‘Buddhist culture of Sikkim in danger due to hydro projects’

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Sikkim Mail
Gangtok: November 23, 2011

In a press release issued by Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) states that the ancient Himalayan Buddhist culture is in danger of collapse in Sikkim under the hulking shadows of three
ongoing hydro electric projects viz. Ting Ting, Tashiding and Lethang being promoted by State Government on Rathongchu, West Sikkim.

Buddhism originated from India. Ironically, Buddhism was virtually extinct in India by the end of the 19th
century excluding sub-Himalayan regions like Ladakh, Sikkim and Darjeeling with which Buddhism survived from ancient times. The only surviving Buddhist country in the world is Bhutan; the others–Tibet, Ladakh, and Sikkim–have been absorbed by China and India.

The Buddhist culture in sub-Himalayan India is facing threat from many quarters. It is in this context, SIBLAC expresses its deep gratitude to the statement of Spalzes Angmo, a member of Minority Commission, Government of India when she stated that ongoing three hydroelectric projects over Rathongchu is a threat to dying Buddhist culture of Himalayas. Instead of criticizing Mrs. Angmo, the State Government should seriously give a thought what she said during her recent visit to Sikkim and design its development plans in a concerted effort to preserve Buddhist traditions that are dying in India.

Since the formation of Sikkim as a nation-state, Buddhism has flourished in a big way. Many beautiful Buddhist monasteries, sacred lakes and caves dot the landscape of Sikkim. These monasteries and Himalayan mountain ranges have fascinated scholars, poets, writers, painters, photographers and adventure sports lovers alike. Sikkim has the potential to promote ‘Buddhist Circuit Tourism’ in a big way. We welcome the Tourism policy of the present Government for projecting Sikkim as a pilgrimage centre to visiting tourists. However, we denounced its policy of promoting hydro-power projects that have exposed the ancient Buddhist culture to a great danger.

No less than 31 Hydro Electric Power Projects in Sikkim are either planned, completed or under discussion by India with the support of the State Government headed by Sri Pawan Chamling. The biggest of them will be a huge plant near Chungthang known as Teesta Stage III where many workers of Teesta Urja were killed
on September 18’s Earthquake. These HPPs would involve the construction of a series of tunnels, pipes, reservoirs and turbines for exploiting Teesta and other rivers. Within days of September 18’s Earthquake, seismologists in and out of India were quietly wondering whether humans might have had a hand in it.

The movement against hydro power projects in Sikkim is not confined among a ‘section of people’ as projected by the Government. The HPPs in Sikkim have provoked opposition for numerous social, environmental, economic and safety reasons. Submergence of lands, homes, fields and forests on a large scale will displace hundreds of people. Damming and diversion of rivers will severely disrupt
the downstream flows, impacting agriculture and fisheries and threatening livelihoods of entire populations. Degradation of the natural surroundings and a massive influx of migrant workers will have grave implications for the culture and identity of distinct Sikkimese people, who are protected under Article 371F of the
Constitution, adds the release.



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