Stop construction of mega dams

Date of publication: 
18 May 2013

NE organizations appeal to India, China and Bangladesh

DIMAPUR: A group of 26 organizations from North East India under the banner of the North East Dialogue Forum have jointly written to leaders of India, China and Bangladesh expressing their concern over the issue of water, the adverse impacts of constructing mega dams and mining in the region.

The joint appeal known as the “Dimapur Declaration” was the outcome of a 2-day North East People’s Convention on water and dams held at Bethesda Youth Welfare Centre, Dimapur from May 17-18. The declaration was addressed to the Premier of China, Li Keqiang; Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. The participants unanimously adopted the “Dimapur Declaration” to protect their inherent rights over their water, land, forest and other resources based on customary and international laws as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People 2007 etc.

The organizations expressed serious concern with the aggressive development interventions on water bodies in NE region, such as the construction of a series of mega dams over the Brahmaputra River by the Governments of India and China, with minimal consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples and without their participation and free, prior and informed consent. They pointed out that the increasing number of mega dams and other unsustainable mega projects such as the Loktak Project in Manipur, Doyang Project in Nagaland, Dumbur Dam Project in Tripura, Pagladia Project in Assam and Ranganadi Project in Arunachal have destroyed peoples’ lives, livelihood sources, ecosystems and violated indigenous peoples human rights and fueled conflicts.

Asserting their strong stand to protect the water bodies and other natural resources in the region and to ensure that perennial rivers have fresh water flow throughout the year, the 26 organizations called upon the Governments of India and China to recognize indigenous peoples’ rights over their waters, land and resources and their self-determined development of their water bodies in the region.

The organizations also declared that any decision making for intervention on water bodies, especially trans-boundary rivers passing through India’s NE such as Brahmaputra and Barak River System should be with due and rightful participation of indigenous peoples in the region. They appealed for implementing the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, 2000, in all decision making processes on dam constructions over Brahmaputra (Tsangpo) River.

The NGOs specifically urged the Indian government to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination in 2007, to stop construction of mega dams in the territories of the indigenous people like Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project, Mapithel Dam, Chakpi Dam and several other projects in the region. They strongly urged India to declare all the rivers and tributaries in each of the North East states as ‘No Go Zones,’ where no dams/ barrages/ hydropower projects are allowed.

Further, the organizations pushed for India to decommission all dams which caused loss of livelihood to the indigenous people and could not meet the envisaged promise made by the authority, such as the Ithai Barrage of the Loktak Multipurpose Project in Manipur, Dumbur Dam in Tripura etc. India was also urged to stop pollution and contamination of water bodies in the NE by mining, oil exploration and drilling etc.

The organizations urged China to recognize that indigenous peoples of India’s North East depend on the Brahmaputra (Tsangpo River) and its tributaries for their survival. They also appealed for China to consider the downstream and other environmental, socio economic impacts of mega dams in Tsangpo River and to implement the recommendations of the World Commission on Dams, 2000 in all proposed mega dams construction in the River.

To the Government of Bangladesh, the 26 NGOs called for a proactive role and a collective and consensual decision making processes of the stakeholders on all Trans-boundary rivers. They urged Bangladesh to be conscious of the impacts of arbitrary interventions in rivers in upper riparian countries and to desist from compromises for political or economic gains.

Further, the participants called upon international financial institutions and corporate bodies to desist from financing and taking up water related projects in India’s NE, such as mega dams which would undermine indigenous peoples inherent rights over their waters and threaten environment integrity of the region.