Arunachal: SIFF, IRAD take dam issue to UN forum on Business and Human Rights
KATHMANDU- Representatives from Arunachal Pradesh, Tasik Pangkam, Miss Bhanu Tatak and Mr. Ebo Mili attended the 4th edition of the United Nations South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights which was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 22-23 March 2023. The forum provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the challenges faced by workers and employees in Asia and the violations of human rights associated with it.
Mr. Pangkam represented the Siang Indigenous Farmer’s Forum (SIFF), while Miss Tatak and Mr. Mili represented Dibang Resistance and Indigenous Rights Advocacy Dibang (IRAD).
During the forum, Mr. Pangkam submitted a memorandum to Dr. Pichamon Yeophantong, the Chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Mr. Pangkam spoke about the 10,000MW dam over the Siang River, emphasizing the socio economic anxieties for the future pertaining to Mega dams over Siang. SIFF president highlighted that their forum, over the past 13 years, has sent representation to the High court, PM of India, Govt of India, Govt of Arunachal Pradesh, Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and Human Rights Commission of Assam. Tasik reinforced that the Adi of Siang cannot accept the 10,000 MW proposed in their ancestral territory that threatens the very existence and identity of the Adis. Tasik implored the UN working group and other international environment and Indigenous People’s agencies, downstream Assam and Bangladesh and all concerned to help in opposing and cancellation of the said 10,000 MW dam over Siang.
Miss Bhanu Tatak presented three cases of Hydropower in Arunachal Pradesh namely Dibang Multipurpose Hydro Electric power project of 2880 MW, 10,000 MW Siang Hydropower project and recently canceled in its current form, 3097 MW Etalin HEP. Tatak highlighted NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation)’s very bad track record and violation of Indigenous people’s rights especially in the state of Sikkim, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in the North east region of India. Tatak informed the Public Interest Litigation filed in the Gauhati High Court Itanagar permanent Bench by SIFF received the jurisdiction in favor of SIFF despite NHPC is still conducting surveys and studies across Siang without people’s consent. Miss Tatak spoke about the Dibang Multipurpose 2880MW Dam and the non availability of its climate feasibility nor downstream impact assessment report.
Tatak also highlighted the Kaptai Hydroelectric Project in Bangladesh that displaced the indigenous Chakmas who are forced to become climate migrants in indigenous territories of Arunachal pradesh that is leading to unwanted confrontation between both the vulnerable communities.
Mega dams in Arunachal pradesh in Lower Subansiri (2000 MW), Siang (10,000MW), Dibang (2880 MW), if sanctioned, have the potential to displace and imbalance more than 1 million lives in Arunachal and downstream Assam that will intensify forced migration and unskilled and informal labour denting nation’s economy and performance.
Tatak addressed the arrest of Mr. Mili and Mr. Neelim Mahanta for NO MORE DAMS graffiti over Civil Secretariat wall in Itanagar. Violation of Human rights and Indigenous people’s right to self determination is a cause of concern in the dialogue of Hydropower in Arunachal Pradesh where more than 200 MoUs were signed by the Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh with private sector and PSUs without any consultation or consent from the natives/indigenous of the region.
Mr. Mili asked about the role of the UN in defending the defenders and gave examples of journalists and activists being harassed by the state and branded as anti-national. He also quoted an article published on The Third Pole on 7th April 2020, where the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh stated that “…any opposition to development projects as Anti-National and warned that he had already instructed the intelligence bureau to act against any officials found misguiding people.” The forum concluded with a call for mandatory human rights due diligence and greater protection of the rights of workers and indigenous peoples.