GUWAHATI, June 12 – The All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM) has called for immediate halt to State repression of those engaged in the movements to stop implementation of big dam projects and upholding the rights of the forest people in the NE region.
In a statement here, the Forum has expressed its deep anguish over the lack of proper response and the high-handed approach displayed by the governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh towards those engaged in these movements. The Government of India (GoI) policy of turning the NE region into a power house of the country with more than 150 hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh and the signing of the MoUs by the Government of Arunachal Pradesh mostly with the private developers have also been questioned by the Forum.
It has pointed out that the popular protests to the big dam projects like the Lower Subansiri and the Dibang and the Siang Hydro-electric projects have made the acceptability of such policies among the masses doubtful.
The protests and apprehensions of the affected people are not unfounded, as most of the power developers with whom MoUs have been signed are either totally new or have dubious track records.
Moreover, the projects are developed without any meaningful consultation with the communities. The environmental, etc., clearances accorded to these projects are also in sheer violation of the law of the land.
In the name of energy security of the country, the indigenous people are coerced into giving up their rights over their forests, land and rivers. Destruction of large tracts of forests and biodiversity, imminent loss to jhum and wet paddy farmers, influx of outsiders and thus making the indigenous people vulnerable both economically and culturally are feared to be the inevitable consequences of such projects.
Besides, the geological nature of the region, which is very sensitive in terms of seismicity, has been ignored with arguments that technologies are there to ensure safety of the dams. But the question remains as to what technology the country has to make sturdy the fragile geological base of the dam structures, the Forum maintains.
It has demanded, among others, review of the hydro-power MoUs of Arunachal Pradesh and the policy of big hydro-power projects. Besides, it has called for steps to honour the voices and concerns of the affected communities and stop going ahead with all those projects which do not have a clear mandate from the local people.
Respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples on the important issue of free and prior informed consent and the implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 in upholding and settling the rights of the forest people are the some other demands the Forum has raised.