Climate Crisis & Challenges in realizing SDG Goal 13

By Jiten Yumnam

Climate Crisis: An Ignored Emergency: Climate change has become an emergency across Asia Pacific region. The 2018 Special Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on impacts of global warming of 1 .50C called for an urgent climate actions.

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Climate-induced displacement and migration increases significantly in Asia-pacific region. In the Philippines, Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 7,000 people in 2013 and displaced four million from their homes. Cyclone Idai, the hit the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi on 15 March 2019 claimed the lives of more than 750 people, with the most deaths occurring in Mozambique. Nearly 700,000 Bangladeshis were displaced on average each year by climate induced natural disasters. At least eight low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean disappeared under rising seas. Species are disappearing in indigenous territories. Indigenous peoples, inhabiting the most fragile ecosystems are among most impacted by climate change.

Challenges of Goal 13 of SDGs: Goal 13 of the UN 2030 sustainable development agenda emphasized the urgent global actions to tackle climate change. The goal 13 is unlikely to be met given the current rate of climate change, as also emphasized by UNESCAP progress report. The emissions gap report says that economic growth focused development model is responsible for rise of temperature in 2017. The world in 2018 was 0.83 degree C warmer than the average set between 1951 and 1980 (Nasa & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). To meet the goals of the Paris climate pact, it’s crucial that global emissions peak by 2020. However, analysis indicates the unlikeliness of achieving this target even by 2030.

The concerns on the realization of goal 13 centres around continued pursuance of neoliberal growth model & unsustainable development processes, viz, promotion of fossil fuels, extractive industries, coal fired power plants, hydropower projects, large infrastructure etc. Burning of coal makes it by far the most carbon intensive form of power generation. Coal fired power plants not only undermine efforts to tackle climate change but also intensify the coal mining with social and environment impacts within communities. Japan financed $1.18 billion to build the coal-fired Matarbari Power Plant in Bangladesh in 2015 and planned to finance coal projects in South Thailand.

 

The push for fossil fuels continues especially in oil and gas sector, despite increasing global call to phase out of fossil fuel subsidies. Despite the role of fossil fuel in climate change, the subsidies in fossil fuel by Governments for coal, gas and oil increased to more than $300 billion in 2017, a 12 per cent increase from previous year that will further increase emission of GHGs. Since the Paris Agreement, financial institutions, like JP Morgan Chase provided $196 billion in finance for fossil fuels.

Again, nearly Two Hundred (200) dams are planned over the Brahmaputra – Barak River system as renewable and clean energy in North East India. Dams are planned across the Mekong and Rivers in South East Asia. Dams like Mapithel dam, Loktak Dam Submerged forest and agriculture areas thus inducing climate change due to GHG emission from forest submerged. Studies confirmed Hydropower as key contributor of GHG emission. The cumulative impact of hydropower in Asia region need be acknowledged for appropriate sustainable alternatives.

Problematic Solutions to Climate Crisis: Much concern persists on the false solutions proposed for climate change as deepening climate crisis rather than solutions. Several climate agreements, including the 2015 Paris Agreement allows sequestering carbon through forest restoration and reforestation. This leads to initiatives like mono-cultivation that promote market mechanisms of forest protection and restoration. Palm oil facilitate land grabbing and caused serious ecological conflicts regarding the control of land and water while also affecting indigenous peoples’ traditional agricultural practices like the Dayak in Indonesia. Deforestation is key driver of climate change.

Target 13.2 insisted on integrating measures to national policies, strategies and planning. The plan to protect forest for realizing the Intended National ally Determined Contributions (INDC) for India posed eviction threats for indigenous peoples depending on forest. The draft Forest policy of India 2018 stressed on role of forest for climate change mitigation with private sector participation in afforestation and reforestation activities in degraded & forest areas. Indigenous peoples fear of displacement, loss of livelihood, alienation from their survival sources and subsequent loss of their cultures and identity.

Dam building companies projects hydro projects as renewable and clean energy and as part of solution to climate change, even seeking financial incentives from Clean Development Mechanism of UNFCCC in North East India, which is akin to committing double injustice to communities affected.

Goal 13 & Interlinkages with other SDGS Goals: There’s challenge in the coherence in the implementation of the different goals and the consideration of Climate Change in silos. The effort to realize Goal 7 for achieving sustainable and modern energy and realize resilient infrastructure (Goal 9), should not insist on unsustainable projects such as due to energy projects, construction of hydropower projects that lead to the destruction of forest and Biodiversity, undermining Goal 15. Submergence of food sources, agriculture, forest land will undermine goals on meeting food security (Goal 2) and gender equality (Goal 5) as women assume primary role in primary livelihood activities. The goal to realize Goal 15 on protection of forest and climate change mitigation, should not lead to restriction of indigenous peoples access to their forest, which affects their livelihood in forest, including women and children. On 20 February 2019, India’s Supreme Court has ordered the eviction of 1.1 million tribal from forest area, eviction of which will undermine Goal 1 to end poverty.

Climate Financing Concerns: Target 13 A outlined to improve climate finance flows. Developed countries agreed to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries for climate mitigation. Though public climate finance from developed to developing countries increased from USD 37.9 billion in 2013 to USD 54.5 billion in 2017, the grant financing increased by only 25% between 2013 and 2017, while loans doubled to reach USD 40.3 billion in 2017.

 

Climate finance reached around USD 19 billion in 2015, of which 30% are channeled as bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA), 64 percent as multilateral ODA and only 6 percent through dedicated climate funds. Donors inclusion of contributions for climate change as ODA indicates the limitations to fulfill their global commitments to contribute 0.7 % of Gross National Income for development in developing countries and also for mitigating climate change.

There are concerns over reporting of unsustainable development practices like coal fired power plant as “climate finance” to the UNFCCC. Concerns persists that the Green Climate Finance (GCF) lacks rules to avoid supporting harmful technologies, including fossil fuels and large hydro projects. The GCF partners with financial institutions like Deutsche Bank, that financed fossil fuels remains a major concern. Projects financed by GCF like hydropower project in Tajikistan, Geothermal Resource Risk Mitigation Project in Indonesia were subjected to environment and social concerns by communities.

Blended Finance: The focus to leverage finance from the private sector through public-private partnerships remains a concern due to their focus on commercial interest and insistence on loans. The blended financing focused on private sector such as in energy projects with social and environment impacts. Geothermal Projects, Turkuna Wind Farms, Hydro projects with ODA and blended financing and ODA in Asia undermined indigenous rights violations.

CSO’s role in Climate Disaster Response and Way forward: Understanding the special impact of climate disasters on marginalized communities, like indigenous peoples and women is critical for an effective disaster response. Disaster, drought, flood increases risks on women. Communities should be rightfully involved in the humanitarian effort for communities affected by climate disasters. Women, children, the elderly, religious and ethnic minorities suffer discrimination in Relief and recovery efforts. Corruption is a major concern. Other Challenges include restrictions on aid by authoritarian regimes on international relief. Gender responsive disaster-risk mitigation is critical. Social media can play key role to share needs of disaster victims, to raise awareness and funds. Disaster preparedness and mitigation community plans before disasters by empowering communities and strengthening sustainable resource management with communities’ role is crucial. States must consider how infrastructure development impacts the disaster vulnerability of communities.   Incorporating indigenous traditional knowledge and encouraging the participation of the affected community to take leading role in all disaster risk reduction activities are key for success of critical risk reduction. States should secure the input of indigenous peoples in the development and implementation of disaster risk reduction initiatives; and to partner with them in development of national disaster risk reduction strategies. Indigenous peoples must participate in the design and implementation of early warning systems to ensure their linguistic and cultural relevance.

