Forget dams: NE NGOs to Delhi, Beijing

By Rahul Karmakar

Guwahati, Sep 16 : More than 50 social and green organizations in the Northeast have asked Beijing and New Delhi to stop pursuing dams on the Yarlung Tsangpo/Siang river that form the Brahmaputra downstream. In a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 10 -- a copy was also submitted to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao through the Chinese Embassy - the NGOs urged both countries to forget mega dam projects and help create peace and trust between the two countries.

China has hydropower plans on the Yarlung Tsangpo on a strategic stretch before it dips southward and flows into Arunachal Pradesh as the Siang. India has in the pipeline several dam projects on the Siang to generate at least 4000 MW of electricity. Greens and anti-dam activists fear these projects would make the Northeast swing between acute water crisis and submergence.

"This is the first initiative by 51 civil organizations seeking a dialogue with China besides the Indian government on the crucial issue of mega dams," said Ravindra Nath of River Basin Friends based at Akajan in northeastern Assam.

The memorandum notes: "We see a conflict brewing because of dams proposed by both India and China. For this reason, both the countries must refrain from building any dams in the whole stretch of this (Tsangpo-Siang-Brahmaputra) river. This will help build peace and trust between the two countries. Building dams on the Siang or Yarlung Tsangpo will, therefore, be considered as seeking conflict."

It also argues: "One cannot allow thousands of people to be displaced from their ancestral villages for electricity to power a mere 8-10 per cent growth. Nor can we allow millions of trees, medicinal plants and fauna to be submerged or perished because of lack of water."

The memorandum reminded China that blocking the Yarlung Tsangpo would devastate ecosystems and livelihoods of people in Tibet besides India's Northeast and Bangladesh downstream.