ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Inducing Vulnerabilities in a Fragile Landscape

In Sikkim at least 17 large hydropower projects on the Teesta River and its tributaries have their environmental clearances in place, despite warnings, improper assessments and negotiated conditions. At a point of time when a natural seismic occurrence has shaken the stability of an already unpredictable Himalayan ecosystem, it is important to revisit the concept of hydropower projects as a green, clean and safe option.

The author would like to acknowledge the substantial and invaluable inputs of Neeraj Vagholikar and Manju Menon (Kalpavriksh) and Tseten Lepcha (ACT, Sikkim).

In early November 2011, the people of Chungthang and Shipgyer gram panchayats of Lepcha Reserve of Dzongu, Sikkim, wrote to the managing director of Teesta Urja seeking compensation for the damage experienced by people in the project-affected area during the earthquake of 18 September. The letter articulates their conviction that the houses already damaged due to the blasting and other related construction activities of the Teesta III hydroelectric project being executed by Teesta Urja, could not withstand the impact of the earthquake. While most of the houses collapsed, others were severely damaged, said the letter.

When the earthquake of the magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale hit north-eastern India, Sikkim felt both the quake and its aftershocks with the maximum intensity. Even as the extent of the damage is still being estimated, the earthquake and its aftermath has thrown up many reflections and lessons around hydropower generation.

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