 

Recommendations & ways forward:

 

  • The unsustainable development and corporatization of development should be reviewed. There has to be coherence in the policy planning and implementation to tackle climate change. The inter-linkages of goals and the coherence in the implementation of SDG goals need be ensured.

 

  • Industrialized countries should address inequalities in emissions, fulfill ODA commitments for development results and also commit appropriate resources to tackle climate change.

 

  • The concepts of blended finance to leverage private sector need be reviewed to ensure that these uphold the principles of effective development cooperation principles of country ownership, results, inclusive partnerships, transparency and accountability.There should be full compliance of all development stakeholders, including private sector to human rights and accountability.

 

  • Any development intervention in indigenous territories should uphold their free, prior and consent. Indigenous peoples’ traditional role and participation should be promoted on disaster risk reduction.

 

  • Sustainable development alternatives should be defined with communities’ rightful participation. Phase out fossil fuels and transition to alternative, cleaner and sustainable energy solution.

 

Controversies of 1200 MW Teesta III HEP in Sikkim

The E-Pao.Net, 5 November 2019

By Jiten Yumnam

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.opinions.Opinion_on_Building_of_Tipaimukh_Dam.Controversies_of_1200_MW_Teesta_III_HEP_in_Sikkim_By_Jiten_Yumnam

India’s power scenario of late, has been marked by renewed thrust of mega hydroelectric projects across India’s North East, including classifying large hydros as renewable source of energy, to mobilize resources for large hydropower projects from international financial institutions, like International Financial Corporation of World Bank, to tackle high cost of power from hydros, to ease environment, forest and wildlife clearance procedures, to address issues of states refusing to sign Power Purchasing Agreements etc.

The 2880 MW Dibang Hydroelectric Project, the 1500 Tipaimukh dam etc are key mega projects pursued in India’s North East while resumption of work for the stalled 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP over the Subansiri River has been announced. At least Thirty-Two (32) Dams are envisaged to be built over the Rivers of Manipur. It will be crucial to assess the issues associated with dams built across India’s North East. Assessing the 1200 MW Teesta III Hydroelectric Project (Teesta III) in Sikkim, commissioned in February 2017 would be a crucial endeavour.

Teesta III & Indigenous Rights Violations: The Teesta Stage III consists of a 60-meter-high concrete-faced rockfill dam with two tunnel spillways, a reservoir flushing tunnel. The underground powerhouse contains six 200-MW turbine-generator units. Filling of the reservoir was completed on Sept. 15, 2016. The initial project cost of the Teesta III 1200-MW project was fixed at INR 5705 crores as per the Techno Economic Clearance (TEC) at 2005 prices.

By 2017, the project cost crossed INR 14000 Crores, also attributed to the earthquake in 2011, that destroyed major infrastructures of Teesta III. Andritz VA Tech Hydro supplied developer Teesta Urja Ltd. (TUL) the complete electro-mechanical package for six vertical Pelton units at Teesta-III.

The Teesta III project is one of the most controversial project requiring a deeper introspection not only on the nature of impacts, but also the nature of cooperation and collaboration among the Government, local authorities with the dam building corporations and the financiers transcending international boundaries. The project is built is one of the most fragile geology, biodiversity and cultures of indigenous peoples. The Teesta III was commissioned in February 2017, five years delayed from original plan .

For long, the Teesta III project features as one of the most destructive and unsustainable projects in Sikkim. The non-recognition of Lepcha peoples’ rights over their land and their exclusion in decision making processes for dams on their sacred Teesta River remain key issues. The Lepcha peoples’ relationship with their sacred Teesta River and their last reserve, the Dzongu have been completely dishonoured.

The blasting for construction of the project and boring of tunnels led to massive landslides in hills and destruction of houses near the dam site. A holistic impact assessment on ecology, seismic impacts, transmissions lines, impact of reduced flow and other impacts on Lepcha People such as blasting, is absent from its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The environmental clearance granted to the project in August 2006 violates MoEF’s own stipulation while clearing the Teesta Stage V hydroelectric project in May 1999, which stated that: “No other project in Sikkim will be considered for environmental clearance till the carrying capacity study is completed.”.

However, the MoEF went against its own decision and granted Environmental Clearance to the project. The Teesta River basin holds 313 glacial lakes and any glacial lake outburst Floods can be expected to overflow the reservoir in Chungthang, causing massive damage in downstream areas of the Dam . Indeed, an enormous cloudburst in June 2019 caused heavy rain in the upper reaches of Teesta river in North Sikkim forcing the Teesta-III project management to release 600 Cumecs of water from the dam. The NHPC Guest House near Dickchu bridge has been washed away and a stretch of Road along the Teesta River slides away to the overflowing water. The Mantam foot suspension bridge collapsed in Upper Dzongu, cutting off Sakyong-Pentong, Bay and other villages .

 Land slides and tunnelling works
Land slides and tunnelling works

Teesta III as CDM project: The 1200 MW Teesta III project, one of India’s largest hydropower projects has been classified as clean project at CDM to receive carbon credits by TUL. Presenting false information to UNFCCC to receive CDM benefits, the Teesta III project is not additional. The project developers failed to reveal that these projects are planning to seek CDM credits during stakeholder consultations and at public hearings, making the obligatory stakeholder consultation process under the CDM faulty. The dams in Sikkim are not green and clean and will only worsen global warming.

Teesta III financing & controversies: The Teesta Urja Limited (TUL) was formed to develop the project and has a build-own-operate-transfer contract for 35 years, after which the project will be returned to the government of Sikkim. TUL has been awarded the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III hydro power project on BOOT basis, for a period of 35 years by Government of Sikkim. The Sikkim government holds 51% in the Teesta project and Singapore-based Asian Genco Private Limited about 37%.

At least US$1.4 billion has been invested in Teesta-III project, whose financiers includes the Asian Genco Private Limited, based in Singapore . In 2010, private equity firms led by General Atlantic, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Norwest Partners and Everstone Capital invested US $425 million in Asian Genco to acquire majority stake in the company . Other public sector companies, viz PTC India Limited and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd, Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corporation Ltd, ICICI Securities and Larsen & Toubro Ltd have stakes in the project .

The role of corporate bodies in dam building across Sikkim has been controversial for long. According to a Sikkim cabinet note dated 15 October 2004, a consortium led by a company called Cosmos Electric Supply, promoted by former ITC Chairman KL Chugh, was selected for the Teesta III 1200-MW HEP. However, in another cabinet note on 21 February 2005, the project was proposed to be allotted to Athena Consortium was approved four days later on 26th February 2005.

Teesta III as Failed Project: The Teesta III project has been referred to a failed project on numerous counts, including lack of infrastructure for transmission lines, massive cost overruns, failure of States to purchase power as per agreed Power Purchasing Agreements. Indeed, the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) classified the Teesta-III power project as a failed public-private partnership since it is selling electricity at a discounted rate in open market, as against the contracted rate.

The AIPEF claimed that power produced from Teesta- III power plant is being sold at a rate below Rs 3 per unit in open market after Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh refused to buy electricity from it at Rs 6 per unit, which is the contracted rate in PPA . Reports of the Ministry of Power (MOP) and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) indicate that the 1200 MW Teesta stage III hydro power project suffered an energy loss of over 1450 million units during the period from June to September 2017.

 landslides in north sikkim
landslides in north sikkim

The Federation even asserted that the failure of Sikkim government to complete and commission the 400 kv transmission line from Teesta-III hydro power station to 400 kv grid substation Kishanganj (Bihar) has caused serious transmission bottleneck in Sikkim, resulting in loss of over 500 MW power continuously with financial impact of Rs 6 crore per day . This resulted in financial loss to TUL, now a Sikkim government company to the order of Rs 500 crore.

