The Lepchas of Dzongu in northern Sikkim have resumed their protests against the construction of mega hydropower projects on the Teesta River.
Hundreds of people gathered in Namprikdang to demonstrate their strong opposition to the 520 Mw Teesta Stage-IV power project and the 300 Mw Panan power project, both built in Upper Dzongu.
Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) demanded the immediate abandonment of all hydel projects to protect the region’s environmental and socio-cultural ethics.
This demonstration also witnessed the presence of Bongthings – the Lepcha priests, who performed rituals seeking blessings to help them “Save Teesta”.
“The construction of mega hydropower projects in Dzongu would destroy the rich Himalayan ecosystem and the cultural heritage of the Lepcha community,” said ACT, the indigenous citizens’ organization of Sikkim.
He further added that the state government has declared Dzongu as a native Lepcha habitat and natural habitat for butterflies and wildlife.
But an act of building tunnels across the region after such an announcement is completely baseless.
ACT General Secretary Gyatso Lepcha said natural disasters, such as floods, landslides and earthquakes have recently intensified after the construction of such dams on the Teesta River in Dikchu and Chungthang.
Lepcha further called on the government to declare the last free-flowing stretch from Teesta to Dzongu a river sanctuary, calling it the one-of-a-kind move across the country.
Previously, the organization strongly condemned the “Blue Planet Prize” awarded to National Hydroelectric Power Consumption (NHPC) Ltd for its Teesta-V 510 MW power plant in Dikchu, east Sikkim.
“This award is nothing more than another attempt to depoliticize the woes and protests against the dams that have been taking place for 18 years on the stretch of the Teesta river and finally to press the button to stem the belly. from Dzongu near Mangan which has been resisted for a long time, ”ACT General Secretary Gyatso T. Lepcha said in a press release.
It is relevant to note that ACT is an organization of indigenous citizens of Sikkim to protect the land and people from the threat to the biodiversity hotspot (Khanchendzonga Biosphere Reserve).
He also speaks of the endangering of the demographic profile of the primitive indigenous Lepcha, due to the implementation of many hydroelectric megaprojects.