Welcome to ACT, an organization of the indigenous Sikkimese citizens to protect the land and people from the threat to the Biodiversity Hotspot (Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve), endangering the demographic profile of the indigenous primitive Lepcha tribes and the right to live in one's homeland with dignity and security due to implementation of numerous mega hydro-electric power projects in one go.
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In a Press Release of March 8, 2013, ACT Working President Tseten Lepcha presents a write-up on the scandalous neglect of the State Government in respect to Chungthang, the area worst hit by the earthquake of September 18, 2012. Tseten makes out misuse of funds thought for rehabilitation and gives evidence of the disastrous consequences of excessive blasting for Teesta Stage III.
"It is beyond any doubt that the national and international focus on the 18th September earthquake was due to the unfortunate deaths of innocient citizens and the most devastating destruction of properties at chungthang. The face of the destruction, in fact, was the collapsed houses at chungthang which was beamed day and night in the media that generated much support for Sikkim. But when it came to reaching relief, the actual place of destruction and the victims were neglected and the funds diverted to other places and used for other works which did not need so much urgency. In fact, the very priority list of the state Govt. does not even mention the most affected area. ...
There is no escaping the fact that the entire state with its young mountains has been battered with extensive brute force and Chungthang being the dam site is worst hit. It is any one's guess that the severely disturbed area just needed another jolt to cause devastation as that happened on the 18th of Sept 2011.
Therefore, the argument that there is no link between the earthquake and hydro projects is completely wrong. It is proven beyond any doubt that the severity of destruction in Chungthang and surrounding areas was compounded by the destructive mega hydroelectric power project.
The entire funds donated by Teesta Urja Ltd. for the earthquake was deposited in the CM's relief fund and not provided to the project affected area directly."
Full Press Release: Chungthang - The Kalapani of the 21st Century
March 19, 2013: Union Environment Minister, Jayanti Natrajan, who is also the chairperson, National Board for Wildlife standing committee, has been petitioned with a request to reject Wildlife Clearance for the 520 MW Teesta Hydroelectric Power project Stage IV. NBWL, it is reported, is scheduled to discuss NHPC’s proposal seeking wildlife clearance for Stage IV on Wednesday. The petition seeking the rejection has been submitted by the ACT (Affected Citizens of Teesta), Tseten Lepcha, writing in his capacity as a resident of North Sikkim (were the project will come up) and a former honorary Wildlife Warden.
Mr. Lepcha, while welcoming new rules which make NBWL clearance mandatory before the start of hydel projects, lists out ten reasons why NHPC’s request for wildlife clearance should be rejected. He highlights that in the past (as in the case of Teesta HEP Stage III), NBWL has “failed miserably” in discharging its duties to the nation by letting Stage III to begin construction without wildlife clearance even though the project is within the Kanchenzonga Bio-Sphere Reserve.
Enumerating the reasons why the NHPC request should be turned down, Mr. Lepcha starts by informing that NHPC was fined Rs. 75 lakh by the Forest Department here for violation of forest laws and unauthorised dumping of muck in the process of constructing the Teesta HEP Stage V.
He goes on to add that 48 persons were killed in the process of constructing Teesta Stage V, “which makes NHPC the worst safety enabled company to develop Hydro project”. He goes on to add that the Stage V affected people continue to suffer NHPC’s negligence, pointing out further that the Mines and Geology Department of Sikkim has indicted the NHPC for all the structural damages suffered by houses in the project-affected areas.
Should wildlife clearance be granted for Stage IV, Teesta would lose the last stretch of its natural course, “causing irreversible damage to the biodiversity”. Further, Stage IV is within 5.84 kms radius of the Khangchendzonga National Park/ Biosphere Reserve and 4.3 kms radius of Fambonglho Sanctuary, a proximity within which such commercial activities are prohibited, he adds.
He goes on to inform that two public hearings for Stage IV were boycotted not only by the affected people but also public representatives like the Power Minister and elected panchayats of the area, proving that the project developer did not enjoy the trust of the people.
Mr. Lepcha has also challenged the wildlife clearance given by the Forest Department on the grounds that this was done without prior information of the stakeholders and the public at large. He has also questioned the effectiveness of (lessening the impact on indigenous communities) such NHPC assurances as shifting the dam 4-5 kms away from the traditional ground at Namprikdang or the assurance that the labour colonies and all activities will be on the far bank from the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu. Even those areas fall within the Dzongu assembly constituency limits hence will cause serious dilution of the political and economic rights of the Lepcha community, he believes.