State Guaranteeing for private sector loss: The Private Equity funds investing in Teesta III are worried of the financial losses incurred due to the delays in commissioning of Teesta III and the reduced production of power. The Sikkim government has been forced to make an official statement that in the eventuality of the PE investors and other equity partners quitting at this advanced stage, it will buy off 100 percent equity in the project.

The Sikkim state, with an annual budget of Rs 2060 crores had to borrow heavily to compensate the losses of the private equity funds, even as it already has a loan of Rs.800 crore from the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) in order to meet its existing equity commitment. In August 2015, India’s Power Ministry recommends National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) purchase private equity shares to ensure the Teesta III is completed.

The government’s move is intended to encourage continued foreign investment in India’s hydropower . The Sikkim Government buying off additional stakes in TUL despite incurring losses and by selling power from Teesta III at a loss will only exert more pressure to Sikkim’s coffers and its peoples.

IFIs involvement and unaccountability: Most of the private equity funds involved in the financing of Teesta III are financed by the International Financial Corporation (IFC), private sector arm of the World Bank, through financial intermediaries and private equity funds.

Commercial banks like ICICI, construction companies lke the Larsen and Turbo Ltd and private equity funds like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Everstone, Norwest Partners etc have investments from IFC, which also brings in a different context of financing process of hydropower projects in India’s North East and issues of governance, regulations and accountability issues of these financial institutions, corporations, equity funds etc for rights violations of indigenous peoples and destroying environment in Sikkim and for fleeing and absolving responsibility when their profitability is threatened.

The IFC-supported banks have arranged $3.19 billion in financing for NHPC Limited, involved in building dams in Bhutan, Burma and in Nepal and across India’s North East etc . In India, dam building multinational companies like India’s National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Jindal Power received investment form IFC, bankrolling these companies through its support for six Indian commercial banks, such as HDFC, Kotak Mahindra, Yes Bank and ICICI banks.

The NHPC, the biggest dam building public company in India leveraged financing from the Deutsche Bank, JICA and Export Development Canada (EDC). Other companies receiving IFC investments includes the Vedanta Resources, NHPC Limited and Jindal Steel & Power, all involved in human rights violations. Jindal Steel & Power Limited that envisaged building several hydroelectric power corporations in Arunachal Pradesh, viz, the 3097 MW Etalin Hydroelectric Project, 1800 MW Kamala Hydroelectric Project and the 500 MW Attunli Hydroelectric Project has benefited from IFC funding through financial intermediaries, like HDFC, Kotak Mahindra.

There are massive complaints of human rights abuse by Jindal Steel in Central India and in many African countries . The IFC-supported commercial banks have arranged $3.19 billion in financing for NHPC, which has dispossessed thousands of indigenous communities in Manipur by its 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project. These financings by IFIs, primarily by the IFC, the ADB, JICA, KfW etc are all intended to promote the interest of the corporate bodies, many of which are private corporations and to consolidate their profit, wealth and power, by destroying sources of livelihood and cultures of indigenous peoples.

Neither the companies receiving support from the International financial institutions like the IFC, nor the IFC itself are held accountable for the violations, the failure of the projects. The money could have better been invested in more worthwhile projects or in initiatives that could uplift people from poverty.

 no to hydro power projects
no to hydro power projects

Conclusions: The Teesta III project has been subjected to one of the most complex financing processes, involving private equity funds and very discreet financing of the major international financial institutions, the International Financial Corporation of the World Bank Group. The profit motive and the lack of accountability of private financiers and corporations such as Glenco, Goldman Sachs is clearly revealed when they start seeking financial claims or pressures to the Government to recover their losses when the project got delayed substantially or prospects of profits and returns is much dimmer.

Indeed, Teesta III is much delayed, the Earthquake and the losses incurred to the dam building company. The Teesta III is also a clear instance as to how the private company would invest in anything that would assure them high returns, such as Hydro Power or extractive industries.

An interesting aspect of Teesta III is how a mega hydroelectric project constructed in one of the most fragile terrains and biodiversity is being classified as a green, clean and renewable energy and indeed, the Teesta Urja Limited tried to claim carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is very much an unethical and corporate manipulations, all the further the profit motive of the corporate bodies.

There is hardly any reason to justify that the Teesta III project with its massive tunnels and submergence of agriculture land and forest areas and the devastation of peoples’ land and lives and future be classified as sustainable and climate friendly projects. Rather, the project and many other mega dams planned across the NE region are destroying the earth and polluting the environment with the massive emission of green house gases. The dams in Sikkim are not green and clean and will only worsen global warming.

The 1200 MW Teesta III Project besides being a failed public-private partnership also brings up an interesting aspect of increased impracticability of hydropower projects . The States who signed the Power Purchasing agreement with the TUL refused to buy power at the rate prescribed by the company for Teesta III. The cost of power per unit has become much cheaper and the Teesta Urja Limited, after investing near 14000 Crores cannot sell power at a loss and hence must sell power at a rate that assured profit for them. But times are a changing and power prices are becoming cheaper. The company is forced to sell power at a loss indicating the irrationality of hydropower projects.

But the interesting part is Glenco, the private company with backing of major private equity fund, Gold man Sachs etc withdraws from the project, possibly because of seeing no prospect from the project. And the Sikkim Government is forced to buy out the Stake of Glenco. One need to find an answer why a local Government with limited resources is forced to doll out Indian Rupees 4000 Crores when its annual budget is much lesser to the amount.

Is it because of the guarantee to the risks of investment financing by Glenco and oth-er private equity funds in Teesta III project? It is worth introspecting how the Teesta III is benefiting Sikkim after colossal impacts, cost overrun etc. Is the Teesta III project already a liability to Sikkim? Who will pay back the 4000 crores to the Government?

 North sikkim destruction boy
North sikkim destruction boy

Questions arose on how to ensure accountability of commercial banks like ICICI, companies like the Larsen and Turbo Ltd and private equity funds like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Everstone, Norwest Partners and even the International Financial Corporation that are involved in one way or another in destroying peoples lives and future of indigenous peoples of Sikkim.

The financings of Hydros by these private equity funds, international financial institutions and increased involvement of multinational companies and private sector in hydropower, infrastructure, extractive industries in NE need be carefully assessed given the focus to leverage these marketing instruments to finance sustainable development and climate change solutions. Mega hydro power projects like Teesta III, financed by these private sectors, private equity funds etc are neither sustainable nor climate friendly or advancing the rights and wellbeing of communities.

Rather, these projects only unleashed violations, destroyed earth and undermined indigenous cultures, thus negating the very efforts to realize sustainable development goals. There have been no regulatory and accountability mechanisms for these corporations and equity funds that intensify their involvement in development processes impacting indigenous peoples land like hydropower, mining, oil exploration in Sikkim, Manipur etc.

The rationality to build large dam like Teesta III, that entails wide devastation and adding fragility to the land, that contributes to climate change with massive emission of greenhouse gases, that impoverishes indigenous peoples of Sikkim, who lives amidst constant tremors and fears in Chumthang village since the commissioning of the dam in 2017, need be questioned.

The complex financing of Teesta III, the unaccountability of corporations, the failure to generate 1200 MW of power, loss making, the withdrawal of private financiers, the guarantees for private sector and overburdening of local governments must be an eye opener in renewed hydropower push in NE region. Especially, as the Government of India is reinvigorating the hydropower as renewable sources of power and the declaration of mega hydropower projects as a renewable energy in early 2019 and expressed intentions to seek financing from international financial institutions and other development financial institutions.

