Lepchas of Dzongu in Sikkim Oppose Teesta Stage IV Hydroelectric Project; Refuse Compensation, Rehabilitation

Reported by

Athar Parvaiz

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017

Updated on

March 19, 2017

Location of Conflict

Dzongu

North District

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Hydroelectric Project

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

4513

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

324

ha

Starting Year

2008

State

Sikkim

Sector

Power

The Lepcha community in north Sikkim has been staunchly opposing the construction of a 520megawatt Teesta Stage IV Hydroelectric Project (HEP) in Dzongu district. At the core of their opposition are their religious beliefs. According to them, Dzongu is the origin place of their race (Lepcha). They say that Khangchendzonga is "our mother mountain where our souls ultimately get salvation". The Lepchas believe the environment is under threat due to an increasing number of power projects in the region despite their opposition. The Dzongu area is protected under a 1956 notification and reserved for the Lepchas. So far, they have successfully protested against the construction of four other hydropower projects in the area. In 2008, the state government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) for this project. In 2012, the project was granted clearance for implementation. In July 2020, when the land revenue department formed an expert committee for the Social Impact Assessment, all panchayats in the region refused to cooperate with the surveying officials, fearing the destruction of the rich Himalayan ecosystem and the cultural heritage of the Lepcha community. The villagers also boycotted the mandatory public hearing and rejected the project under the Forest Rights Act. They claim that the NHPC has not taken any safety precautions. Since June 2020, several protests have been held, and several attempts to meet higher officials have failed. The community claims that police force in the region has been increased to keep a close eye on them. In January 2021, Gyatso Tongden Lepcha, secretary of the Affected Citizens of Teesta, stated, "We [have] observed several landslides, flash floods and earthquakes after the construction of dams on Teesta river in Dikchu and Chungthang; we believe dams are not the solution to sustainable development." According to the Environmental Impact Assessment report, around 256 families will be affected and none will be displaced. But the villagers estimate that more than 4,500 people will be directly affected. The community refuses to accept any compensation or rehabilitation in exchange for its land and is determined to safeguard its heritage. As of 2021, 15 hydropower projects in the Teesta river basin are at different stages of construction and are set to be completed by 2022. The newly elected Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party, which came to power by campaigning against overexploitation of natural resources, has been silent on the issue so far, according to Gyatso, leaving the community to fend for themselves.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Refusal to give up land for the project

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Opposition against environmental degradation

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest, Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

5748.04

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Land Acquisition Laws, Environmental Laws, Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws

Legislations/Policies Involved

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Schedule I, Item 1(c): [Projects above 50 megawatt are Category A projects requiring mandatory environmental clearance]
Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013
Section 4: [Preparation of Social Impact Assessment in consultation with panchayat or municipality]; Section 5: [Public hearing for the Social Impact Assessment]
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 3(1)(a): [Right of forest dwellers to live on and hold forestland]; Section 4(2) [This section lays down stringent conditions that must be fulfilled before any forest dwellers are resettled or any of their rights are affected]
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2007
Rule 4(2) [This rule requires that a majority of the Gram Sabha members, present and voting, must approve any resolutions which affect forest rights]
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Controversial land acquisition by the government

Violation of environmental laws

Non-implementation/violation of FRA

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

No items found.

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Local people in Dzongue allege that their religious and environmental rights have been violated

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Boycott of official procedures/non-participation in official processes

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Refusal of compensation

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Land Revenue Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

National Hydro Power Corporation Limited

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

NHPC

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Sikkim Krantikari Morcha

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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