The final point he raises is that while NHPC signed an MoU for a 495 MW project, it was seeking clearance for a 520 MW HEP.
Original Petition: Letter of Tseten Lepcha to Jayanti Natrajan
August 21, 2012: The appointment of Sri K. P. Nyati and Prof N. P. Todaria in the Forest Advisory Committee has become a subject of national controversy.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest itself has violated environmental norms while according its clearance to many hydro power projects in Sikkim in the past. For instance, the 97 MW Tashiding Hydro Power Project in West Sikkim and 300 MW Panan Hydro Power Project in North Sikkim received the clearance from MoEF without having referred the matter to National Board of Wild Life violating the Supreme Court Order. Both these HPPs fall within the 10 kms radius from the boundary of Khangchendzonga National Park. As such, the MoEF should have scrapped these Projects on the ground that they have violated environmental laws. But the MoEF granted clearance simply to promote the business interest of private companies involved in these projects.
Most obviously, the appointment of Sri K. P. Nyati and Prof N. P. Todaria in the Forest Advisory Committee has been made purely to promote the business interest of multi-national companies engaged in hydro-power and mining industry. Thus, ACT backs the Memorandum of South Asian Network on Dams, River and People (SANDRP) together with more than 80 other NGOs from all across India to cancel the objected appointments in the Forest Advisory Committee.
Original Document: Memorandum of SANDRP and 80 other NGOs to the MoEF
August 12, 2012: Detailing that specific clauses of the MoU signed between Himagiri Hydro Energy Pvt Ltd and the State Government have been violated by the project developer, the Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) has demanded that the MoU signed in 2005 be terminated.
An ACT press release issued by its general secretary Dawa Lepcha informs that as per 'Article 4: Obligation of the Company, Clause 4.7' of the MoU signed on 05 December 2005, the company was required to achieve Financial Closure within 12 months from the date of signing of the agreement. In case of delay in obtaining Environment Clearance, the MoU allowed for the financial closure "to be achieved within six months from the date of Environmental Clearance". The company got the Environmental Clearance on 02 January, 2007.
However, on the basis of information acquired through RTI, ACT found out that even six and a half years since the MoU was signed and four and a half years after the Environment Clearance was acquired, the company has not achieved the Financial Closure, the release informs.
As per the same Article and clause 4.9 (Equity participation) and clause 4.9.1, the State Government and the company are to execute the 26% equity subscription agreement (the public share) within six months from the signing of the MoU, the release mentions and further alleges that even after six and a half years of signing of the MOU, the equity subscription agreement has not been executed.
ACT has demanded to know why these articles and clauses have not been adhered to. ACT has also questioned the state government’s inaction against the company for such violation of the MoU.
The release further demands the termination of the MoU as per Article 5, Clause 5.1 of the MOU for the 'interest of all and the environment and ecology of the state'.
June 20, 2012: The Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) commemorated the 5th year anniversary of its hunger strike against hydel projects in Dzongu here with a token dharna in front of the District Administrative Centre, East. The dharna also reminded all of ACT’s continuing stand against hydel projects in Dzongu, two which – Panan and Teesta Stage-IV – still remain.
Today’s dharna was also joined by members and representatives of the All Sikkim Educated, Self Employed and Unemployed Association (ASESE&UA), Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), Concerned Lepcha’s of Sikkim (CLOS), Save Sikkim, Sikkim Bikers Groups and other organizations registering their support of the ACT stand.
Speaking to the mediapersons at the dharna, the ACT General Secretary, Dawa Lepcha, informed that after completing the Dharna, ACT members would call on the Chief Secretary, who is also the Chairman of the high powered committee on HEPs, and place a memorandum against mega hydroelectric projects in Dzongu. The memorandum seeks the early scrapping of the two HEPs mentioned earlier, which, ACT highlights “have been a thorn in the hearts of Dzongu ... the last bastion of Lepcha culture and existence”.
The project affected area, apart from being precious for the Lepchas, is also ecologically fragile with the Khangchendzonga National Park and Biosphere Reserve forming a major part of Dzongu, the memorandum adds. Preliminary investigation works of the projects which involved blasting have resulted in “unprecedented landslides” in an already geologically fragile area, the memorandum further contends. Welcoming the scrapping of HEPs in Lachen and Lachung, ACT has reiterated that mega dams should be discontinued in the state as Sikkim falls under seismic zone V.