References :

1] “India commissions 1,200-MW Teesta Stage III hydropower project in Sikkim”, 02/20/2017, By Elizabeth Ingram, Hydro Review
https://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2017/02/india-commissions-1-200-mw-teesta-stage-iii-hydropower-project-in-sikkim.html#gref

2] “Chungthang, Sikkim: A New Dam’s Potential Impact”, By Tom Clement, the Pulitzer Center, 3 September 2014.
https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/chungthang-sikkim-new-dams-potential-impact

3] “Sikkim cloudburst: Teesta water levels recede, but alert still on”, East Mojo,
Dichen Ongmu, 18 Jun, 2019 https://www.eastmojo.com/author/dichen-ongmu

4] “Govt clears Rs9,000 crore Teesta hydropower project in green energy push”, 10 Sep 2015, Live Mint
Rajesh Kumar Singh, Anindya Upadhyay, Debjit Chakraborty
https://www.livemint.com/Politics/9Drwz2IPErFJO3qcYfCbgN/Govt-clears-Rs9000-crore-Teesta-hydropower-project-in-green.html

5] “Govt clears Rs9,000 crore Teesta hydropower project in green energy push”, 10 Sep 2015, Live Mint
Rajesh Kumar Singh, Anindya Upadhyay, Debjit Chakraborty
https://www.livemint.com/Politics/9Drwz2IPErFJO3qcYfCbgN/Govt-clears-Rs9000-crore-Teesta-hydropower-project-in-green.html

6] “What ails Sikkim’s Teesta hydropower project?”, India Together, 7 September 2015
http://indiatogether.org/sikkim-teesta-iii-hydropower-project-irregularities-economy

7] “Construction to continue at 1,200-MW Teesta-III hydroelectric project”, 09/14/2015, Hydro World
https://www.hydroworld.com/articles/2015/09/construction-to-continue-at-1-200-mw-teesta-iii-hydroelectric-project.html

8] Teesta III – A failed PPP Project, Alleges AIPEF, the Economic Times, 25 June 2017
//economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59308055.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

9] “Delay in Teesta III line causes Rs 6 cr loss per day: AIPEF”, The Economic Times, 19 June 2018
//economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/64649339.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

10] “Indian government backs US$1.48 billion 1,200-MW Teesta Stage-III hydroelectric project”,
By Gregory Poindexter, 4 August 2015, The Hydro Review
https://www.hydroreview.com/2015/08/04/indian-government-backs-us-1-48-billion-1-200-mw-teesta-stage-iii-hydroelectric-project/#gref

11] “Bankrolling India’s Dirty Dozen”, Inclusive Development International, December 2016

12] “Mozambique Villagers Exposed to Open-Pit Coal Mine”, By Jinty Jackson, 27 August 2013
https://www.voanews.com/africa/mozambique-villagers-exposed-open-pit-coal-mine

13] “Construction to continue at 1,200-MW Teesta-III hydroelectric project”, By Gregory B, Hydro World

ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, 2019: Lessons for Manipur

The E-Pao.Net, 30 October 2019

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=education.Scientific_Papers.ASEAN_Peoples_Forum_2019_Lessons_for_Manipur_By_Jiten_Yumnam

APF in Thailand: Attending the ASEAN Peoples Forum (ASF), held from 10 till 12th September 2019 at Thammasat University, Pathum Thani, Thailand has been an eye opener to the socio-cultural, political and economic realities of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), that shares close proximity to the culture, ethnicity, geography of Manipur and in India’s North East.

The APF 2019 was organized with the theme “Advancing People’s Movement for Justice, Peace, Equality, Sustainability and Democracy in South East Asia” as the ASEAN is slated to dwell on range of issues, territorial disputes, human rights violations, China’s rising influence in ASEAN etc during its summit from 31st October till 4 November 2019. The three-days of meetings focussed on human rights, democracy, access to justice, trade, investment, peace, migration, human trafficking, refugees, ecological sustainability etc. The ASF is held annually in the country that hosted the ASEAN summit.

Originally formed in 1967 as a political project of anti-communist leaders amid cold war, ASEAN has gradually evolved and expanded its scope to a more multifaceted development initiative from 2005 theme of being “people-centred”, later adding “people oriented”. In 2015, the concept of ASEAN community was born revolving around three pillars, political security community, the economic community and the socio-cultural community. The ASEAN is still grappling to include ‘environment’ as fourth pillar. There has been no consensus among the members.

Insights from APF sessions: A major contentious issue focussed during the APF is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) agreement, pushed by powerful economies. Civil Societies from ASEAN critiqued potential impacts of the agreement, stating the RCEP will favour big business and investments, leading to corporatization and privatization of development processes, targeting indigenous peoples land and resources. Reasey Seng of SILAKA, Cambodia said women are concerned over the privatization of public services and limited access for women to land.

RCEP will push for policies favouring privatization of services, contractualization of work, and corporate control over land and resources, which would further burden women. Kosal, a Cambodian garment worker fears RCEP will negatively affect the working conditions in Cambodia. RCEP will push for a labour policy regime that favors low wages, high production target, longer work hours, contractual work and precarious work for workers. RCEP will establish high standards for patent examination that would favour Big Pharma. The investor state dispute settlement mechanism of RCEP that allow corporations to even sue Governments when their business is affected is another concern.

Governments across ASEAN region continue to push for corporate driven development framework that worsen poverty and inequality, undermine peoples’ rights. Civil societies raised concern with massive impact of infrastructure push by dominant economies, such as Japan and China. The impacts of infrastructure and extractive industries financed by Chinese Companies in recent decades seems overwhelming in ASEAN ranging from roads, to dam construction to plantations across Laos and Cambodia in particular.

Accepting the role of chairman at the end of 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore in November, 2018, the Prime Minister of Thailand listed infrastructure and connectivity as key to “strengthening ASEAN” and to go hand in hand with China’s the Belt and Road Initiative. ASEAN is caught in the middle of key infrastructure push by China through its AIIB bank, Japan and financing by Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. The Trans Asian Highway and the Railway projects in Manipur financed by Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japan etc is envisaged to connect with ASEAN countries.

Hydropower Development in the mighty Mekong River and its Tributaries in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar primarily with financing from Thailand, China, World Bank etc features another key contentious energy project in ASEAN region due to their impact on the livelihood and human rights of communities in the region. Rusrann Loeng of Fisheries action Team, Cambodia shared the impacts of hydropower projects in Mekong River and its tributaries in her country. The Lower Sesan dam built by Vietnamese companies, affected fisheries in Tonle Sap, a freshwater lake in Cambodia. The Tonle Sap, like the Loktak Wetlands of Manipur, has seasonal variation of water level and seasonal migration of fishes. There are many floating villages in the lake and Tonle Sap is close to Angkor Wat.

The Mekong River Commission in their studies confirmed that hydropower in Mekong River Basin will lead to loss of ecosystem, sedimentation, and undermine fisheries and livelihood and cultures of communities in Tonle Sap. An Environment Impact assessment law is still absent and thus hydropower projects are pursued without impact assessments in Cambodia. In Laos, Xayaburi Dam, Daugahong Dam, Pak Bang Dam and Pak Lay Dam are build by companies from Thailand, that envisaged to receive most of the power generated from these dams. The transboundary impacts led to shortage of water and livelihood impacts in downstream areas in Thailand. Several lawsuits are already filed in Thailand’s Ministry of Energy. The Pak Mun dam in Thailand and Nam Theun Dam in Laos impacts indigenous communities.

