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  Asia-Pacific
Mounting Public Pessure against Dams in Uttarakhand state, India
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
India's Uttarakhand state

People of Uttarakhand state, are fasting since 9 October 2007 against the state government's approval to building dams on Ganga and other rivers.

The native people of Uttarakhand who are to be affected from the dam constructions on rivers in the state, organized themselves and representatives of many people's movements including journalists joined their agitation.

These dams have been sanctioned in Uttarakhand in the absence of comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Socially Impact Assessment (SIA). In India, though EIA came into existence around 1978-79, it was made mandatory only in 1994.

EIA seeks to ensure sustainable development through the evaluation of those impacts arising from a major activity (policy, plan, program, or project) that are likely to have significant environmental effects, like dams. Now the EIA has become a requirement in more than 100 countries (Canter 1996).

SIA is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions, like dams. It includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.

The fast began on 9 October 2007 at Devprayaga Sangam, on the banks of river Bhagiratha and Alaknanda, this is where the Kotli Bhel projects are being implemented. The Fast is lead by MATU Jan Sangathan with support from Ganga Rakshak Sangharsh Samiti and several other organizations and individuals.

'Baandh Pariyavaran - Hum Aur Uttarakhand' (Dams, environment, we and Uttarakhand) meeting took place on 10 October 2007 at Devprayaga Sangam, and was attended by noted individuals like Dr Giridhar Pundit, State Joint Secretary of CPI, JP Pundit, former Principal of Omkarananda College, Aacharya Shailendra Shastri of Devprayaga, Dr Prabhakar Joshi, senior Journalist from Dainik Jagaran and the Presidents of affected gram panchayats.

Dr. Giridhar Pandit strictly opposed these dams which will affect the environment as well as the local people. "Its all about a political game, people will not get any benefit from these dams" said JP Pundit. Dr Prabhakar Joshi raised a question of what kind of development will be there if the local people are unaware of the current circumstances.

Presidents and other members of affected gram panchayats raised vital concerns about the loss of livelihood of local people, displacement impact and also on the role of government in deciding compensation and managing rehabilitation. Gram panchayat members and people were outraged that how can they trust the government when they were not even consulted before giving a green signal to dam projects on state rivers!

MATU Jan Sangathan and Ganga Rakshak Sangharsh Samiti activists demand that the construction of dams in Uttarakhand should be immediately halted and proper comprehensive EIA and SIA be conducted. The affected people should be allowed to engage in dialogue and decision making involving the dams. The use of emergency clause of land acquisition Act should be stopped, demand the affected people. There is also a demand to explore other alternative energy sources including solar and wind energy systems.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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