Teesta Low Dams
National Highway 31 A-and adjoining areas in the Teesta basin in Sikkim and North Bengal is under threat, due to recent heavy rainfall in the Darjeeling Tills. Teesta Low Dam Project stage III and stage IV fall within a 20 km stretch in the river Teesta up to Teesta Bazar, starting from Sevok Bazaar. Kalijhora and 27th Mile, both the TLDP sites fall in this area. Thousands of people reside in the roadside villages of this area, many of which are forest villages. 29th mile is such a forest village near 27th mile dam site. NHPC had earlier constructed a so-called 'guard wall' to protect the village, which broke at several places within last one week, letting the rising dam water come directly to unguarded and fragile slopes which have a tendency to cave in as soon as there is moderately heavy rainfall. People living here are scared and spending sleepless nights. Frequent landslides in this area are adding to the problem. This monsoon, the villages Gayelkhola, 29th mile, 27th mile, Rombhi and Riyang are under threat. NHPC personnel asked the villagers to evacuate and they pro-mised to pay rupees two thousand (Rs 2000 only) to each of the 15 families living near the river only for 4 months as house rent. It needs to be mentioned that at 29th Mile alone there are 70+ families, all of whom live in danger: continuous and heavy rains can swallow the whole area within a few moments. The administration is unresponsive, the main political party of the region is apathetic; nobody is talking about rehabilitation and any permanent solution.
At present, the villagers are too scared of politicians and NHPC musclemen to talk about their problem publicly. NHPC is also offering some work to a handful of villagers at the TLDP-III site. Meanwhile the Sub Divisional Officer of Kalimpong came to the village and threatened them with eviction because they were occupying GREF (defence) land. 29th Mile is a forest village and people there had already filed claims under Forest Rights Act. The idea evidently is to clear the area before it goes to the river, and without paying any compensation.
Vol. 46, No. 7, Aug 25-31, 2013
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