The ACT General Secretary further explained that the objective of today’s Dharna was to reiterate ACT’s opposition to HEPs in Dzongu. Meanwhile, Save Sikkim member, T R Kharga, said that HEPs must not be encouraged at the cost of the environment, dharma, faith, beliefs and ecology and “most importantly the tug of war with nature should be stopped at once”. He went on to say that Save Sikkim was still opposing the Tashiding HEP in West Sikkim (the only hydel project left on the Rathong Chu, the rest having been scrapped) for which the construction company was continuing with blasting works in an area where tremors are regularly felt.
Report by Vishnu Neopaney at Seven Sisters Post of June 10, 2012
AK Giri, principal chief engineer of the power and energy department, confirmed the development to Seven Sisters Post, saying that the decision was taken by the Sikkim Cabinet recently in view of the people’s apprehension that the projects will cause immense harm to the fragile ecology of the Himalayan state. The four projects are the 99-MW project at Bop, the 99-MW project at Bhimkang, 99-MW project at Lachung and Lachen Teesta Stage-I 280-MW hydro-electric power project. The four projects were planned at Lachen and Lachung in North Sikkim on three tributaries of the Teesta and Lachen rivers.
The second-smallest state after Goa, Sikkim is fed by numerous rivers and streams which originate in the Himalayas. Hydro-electric power contributes a major chunk of energy to the landlocked state, where tourism is the major revenue-earner for the government.
The Lachen Hydro Electric Project had envisaged utilisation of the water of the river Teesta for power generation by constructing a runof-river type dam at the confluence of Zemu Chu and Teesta rivers. However, the public had objected to the project citing the fragile ecology in the young mountain ranges. The government of Sikkim had signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in 2005 for Teesta Stage-I with Polyplex Corporation India Private Limited of Chandigarh and for the other three projects with Himalayan Green Energy Pvt. Ltd, a codeveloper of Polyplex Corporation India Private Limited of Chandigarh.
Giri said that the despite signing the MoUs, the companies had failed to prepare the detailed project reports (DPR) for the proposed hydro power projects to be built, operate and maintained by the private sector for 35 years. He added that the power developer on whom Sikkim government had entrusted the job of the four power projects, failed to convince the people and the ‘dzumsa’, the region’s highly-powerful traditional ruling body which acts like a self-government. The official added that after the developers failed to convince the people and the dzumsa, the state government had tried to reach out to the people. However, with the opposition mounting, the government decided to respect the people’s wishes and scrapped the projects.
A riverside ritual was performed by a Lepcha tribal shaman on the bank of the river Teesta in Sikkim, India to observe the International Day of Action for Rivers on the 14th March. This river is being targeted with series of dams, and this is the last free flowing stretch of the river.
The organization Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) organized the program and pledged to fight on for the protection of the river Teesta.
This action is also part of a Panos South Asia's Relay's campaign to increase media coverage of critical national development issues.
Report by Asif Syed and Soumik Dutta at CurrentNews, May 11, 2012
There is a dam in the upper reaches of Sikkim that holds back a murky reservoir of bribery, collusion and manipulation in allotting of power projects to private players, shell companies that are fronts for shadowy owners, seemingly reputable bureaucrats who have exchanged favours for post-retirement 'benefits', nationalised banks that have risked thousands of crores of public money in loans to inexperienced companies and 'consortiums of convenience' and the tragedy of a battered environment and lost lives. A crack in the face of the dam has already begun to leak secrets of lies, favours and bribes. It is called Teesta Urja Limited.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The story of the scam and scandal behind the Teesta Stage III Hydro Electric Project and other such projects has just begun to unravel. There are many more details about the other projects, their actual owners and political backers that have yet to be revealed.
Report by Soumik Dutta, Gangtok, June 18, 2012
Report by Soumik Dutta, Gangtok, October 19, 2012
Report by Soumik Dutta, Gangtok, November 20, 2012
Report by Soumik Dutta, Gangtok, January 8, 2013
Located on the flanks of the Eastern Himalayas, Sikkim was a hereditary monarchy till 1975, when it merged with India to become the 22nd state of the country.
