During a recent field visit, freelance multimedia journalist Thomas Clement produced a 5:45 minute video that attempts to capture the opposition to the cascade of dams that are being built or proposed on the Teesta River in India. In July earlier this year he spent a month in Sikkim, a state in the northeast, interviewing state officials and members of civil society. Flowing through the length of Sikkim, the Teesta is considered the lifeline of the state. The valley is rich in biodiversity, and the river provides livelihoods for the residents along its entire length of 393 km (245 miles).
The Teesta River has become a contested battleground between the government and the indigenous Lepcha and Bhutia communities in Sikkim. In the clip, Thomas who has developed an interest in documenting the socio-political interactions that succeed or fail to protect water ecosystems, has captured many dissenting voices in the river valley.
There are some who are in blanket opposition to the dams. These dams, they argue, will alter their way of life, impact their food and water sources and their livelihoods, all the while benefiting only a small group of people from outside the region. Others have argued that while there is a need for energy, the current plans serve to decimate the entire river ecosystem. They are calling for more prudence in planning, evaluating cumulative impacts, while urging the state and central government to uphold the principle of free, prior and informed consent. To view the Youtube video, click here.
Thomas Clement’s trip was funded by the Pulitzer Center and the Clarence and Lilly Picket Endowment for Quaker Leadership.