The ADB, World Bank and JICA are involved in promoting hydropower projects, by funding transmission lines, roads and direct financing through financial intermediaries. The hydropower and water diversion projects turn out to be an additional source of conflict among countries as Mekong River traverse through Five ASEAN countries. The water diverted from Mekong in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand will affect the water flow in Mekong Delta in Vietnam. There are complaints the Kaidwan Dam in Malaysia will affect its indigenous peoples.

Rio-Tinto and Oceana Gold mining companies from Australia and Canada caused massive human rights violations in the Philippines, as shared by Ms. Liya from the Philippines. The proposed uranium mining and nuclear power plant in Kalimantan, Indonesia, mining applications and operations in the Philippines and economic land concessions in Cambodia threaten to undermine indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources. Malaysian investment in oil palm plantation in Southern Thailand caused human rights violations.

 ASEAN Peoples Forum (ASF) held from 10 - 12th September 2019 at Thammasat University, Thailand
ASEAN Peoples Forum (ASF) held from 10 – 12th September 2019 at Thammasat University, Thailand
Indigenous peoples’ rights violations remain a serious concern in many ASEAN countries. One concern raised is that the ASEAN governments do not effectively recognize and implement the rights of indigenous communities to their lands and resources. Karen representatives from North Thailand said Karen people lived and depend on forest since times immemorial, but now Karen are classified as illegal and forcibly evicted after classifying their forest as “Reserve Forest” areas. Indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders in ASEAN face criminalization, harassment, intimidation, killing and enforced disappearance, such as disappearance and murder of Karen activist Mr. Phorlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, Thailand.

Governments, instead of listening to people listened only to corporations and businesses. During a discussion on “Challenges and Responses of ASEAN towards Peace, Equality, Sustainability and Democracy”, Singaporean activist Shui Meng Ng, who represents families of enforced disappearance cases, spoke about her Laotian husband, Sombath Somporn, who went missing without a trace in 2012 in Laos. She said Laotian authorities could not find out where he had gone and who was responsible for his disappearance.

The participants also raise concerns around the ineffectiveness for protecting the human rights of the people in ASEAN due to the non-democratic process of appointment of commissioners, inactive towards human rights violations in the region and the difficulties CSOs and HR groups confronted in engaging with ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) representatives.

The ASEAN region has been confronted by issues on security, justice and deteriorating democratic practices that threatens the security of its people. In the plenaries during the APF, the situation of democracy has been discussed with concern. The oppression and arrest of activist who are critical of Governments continued. There seems to be a wide gap between people and the Government. Indigenous peoples who lived for generations in their own land and considered as illegal, such as in Northern parts of Thailand.

The increased refuges crisis, in particular the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar and the West Papua struggle for self-determination and associated human rights violations by the Indonesia Government and the massive extra judicial execution and the targeting of human rights defenders in the Philippines are major controversial issues in ASEAN countries raised during the APF. The Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand resisted the systemic land grabbing schemes. West Papuan rights defenders resisted resisting extraction of resources and rampant rights violations.

Karen groups and other movements in Burma have been fighting against resource plunder. Civil Society representatives called for investigation to the extra judicial killings in the Philippines in the guise of combating drug menace. Even during the APF, there are complaints that Indonesian state officials harassed West Papuan participants as well as organizations who stand in solidarity with their struggle for self-determination. Non-interference, a key principle in ASEAN seems to be another stumbling block in addressing critical issues afflicting the region. There are concerns that ASEAN failed to deliver on promise embedded in the ASEAN Inter Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

Migration features as another critical issue across ASEAN region. South East Asia continues to represent the major number of outflows of migrant workers to other developed economies in Asia and beyond. Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand continues to be source of migrant workers and the Governments are harping on their remittances as major source of economy while doing little to promote the safety, welfare and rights of migrants. Despite adopting the ASEAN Consensus and the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers Framework, documentation and nationality of migrant workers and their family members remains the main challenges for receiving human rights and fundamental freedom on citizenship, fair wage, social protection such as health etc.

Inequality among the ASEAN members and the economic and political dominance by emerging economies among the ASEAN member is an obvious reality. Vietnamese companies and Thai companies are quite proactive along with companies from China and Japan in targeting the land and resources of Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia etc, comparatively weaker economically within ASEAN. The US $1.2 billion Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy dam located on the Xe Kong River in Laos, built by Korean companies with Thai and Japanese investments collapsed flooding several villages in downstream areas, killing 49 people. The dam builders and financers remained unaccountable. Laos, afflicted with low capacity, skills, poor infrastructure, lack of capital, absence of regulation is forced to import high value-added products like machinery while exporting low values items.

 ASEAN Peoples Forum (ASF) held from 10 - 12th September 2019 at Thammasat University, Thailand
ASEAN Peoples Forum (ASF) held from 10 – 12th September 2019 at Thammasat University, Thailand

ASEAN and India’s North East: Similarities of Issues: The overt focus on energy projects, extractive industries targeting its land and natural resources in ASEAN is much like the overt focus on hydropower projects, oil exploration and mining plans in Manipur. Many of the Rivers in North East and across ASEAN like the Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy, Chindwin Rivers etc originates from the Tibetan Plateau. The Manipur River itself flows to Chindwin River and joins the Irrawaddy River.

ASEAN is rich in natural resources like North East India. The region is also very strategic geographically with major sea lanes and connecting with major global regions. However, the region’s resources and geopolitical location is targeted for control by major global powers and emerging economies. The communities within ASEAN continues to be plagued with massive human rights challenges, due to onslaught of their land and resources by foreign multinational companies with financing by International financial institutions.

The collaboration of capitalist countries and other emerging economic powers in a geopolitical setting and dynamics to compete with other emerging powers economically, politically and militarily has been a similar facet with ASEAN and North East region. The increased role of international financial institutions and the corporate bodies in defining the polity and the economy of the two regions and the militarism and human rights issues, particularly the indigenous peoples’ rights issues are much similar. Rights violations including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions are much similar amidst the heightened State’s measures to subdue democratic voices for justice and rights to development injustice and impacts on communities.

India aggressively pursued India’s Act Policy to complement and to complete with similar initiatives with other countries in Asia, like Japan’s Open Asia Pacific Strategy, China’s One Belt One Road Initiative etc, to control the geography, space and resources in Asia region. India’s Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN and bilaterally with key ASEAN members and understanding impacts of these in NE would be much crucial. The Trans Asian Highway, the Trans Asian Railway, the Kaladan Multimodal Transport connection etc all envisaged to foster trade, commerce, connectivity and investment with and from South East Asian countries. Similarly, many ASEAN countries like Myanmar and Thailand embark on connectivity, trade and commerce with India’s North East.

Concluding observations: Deliberations during the forum indicates commitments to build a real ASEAN community, particularly economic aspect remains a pipedream. Civil societies expressed concerns that the changes in ASEAN’s perspectives and its pronounced tilt towards peoples’ welfare have been more rhetorical than real. The development paradigm that guides ASEAN member states bred greater inequalities, worsened marginalization, exploitation of natural resources, spawned social and environment crisis, cause armed conflict and violence.

Politically, the doctrine of “non interference” and “consensus building” hampers unified actions on human rights issues. Most agreements are non-binding. Despite high growth rates, poverty and social inequality rates remain high and meaningful peoples’ participation in government decisions making remains a challenge. ASEAN and its member governments have been seen to be more comfortable with the private sector than with civil societies.

ASEAN members compete rather than complement each other economically and its economic ties in trade and investments are stronger with non-ASEAN countries. ASEAN is at crossroads due to major powers strategic competition, which threatens the unity and solidarity of its members. The US and China are engaging actively in the region financially, militarily and politically.

