Decision on hydel plants pleases ACT – Sikkim govt sends four projects to backburner

Gangtok, Jan. 24: Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) has appreciated the Sikkim government’s move to withdraw the letters of intent issued to four private hydro-electric power developers currently working on projects in the state.

The NGO now wants the government to take a similar decision on other hydel power projects in the state, including Teesta Stage IV and the 300mw Panan project.

The four projects sent to the backburner by the government include the 99mw Lingza project on the Tholung-chu in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu in North Sikkim.

“We appreciate the government’s move. We are particularly happy with the decision on the Lingza project because it falls under Khangchendzonga National Park. We would like to point out that several other projects also fall under the same national park,” said ACT general secretary Dawa Lepcha.

Since its inception in July 2004, ACT has been at the forefront of the protests against mega hydel power projects in Sikkim, especially in Dzongu.

The cabinet, headed by chief minister Pawan Chamling, made the decision on the four projects last week. Apart from Lingza, the other three are the 40mw Rateychu-Bakchachu hydel plant in the Kabi Tingda constituency of North Sikkim, an 88mw project at Tashiding and the 90mw Ting Ting project in Yuksom. The last two places are in West Sikkim.

These projects were to be developed by SSNR Super Power Pvt. Ltd, Coastal Energy Pvt. Ltd, Shiga Energy Pvt. Ltd and SMEC International Pvt. Ltd, respectively.

Officials of the Sikkim energy and power department, which reviewed the projects, said they found non-performance, non-compliance with certain guidelines and technical flaws in the pre-feasibility reports prepared by the developers.

The fate of four more projects hang in the balance as the cabinet has deferred a decision on an agreement with Amalgamated Transpower. The projects are located in different districts of the state.

The national body of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikash Parishad, an organisation for tribal welfare, has endorsed the support extended to the protests against the hydel power projects coming up in Dzongu.

The parishad, which has the support of a number of MPs and former MPs, passed a resolution at its national-level meeting held in Calcutta on January 19. “Dzongu is the holy place of the Lepcha tribe … and any kind of encroachment, constructions on the holy land is not permissible,” said the resolution.

The organisation resolved that the issue may be taken up with the state and central governments to protect the holy land of Dzongu as well as the future of the Lepchas.

An executive body of the Sikkim unit of the parishad was also announced at the meet. ACT president Athup Lepcha will head the unit.

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