Activists slam Centre’s plans to build dams on Siang

In a statement faxed to Bharati and the prime minister’s office, the forum today said the plan to build the dams “is yet another example of Delhi’s step-motherly treatment towards the people of Northeast”. It criticised the Centre’s policy on rivers stating that “on the one hand you are diligently busy in Clean Ganga and Save Ganga and on the other hand you are planning a disaster on Siang sitting at Delhi.”
Dam activists in Arunachal Pradesh have called the Centre’s plans to build two massive dams on Siang river a case of “discrimination, imperialism and neo-colonialism”.
On June 4, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati told reporters that “the solution on Brahmaputra’s perennial flow lies in middle Siang” and that the river “is the answer for floods in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam”. After Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi claimed that his state had not been informed of any such proposal, the NGO Siang People’s Forum has also joined in to express its opposition. In a statement faxed to Bharati and the prime minister’s office, the forum today said the plan to build the dams “is yet another example of Delhi’s step-motherly treatment towards the people of Northeast”. It criticised the Centre’s policy on rivers stating that “on the one hand you are diligently busy in Clean Ganga and Save Ganga and on the other hand you are planning a disaster on Siang sitting at Delhi.”
The forum’s general secretary Oyar Gao also raised the issue of the river’s sanctity saying that the Siang is referred to as Aane (mother) in the same manner as Ganga Maiya. Slamming the plan, the forum questioned the minister “which part of Arunachal did you visit and interact with which stakeholder before making the statement”.
Over 40 dams have been planned on the Siang river basin which originates in the Tibetan plateau as the Yarlung Tsangpo river and flows into Assam to become the Brahmaputra. While none of the projects have yet taken off, activists from both Arunachal Pradesh and Assam have been opposing the plans.
Last year in February at an election rally in Pasighat – the epicentre of anti-dam protests in the state – Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won the support of dam activists from the area after he stated that he would prefer smaller hydro power projects and honour the sentiments of the region’s people. The irony of Bharati’s statement was not lost on Gao who wrote that such move “creates doubt and confusion”.
Gao also said that he is “saddened” by the u-turn on the issue by the BJP since it came to power at the Centre.
Questioning its motives, the forum asked if the Centre was attempting to “bail out the state government from financial crisis through mega dams” or if it was working for the benefit of “power developers by bulldozing concerns of affected citizens”.
The Siang flows for 294 km in the state and many of its tributaries serve as a lifeline for close to 2.5 lakh people. Gao in his statement said that the forum “will not sacrifice it (Siang) for the benefit of few corrupt politicians.”

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