Dr. Maurice, Member of Parliament from Malaysia shared that ASEAN is for business and investment. There’s unequal partnership between ASEAN and its people. The economic pillar is the most advanced among the three pillars. While service, trade, investments are moving forward, the score cards for Human rights, decent work, gender etc is missing. Business communities dictates for policy reform, for privatization, for liberalization of healthcare and education etc. Mr. Maurice continued that ASEAN does not want to talk about the human rights issues like the Rohingyas in Burma, West Papua in Indonesia, arrest and killings in Thailand, Enforced disappearances and killings in the Philippines, violence in Cambodia etc, due to principle of non-interference and consensus building.

ASEAN have changed and new powerful actors influence ASEAN with economic and political ties. India, china, EU, Japan, US, Australia etc are more active in the region and ASEAN becomes more complex and the process of conversation have changed. The overt influence of China in ASEAN has been raised. Inter politics within ASEAN not just among Government but also among civil societies is intense. For instance, delegates from Myanmar objected to any reference to the Rohingya issues in the final statement of the ASEAN Peoples Forum. The outcome declaration is quite reluctant to touch to any of the controversial issues in ASEAN including issues in South Thailand, Rohingyas and Karen areas in both Myanmar and Thailand, the situation of violations in Mindanao in Philippines etc.

The final ASEA peoples’ forum statement called all development processes should uphold the right to free, prior and informed consent of all communities. Due to the negative impact of dam constructions on the livelihood of people living along the Mekong River, the groups recommended, too, that energy policies should not lead to ecological ruin. “We need energy transition from the destructive sources of power to renewable,” said Nguy Thi Kanh, founder of Green Innovation, Vietnam. ASEAN Member should respect the spirit of international human rights declarations and implement their obligations, including under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Ensure legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ lands and their traditional occupations and livelihoods.

APF also urged ASEAN governments to conduct Human Rights Impact Assessment before ratifying RCEP and other trade and investment agreements and urged ASEAN states not to ratify any agreement that will potentially violate human rights. ASEAN governments must deliver climate justice as ASEAN countries belong to the most vulnerable regions that will suffer the impacts of climate change.

The APF makes clarion call to ensure that the AICHR evolves into a functional and meaningful mechanism to protect, fulfil and promote all human rights of all peoples in ASEAN. Promote and protect human rights of migrants by strengthening existing mechanisms for both documented and undocumented workers and their families. Implement the ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of migrant workers through effective consultation and collaboration with civil societies and to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Civil societies called on to stop killing of human rights defenders across Southeast Asia, asserting these attacks serve the neoliberal agenda of trade and investment in the interests of the corporate elite, especially for dominant monopoly capitalist powers such as US, Japan, and rising interests of China to intensify the plunder of resources, exploit and oppress peoples.

The call continued to resist global capitalism that unleashed onslaught on peoples’ land, resources and lives in ASEAN region and to challenge the neoliberal model of development. Put in regulations that curb the power of corporations anchored on protecting peoples’ rights instead of RCEP and other Free Trade Agreements. ASEAN should recognize peoples’ right as primary decision-makers in economic and development policy and holding the state and corporate actors accountable for rights violations.

The deliberations during the APF indicates that the reality in ASEAN countries is much akin to happenings in Manipur and in India’s North East, including the expropriation of indigenous peoples’ land and natural resources, the increased role, hegemony and unaccountability of the corporate bodies and financial institutions along with the State.

The positions asserted by civil societies in ASEAN countries for just development rooted in their rights should be an eye opener for Manipur, to assess the similarities of issues and the potential threats and human rights issues due to increased investment, connectivity, infrastructure push in Manipur and India’s NE amidst India’s Act East Policy.

The liberalized model of development propagated and reinforced equally in ASEAN countries and North East India, the geopolitical contestation among major powers, associated militarism and visible impacts addressed throughout the APF should be a lesson for all to challenges unsustainable policies and processes to foster sustainable development, human rights and environment justice in Manipur.


* Jiten Yumnam wrote this article for e-pao.net

Implications of ADB Financed Kangchup – Tamenglong Road, Manipur

The E-Pao.Net, 21 October 2019

http://e-pao.net/epPageExtractor.asp?src=features.Implications_of_ADB_Financed_Kangchup_Tamenglong_Road_By_Jiten_Christina.html..

Jiten Yumnam & Christina Lalremdik *

 ADB road passing through agri land of bhalok
ADB road passing through agri land of bhalok

The Kangchup to Tamenglong Road project financed by the Manila based Asian Development Bank (ADB), meandering through Imphal West District, Kangpokpi District and Tamenglong District in Manipur in India’s North East, turns out to be yet another controversial project marked by extensive social and environment impacts and unaccountability of the project authorities. Media reports indicates the unresolved implications of the project in villages in Tamenglong District in Manipur.

IMG_0872

Pic: Section of the ADB financed Kangchup to Tamenglong Road at Phalong Village, Manipur as of September 2019

On 26th March 2015, the ADB and Government of Manipur signed a $300 million loan agreement for road connectivity to increase trade along the North Bengal and North Eastern region international trade corridor. The loan is the first loan under a $425 million multi-tranche South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Road Connectivity Investment Programme approved by the ADB in 2014. The two roads to be constructed under the project are Imphal-Kangchup-Tamenglong road and the Imphal Ring road with completion plan slated for December 2021.

The Government of India and State government of Manipur provided counterpart finance of about $125 million. Later, the Public Works Department, Manipur (PWD) awarded a Rs.1,114.18 crore contract to the Hindustan Construction Company Ltd (HCC), a joint venture with Vensar Constructions Company Ltd. The SMEC International Pvt Ltd in joint venture with SMEC (India) Pvt Ltd is the consultant for the project.

The project envisaged to widen existing 5.6 km road section into four lane and construction of about 97km of new road. The State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority of the Government of Manipur granted the Environment Clearance for the project on 20th March 2019.

The Imphal-Kangchup-Tamenglong highway is also a part of Asian Highway 1 and will cover 111 Km of road starting from Imphal City and ending at Tamenglong Town. The on-going road construction will provide a shorter connectivity from Imphal, Manipur to Guwahati, Assam by at least 90 km, compared to the existing route via Dimapur in Nagaland.  Subsequently when the stretch from Tamenglong to Haflong in Assam is constructed further, Imphal will be connected to the East West corridor at approximately 187.0 km against the existing 267.0 km.

The villagers of Phalong Village, Diluan, Khebuching and other villages etc in Tamenglong District that confronted critical transportation challenges to commute to nearby villages and towns initially appreciated the road initiative in their villages.

However, the massive social and environment impacts due to direct dumping of earth, rocks and other debris from excavated earth from road cutting in hills by the construction company, HCC at Phalong Village (Bhalok) section destroying their agricultural land and water sources led to much concern and anxiety among the villagers. The affected people are mostly from the Rongmei Tribe of Manipur.

An official consultation with key stakeholders which was held in the month of April 2014 and December 2014, at their respective district and headquarter in Imphal with project affected people prior to the commencement of the project. However, the same people that supported the said project are enraged with the destructive pattern caused by the same road construction and the unaccountability of project authorities.

Around Sixty-four (64) Acres of land belonging to at least Twenty-Five (25) paddy field landowners of Phalong Village have been irreparably affected in the village, leading to the danger of food security of the villagers. In Phalong Part II, the road directly cuts through their agriculture field and many are forced to give up their land with minimal compensation.

The direct dumping of earth, rocks and other debris from rock cutting brings a massive impact on the Duigathok and Atithok streams, causing death to fishes, crabs and other aquatic species in the streams. These two streams are the only fishing sources for the villagers and villagers can no longer fish for their livelihood survival. Community reserve forest areas preserved as water sources of the villagers are also destroyed. Moreover, water pipes bringing water from these water sources to the Phalong villages are also destroyed, causing hardship and additional financial burden to the villagers. Traditional drainage systems that channel water to agriculture land in Phalong Village are also destroyed.

