state, including the large number of tribal communities, its seismic activity and its rich biodiversity, render dam building in Arunachal Pradesh exceptionally challenging. The plans appear to fail to acknowledge those challenges: the largest dam currently planned in India is the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri on the Subansiri River in Arunachal Pradesh, India’s seismically most active region. The opposition to dam-building in Arunachal is meanwhile growing.

In Sikkim, the provincial government has recently awarded contracts to private operators for 26 large hydropower projects on the Teesta River, seven of which will affect Dzongu province. In summer 2007, the “Affected Citizens of Teesta” organized what might have been the longest hungerstrike in the history of Sikkim to protest the planned construction of hydropower projects on the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lepcha community in Dzongu, Sikkim, as you can see in the documentary "Voices from the Hidden Land." While the Lepcha also reside in other parts of India and Nepal, the majority of Lepcha lives in India’s Dzongu province. They are set to loose the most from the planned projects on the Teesta River. Notwithstanding the unique cultural and social setting the Dzongu region represents, preparatory studies for the Teesta dams have been of extremely poor quality, lacking adequate assessments of the potential cumulative impacts of the series of dams on the river, as well as an accurate understanding of the Lepcha culture. The authorities have also gravely disregarded national participation laws and failed to provide access to key documents in local languages, as well as prevented challenging questions during public hearings.

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