Colonization of Dzongu to exhaust resources through mega projects

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Gangtok, Apr 16 (UNI) Environmentalist Medha Patkar today described the proposed mega power projects in the Lepcha reserve of Dzongu in North Sikkim as 'colonisation' by the Sikkim government.

''There are only 6000 people in Dzongu and so many mega hydel power projects are planned there. It is colonisation of Dzongu to exhaust resources from this bountiful area,'' said Ms Patkar.

Ms Patkar arrived in Gangtok today afternoon to show solidarity with the indigenous Lepcha tribal people who under the banner of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) have been protesting against the proposed mega power projects.

Three Lepcha youths are currently on an indefinite hunger strike since March 10 to highlight their protests while the relay hunger strike by other members of ACT reached its 301st day today.

Addressing mediapersons with five candles flickering before her at the hall in BL House (since the power supply to the BL house has been cut off allegedly by the government) soon after reaching Gangtok today, the social activist hit out at the state government for having failed to start a dialogue with the agitators and said that it was shameful on the part of the Pawan Chamling led government not to start a dialogue when the protest was non-violent.

''The truth is with so many mega power projects, Teesta river will be killed,'' she said.

''Here in Sikkim where Lepchas are fighting this battle for their pious and rich land, rich not in terms of money value but in natural resources, and cultural which is source of inspiration and livelihood. What Pawan Chamling has to say we are ready to hear him but unfortunately, he is not saying anything. After 35 days of fast the Chamling government has not made a gesture of starting a dialogue with the fasters,'' Patkar said.

''The state government is supposed to play the role of protector of the people but instead it is acting as an agent for the developers. How can outside contractors be allowed to exploit the natural resources of Dzongu,'' she said.

Patkar said that her organization National Alliance for People's Movement will be doing three day mass protest at New Delhi from April 28. Sikkim's issue will be on the foremost, she said besides assuring to raise the issue before every constitutional authority.

Patker advised the Sikkim government to not to go ahead with the Panang project and review other projects like Teesta Stage III in Dzongu. She also demanded a review committee with participation of state government, affected people and experts acceptable to both the first two parties.

She also said that the stopping of Darjeeling Lepchas on their pilgrimage to Dzongu was a political sabotage.

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