The construction of a pucca dumping wall at Abupangthok stream to control the muddy flood of point 92-95km section of earth excavation have become a threat to the villagers as the dam could break down any time with water level rise. The construction pursued despite villagers’ expression of concern. A major concern of the villagers of Phalong Village is threat of displacement from their homestead land. Around Seventy (70) houses in Phalong Part III will be displaced by the Road Project. All these houses are demarcated for dismantling with the Government’s plan to acquire at least 60 feet in each side from median passing through the heart of the village.  The Villagers requested the project authorities for alternate arrangements to avoid impacts, but with no positive response. The affected villagers are uncertain if ever the project authorities will ever compensate and rehabilitate them.

One major impacts of road building and especially hill cutting is the massive destruction of the forest areas by direct discharge and dumping of excavated earth, rock and other debris in their forest areas. More than 100 hectares of forest land has been destroyed just only in Bhalok Area and the entire forest land destruction in nearly ten (10) villages along the road will be more than 200 hectares.

No detailed impact on the forest land due to the massive disposal of earth, rock and mud in the forest land has ever been conducted. The project authorities failed to take forest clearance under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. No information and initiatives to take the consent of the traditional bodies and authorities of the affected villagers existed to the knowledge of the affected villagers for forest clearance.

The villagers of Bhalok collect seasonal products for their survival and cultivate agriculture produces, like orange, pineapple etc in hilly terrains. The destruction of forest has greatly affected the livelihood and water sources of villagers. The destruction of forest will make the entire village land prone to landslides. The destruction of forest will threaten the habitat of Amur Falcon in Phalong, declared as an Amur Falcon Village by the Government since 26th November 2015.

The slow pace of work also caused much inconveniences to villagers. After the initial road cutting, the road is sea of dust in winter and a muddy terrain during rains, rendering imposing for villagers to commute.

The villagers of Phalong were earlier subjected to temporary restriction of movement in the road under construction, posing constraint to move around the neighbouring villages due to road construction in 2018. The villagers even petitioned the Deputy Commissioner of Tamenglong District 29th April 2018 to revoke the travel ban.

Diluan Villagers, near Phalong, affected by the road project also expressed concern that the road project is unsustainable development as the project has destroyed the natural environment, livelihood sources of villagers and brings disunity to the villagers.Compensation of a few amounts was given to some selective persons for extensive damage of villagers’ land by the project and the real impacts remains unaddressed till today. The future of the villagers is bleak for all their livelihood opportunities in each dimension are being forcefully taken away in the name of development.

The Government of Manipur failed to provide adequate rehabilitation measures for villages whose agriculture land, forest and water bodies were affected. The affected villagers want the project authorities to come up with a comprehensible rehabilitative measure that are highly contextualized to the needs of the affected villagers and not a small amount of cash to keep their mouth sealed from further exposing their unlawful ways of pushing through the road construction.

Indeed, several affected villagers refused to accept the compensation money of Rupees 10,000 to 30,000 per households, offered by the project authorities considering it as too minimal, unfair and unjust. The Manipur Government has decided to acquire land for the construction of the project road through acquisition of land from landowners as per the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR), 2013.

However, the Government seems to maintain a policy that for road construction in hilly areas, the land will be taken through donations from Village Chiefs, but compensation will be paid to individual land holders for all non-land assets including structures, standing crops and trees. Accordingly, the Project authorities claimed land has been donated by the villagers with Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) signed with villagers.

But the Phalong villagers are unwilling to part with their land and the Government failed to provide adequate compensation. There are additional worries that the Government will resort to additional acquisition of villagers’ land and this is not properly conveyed to the villagers. Further after the completion of the ADB assisted project, if the Imphal Kangchup Tamenglong road is converted to National Highway, in due course of time, then the road land required for the subsequent upgradation would be formally acquired.

Though the project authorities claimed that the Safeguard policies of the ADB will be fully complied, there is rampant violations. The Environment Impact Assessment report prepared by ADB stated that no severe environment impact regarding the habitat functionality and species persistence is observed as the project area does not fall in the critical and sensitive habitat.

However, the EIA undermined the rich biodiversity and the uniqueness of the flora and flora of the Tamenglong region. Moreover, there was no mentioning of Phalong village as Amur falcon village or the presence of such rare variety of birds as recognised by the government of Manipur on 26th November 2015.

The project indeed failed to conduct a thorough detailed impact assessment on the land, forest, water sources, livelihood and culture of the villagers and necessary mitigation measures. The EIA report also mentioned that a proper disposal plan will be prepared for disposal of unsuitable materials generated from the road excavation and that the contractors will be held responsible for the protection of water bodies.

The villagers are concerned with how the project authorities negated the mitigation measures outlined in the EIA with the direct dumping of excavated earth in their land. The ADB, prior to the Project commencement prepared the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Framework, the Environment Impact Assessment and the Indigenous Peoples Action Plan, in accordance with their Safeguard policies, 2009.

However, the provisions and the commitments in these plans are violated. The consultations held with the affected villages are marked by non-provision of information. Several promises were made which includes compensation of any possible damage done before its commencement and to rehabilitate for all impacts, improvement in the creation and provision of social services, like construction of community playground etc. However, the promises are not fulfilled yet and the road cutting commences without compensation.

Additionally, the Kangchup-Tamenglong Road project need to establish Grievance Redress Mechanism, as per ADB guidelines, in order to ensure a better project implementation by listing out the concerns of people affected by the project and to serve as mechanism to mediate conflict, to assist villagers address any concerns about their assistance.

However, the villagers who lose their land are at a loss on whom to approach to address their grievances. The ADB road project is marred with unaccountability of the State and the project companies, despite the grievances and outcry of affected villagers to consider their miseries.

On 20th July 2017, the affected field owner submitted their grievances to the Deputy Chief Commissioner, Tamenglong District, Manipur, complaining about the faulty dumping of debris. However, the Government failed to come up with concrete commitments to avoid impacts of the ADB funded Kangchup to Tamenglong Road Project.

The project authorities failed to make an alternative arrangement to provide appropriate rehabilitation and resettlement measures for both the destructed agricultural lands and resettlement of affected houses in Bhalok Part III despite of all the complaints of affected communities. The villagers are concerned over the project authorities and the companies’ failure to keep their promises and commitments of completing all rehabilitation and resettlement before commencement of the work.

The Government of Manipur, Asian Development Bank and all the concern authority should conduct a detailed impact assessment on the project affected areas in Tamenglong district, considering the multidimensional adverse impacts already evident and formulate a plan to mitigate all adverse implications.

The project authorities should take “Forest Clearance” for the road project, to avoid and minimize the extensive destruction of forest land and livelihood Impacts in Phalong Village, Diluan Village and other villagers, affected by the road project.

The Government should also ensure adequate rehabilitation and resettlement for villagers affected by the ADB financed Kangchup to Tamenglong Road project as per the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and further the road project should stop causing damage to the agriculture land, forest, water sources in affected villages.

The free, prior and informed consent of all affected communities should be taken before pursuance of the Kangchup � Tamenglong Road with due provision of all necessary project related information. A Grievance Mechanism should be established to ensure accountability of all involved in the project.

The project authorities should fully implement ADB’s safeguard policy, 2009 to mitigate social, environment impacts on affected indigenous peoples. Just development rooted in upholding the needs, aspiration and rights of indigenous communities with adequate mitigation and accountability measures is crucial for sustainable development.

