Dam Indian casualness


This frame might not look the same post-dam

I AM not anti-dam. Nor am I pro-dam.

I need all the electricity I can afford, and I don’t care where it comes from – hydro, thermal, solar, nuclear…

Maybe because I don’t live in a village, don’t have a remote possibility of being displaced by a power project or losing anything but the ecology that won’t spare even US president Barack Hussein Obama.

Or his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, however impenetrable or unshakable his bastion is.

But I do care when people or nations try to redraw the periphery of my homeland – Northeast India – subtly or overtly.

Subtlety isn’t, I believe, a Chinese virtue; certainly not vis-à-vis Arunachal Pradesh, India’s Land of the Rising Sun.

Beijing has a reason to show AP as part of China on Google Map. The world is not enough for its agenda of supplanting every ethnic community with the dominant Hans (Ask the Buddhist Tibetans, Muslim Uighurs and 53 other ethnic minorities in China). And some of these ethnic groups also inhabit adjoining AP, all of 83,743 sq km.

But should New Delhi have a reason to use the online maps that Beijing uses, showing AP within Chinese territory? Beats me, but money – kickbacks give Indians a kick – can guarantee the funny.

In October 2010, Water and Power Consultant Services (Wapcos) prepared an environment impact report (EIA) for the 2700 MW Lower Siang Hydro Electric Project at Bodak village in AP’s East Siang district awarded to Jaypee Group, a major private concern.

Wapcos is a public sector undertaking under the Indian water resources ministry.

A page from the Wapcos report for Jaypee Group

The PSU, in its EIA report, used maps downloaded from Google showing AP in China. The report, as Pasighat (East Siang district HQ) based green group Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD) found out, was uploaded on the website of the Indian ministry of environment and forests. It was removed in the first week of December 2010 after FSD lodged a police complaint.

Now, I am not suggesting Beijing paid those heading Wapcos so that it can tell the world, “See, Indian government agency has acknowledged our claim on AP!” It could have been a case of typical Indian casualness – kahin se bhi uthake kuchh bhi lagaa do (put whatever you get from wherever) – that underscores how serious those in power take EIA.

It could also have been a case of desperation to push a private sector dam. We know how governments in India and the corporate sector scratch each other’s back (not sure if the former has spine).

“It’s a different matter that the dam is being pursued by totally disregarding the people it will displace and the pristine land it will destroy. No one has any right, least of all the Government of India, to insult the sentiment of every Arunachali who is every bit an Indian as a Marathi, Punjabi, Tamilian or Bihari,” says FSD spokesperson Vijay Taram.

“The use of Beijing-endorsed map of Arunachal by an Indian government wing is tantamount to secessionism of the highest order. The culprits must be brought to book, if New Delhi thinks we are an integral part of India,” adds FSD president Maksup Yomso.

Wapcos isn’t the only institution that has rubbed the local Adi tribal people the wrong way in trying to clear the hurdles before the proposed dam on river Siang that flows down from Tibet and joins rivers Lohit and Dibang to form the Brahmaputra in Assam downstream. 

Here today, gone tomorrow?

The social impact assessment report that the New Delhi-based Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment (CISMHE) produced was scandalous to say the least.

The CISMHE report erroneously attributed polyandry – practice allowing a woman to have multiple husbands as opposed to polygamy – to the Adi tribe. If that were not enough, it said Adi women prefer marriage by abduction.

“New Delhi might not bother much about a handful of politically insignificant fringe communities losing their lands and livelihoods to a dam that might power India’s industrial dream. But it should at least take action against anti-India activities such as the one Wapcos resorted to, even inadvertently,” says Taram.

Will New Delhi? Or will it, like always, be a casualty of Indian casualness?

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About rahconteur

A mid-career journalist who's worked horizontally across India - from Arunachal Pradesh to Gujarat
This entry was posted in Bric-a-brac. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dam Indian casualness

  1. Azhoni says:

    Keep writing more of such stories!

    The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Mountain and Hill Environment should be taken to court and sued. They should be taught a lesson.

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