The state shares its borders with Nepal in the West, Bhutan in the Southeast and China in the North. Sikkim is a land of dramatic contours with rugged mountains, deep valleys and dense forests consorting with glaciers, raging rivers and lakes and biodiversity hotspot. The state has the steepest rise to an altitude over the shortest distance and climate ranges from tropical to temperate to alpine. The variety in elevation gives Sikkim a rich botanical wealth. The world's highest National Park (Khangchendzonga National Park) is located in this region. There are over 4000 species of plants and luxuriant forests which cover 36 per cent of the land. These dense forests are the habitat for a variety of animals, some of which are today threatened with extinction because of changes in the eco-system.
Sikkim has three main ethnic groups, the Lepchas, the Bhutias and the Nepalese. The total population is 540 851 persons with 288 484 male and 252 367 females. The Nepali community consists of diverse ethnic groups and forms the largest percentage of the population. The Bhutias including similar communities are around 70 308.
The Lepchas who call themselves the Mutanchi Rongkup, are Sikkim's earliest inhabitants and around 40 568 in Number (2001 census). The Majority of the Lepchas live in "Dzongu" which is considered the Cradle of Lepcha civilization. It is a region protected by various traditional and enacted laws to safeguard the indigenous aborigines from exploitation and other hazards. The culture, customs and traditions of the Lepchas are inextricably linked to their deep bond with nature, but changing times and modern developments have started disturbing the delicate eco-system with which they have lived so closely over centuries.
Apart from these there are many "plainsmen" from different parts of the country settled here as well as a small community of Tibetan exiles. Lately the state has witnessed a large infusion of migrant laborers, brought here to work on large hydroelectric power projects like the Rangit and Teesta HEP Stage V as well as the continued import of people by the Border Roads Organization.The total land mass comprises of 7096 sq kms and lies within 27° - 28° latitude and 88° - 89° longitude. The crowning glory of Sikkim is Mt. Khangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world. For the Sikkimese, Khangchendzonga is much more than a mountain and is revered as the abode of their guardian deity Dzo-nga. The Zemu Glacier is the source of mighty river Teesta, which originates in the tundra like region at 18000 ft and flows down to the Bay of Bengal crisscrossing through different places in Sikkim and West Bengal. The Rangit River originates from the Rathong Glaciers. The water for these rivers is fed by the melting snows and the rain in the catchment areas.
Rivers are an integral part of the Sikkimese ethos. Much of the folklores and traditional ways of life of the locals revolve around the mighty Teesta and the Rangeet Rivers. The River Teesta not only sustains the livelihood of the locals, by preserving and propagating the rich biodiversity which includes the cultivation of the state-wide main cash crop, the Cardamom, but is also the very backbone of Sikkim's cultural heritage.
| SATYAGRAHA |
Warriors for a Cause
"I will die but won't allow the mega power projects in Dzongu" - Dawa Lepcha.
Two Lepcha youths from Dzongu rocked the state of Sikkim and the world with their selfless stand against the hydro projects. Dawa T. Lepcha and Tenzing Lepcha went on hunger strike in the spirit of Gandhian Satyagraha from June 22, 2007 to September 27, 2009.
Chronicles of the campaign - and more - at
| TEESTA |
Will the Teesta river survive? In order to construct one kilometer of tunnel, approximately 150 tons of dynamite are required. Imagine how much blasting will be done for 30 power projects! Seventy percent of the river to flow underground!
| DZONGU |
Dzongu in North Sikkim is the holy place for Lepchas spread all over the world. Process has begun for seven mega power projects spanning the length and breadth of this protected area.
| ENVIRONMENT |
Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)
Blatant violations of procedural and environmental norms. Get the distressing facts at our EIA-page.
| TEESTA STAGE V |
Much went wrong during design, assessment and construction of Teesta Stage V HEP. For a truly sustainable and adapted development, a different approach is required.
| VIOLATIONS |
Environment Protection Act (EPA) as well as Forest Conservation Act (FCA) were repeatedly violated by the companies involved. A non-exhaustive listing for Teesta Stage V only (NHPC).
| DOCUMENTS |
• Statements, appeals and proceedings by ACT
• Scientific papers substantiating ACT's concerns
• Press reports covering disproportionate projects in Sikkim and ACT's struggle for protection
| MEDIA |
• Collection of Documentaries
Lepchas - A vanishing Tribe