CRA meeting with Chiefs in Machi Areas affirms to protect indigenous peoples land & resources in Chandel & Tengnoupal areas in Manipur – 27 Sept 19

CRA expresses concern over ADB funded road project

The Sangai Express, 6 October 2019

http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=13..061019.oct19

Imphal, October 05 2019: The Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur has expressed concern regarding the impact of Kangchup to Tamenglong road project, funded by Asian Development Bank, especially the multifaceted impacts on the indigenous communities of Phalong (Bhalok) and its neighbouring villages such as Diluan, Khebuching and other nearby villages and the lack if accountability of the corporate bodies involved, the Government officials concerned and the ADB that financed the project.

Pic: Portion of ADB financed road in Phalong Village

A press release issued by president of the centre has urged the State Government and the project authorities not to displace the villagers of Phalong and Diluan without their consent. It further expressed concern that the project authorities has unleashed direct dumping of earth, rocks and other debris from excavating the earth and rock cutting work taken up by the construction company, Hindustan Construction Limited (HCC) at Phalong village section, destroying their agricultural land and water sources for cultivation.

CRA urged the authorities concerned to desist from direct disposal of earth, rocks ad debris from road cutting in their agricultural land, forest and water sources. 64 acres land belonging to at least 25 paddy fields owners have been irreparably affected, undermining the food security of the villagers, alleged CRA.

The direct dumping of earth rocks and debris has also impacted Duigathok and Atithok streams, causing death of fishes, crabs and other aquatic species, it asserted. Water sources and canals leading to terrace fields have been destroyed leaving the villagers concerned for their future.

Continuing that a major concern of the villagers of Bhalok is the direct impact on their homestead land, it added that almost 70 houses in Bhalok part-III will be displaced by the road project.  All the houses have been demarcated for dismantling while the Government plans to acquire at least 60 feet on the opposite sides of the road from the median, passing through the heart of the village, claimed CRA.

It went on to state that the villagers had requested the project authorities to make alternate arrangements but no measures have been taken up till date. Lack of adequate rehabilitation is another challenge which has been sprung up as a result of the project, it said and added that compensation was given only to some selective persons for causing extensive damage of land by the project.

However, the real impacts and damages remain unaddressed till today, it asserted and added that the villagers are rather worried that the project is no longer a sustainable development.  Its said that the Government should rehabilitate and adequately compensate all the affected villagers and seek consent from them before the work commences.

CRA said that a grievance mechanism should be clearly established to address the impacts of the villagers and the authorities should ensure full compliance to ADB’s safeguard policies to improve the lives of the affected communities.

Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas : Community meeting

The E-Pao.Net

19 September 2019

http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=news_section.Press_Release.Press_Release_2019.Protection_of_Land_and_Environment_in_Tamenglong_Community_meeting_20190920

  Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas : Community meeting
Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas 

The Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur and the Phalong Village Authority organized a community meeting on “Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas” with a focus on Impact of ADB Funded Kangchup to Tamenglong Road on 18th September 2019 at Phalong Village, Tamenglong District, Manipur.

The community meeting was organized to assess the impacts of ADB financed road projects, especially the Kangchup to Tamenglong road project in Manipur and to assert the rights of communities affected by the road project. The villagers of Phalong part I, II and III and Diluan Villages attended the meet and shared on the social, environment and other impacts of the road project in their respective villages.

Mr. Lunkhuangnang, Chairman of Diluan Village of Tamenglong District shared that the impacts of the ADB road project on the land and forest of affected villagers have intensified. The ADB road project has disturb the flora and fauna of their village land, leading to destruction of their natural resources. The careless dumping of mud and stones at the water ways due to cutting of mountainous rocks has contaminated the rivers and streams in their village. This has resulted in extinction fishes, crabs and other water bodies. The canals and terrace fields are also badly affected; therefore, the villagers are concern about their future sustenance as the project will take quite a while for its completion. Villagers’ come to realise that the impacts had grown beyond their comprehension.

Mr. Hurangpao Panmei, Assistant Pastor at Diluan Village shared that the road project is no longer a sustainable development as the project has destroyed the natural environment, livelihood sources of villagers and brings disunity to the villagers. Compensation of a few amounts was given to some selective persons for extensive damage of villagers’ land by the project and the real impacts remains unaddressed till today. The future of the villagers is bleak for all their livelihood opportunities in each dimension are being forcefully taken away in the name of development.

  Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas : Community meeting
Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas : Community meeting

Mr. Chingjan Kamei of Phalong Village expressed concerns as a representative of Affected Property Association, that they have no idea on how to approach the issue even though multiple damages are being done by project authorities. He said the ADB road construction should be resumed only after all the affected villagers are provided adequate compensation and rehabilitation for damages inflicted on their land.

Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Secretary, Centre for Research and Advocacy shared that the Government of Manipur and the corporate bodies involved in the ADB financed Kangchup to Tamenglong Road project should minimize all forms of social, environmental and other impacts on communities and emphasized the need for full compliance to the ADB’s Safeguard policies, especially to improve the lives of indigenous communities affected by projects financed by them and to adhere to human rights and sustainable development standards.

The Villagers attending the community meeting resolved to apprise the Government and the Asian Development Bank to desist from direct disposal of earth, rocks and other debris from road cutting in their agriculture land, forest and water sources and to address the grievances of villagers. There should be no displacement of villagers of Phalong and Diluan village without their consent.

The villagers also resolved to urge the Government to compensate and rehabilitate affected villagers for the loss of their land and other survival sources before acquiring their land and work commencement & to consult and take consent of villagers in the project implementation and to address the grievances of affected communities.

  Protection of Land and Environment in Tamenglong Areas : Community meeting
Pic: Portion of road in Phalong Village affected by ADB financed road project in Tamenglong areas, Manipur 

How two indigenous communities in north Sikkim united in their anti-dam movement

Sikkim: Voice against Teesta low dam project gains momentum

Dichen Ongmu, East Mojo, 1 September, 2019

https://www.eastmojo.com/sikkim/2019/09/01/sikkim-voice-against-teesta-low-dam-project-gains-momentum

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Gangtok: Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) and Save Dzongu held a meeting at Hee Gyathang Panchyat Ghar in North Sikkim on Friday to register protest against the implementation of 510-MW Teesta Stage IV hydroelectric project.

Gyatso Lepcha, general secretary of ACT, expressed gratitude to those who came from outside Dzongu to support the cause and reiterated that ACT has been fighting against the project for the past 12 years.

“Our battle against the project started in 2007. Since then we have faced lot of challenges and learnt from it too,” he said. He further informed that a rally will be organised soon in Gangtok and appealed all the young generation to come forward and “help in saving our ancestors soil of Dzongu.”

Kalzang Dorjee Lepcha, CLC president Dzongu cum Save Dzongu member, said, “We are gathered here to save our motherland and we are ready to die for the cause.” He recalled that during elections, a petition was submitted to chief minister PS Golay, minister Kunga Nima Lepcha and minister Sonam Lama. “They had promised us to scrap it once their government is formed but till today no action has been taken to stop NHPC stage IV. If the government fails to stop this project then I am ready to resign from the post of CLC president Dzongu constituency, as this post is not compared to the protection of my land and ancestors.”

Tenzing Lepcha, ACT member, added that in 2007 students were accused of being anti-government for supporting the cause, which was very unfortunate. “Lepchas are nature worshipers and dependent on rivers, lakes and mountains. We cannot let such projects destroy our present and future,” he added.

The meeting started by offering puja at Ring Khola by Bongthing (faith healer) Tshering Lepcha to appease the guardian deity for the safety of Dzongu and its people.

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