The ministry of Home Affairs has stepped-in to salvage the three hydel power projects on the Rathong Chu River in Sikkim, facing strong protests on religious and environmental grounds from the Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC), National Sikkimese Bhutia Organisation (NASBO) and the Monk body of Pemayangtse monastery.
The hydel power projects that are being implemented by the Sikkim government includes the 96 MW Lethang HEP, 99 MW Ting Ting HEP and the 97 MW Tashiding HEP.
As the river Rathong is considered sacred by Buddhists across Sikkim, these organisations have demanded immediate scrapping of these projects, which they say “threaten to desecrate the sanctity of the river.”
SIBLAC has also claimed that as these projects fall within 10 kms radius of Khangchendzonga National Park, and any projects in this area is in violation of the Supreme Court directive and should be referred to the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wild Life.
To resolve the deadlock, the ministry of Home Affairs has ordered a detailed “assessment of ground reality issues raised by NASBO and SIBLAC by a high powered committee so as to protect the overall religious, cultural diversity of the region.”
“The committee would be required to assess whether these projects would disturb the socio-cultural, religious interest of the indigenous people and accordingly take a final call in the matter for an appropriate decision,” the ministry of Home Affairs said in a recent internal note, a copy of which is with HT. The committee would comprise of secretaries from the ministries of Power, Culture and Environment & Forests.