Indian NGOs Urge China and India to Protect Himalayan Rivers

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A group of 51 NGOs from northeast India are calling for a halt to build numerous dams on the Yarlung Sangpo (in China) / Siang (in India) River. In a joint letter to the Chinese Premier and the Indian Prime Minister, the groups propose that all dam construction on the river be stopped and the river be protected as a Heritage River. The river, which runs through the Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, has spiritual and cultural importance to local communities.

India is aggressively pursuing construction of over 100 large hydroelectric dams in northeast India in a bid to establish first-use rights on the waters of the rivers originating in China. India claims that it will give them an edge when negotiations with China begin. China is also building a series of dams on the river, and also planning to divert its waters to dryer parts of China. In addition to those who will be forced to move for the various dam projects, millions more downstream dwellers will be affected by the changes to the river’s flow.

The groups are calling for “sanity and boldness in dealing with the proposed dams” in the basin. Their letter to the two governments states: “Several communities in this stretch of river are defenders of the river and its ecosystem. We fear that this being not only one of the finest rivers but also the finest ecosystems on earth, the communities surviving on this ecosystem will be destroyed by the politics of water and energy and the game of one-upmanship of these great nations.”

“We cannot allow thousands of people to be displaced from their ancestral villages, nor can we allow millions of trees, of medicinal plants, of numerous other fauna and flora to be submerged or perish due to lack of water. We cannot allow thousands of fisherfolks and farmers to suffer for lack of water or live in constant fear of a dam break.  We cannot facilitate the destruction of our bio-diversity for the sake of India’s GDP,” the groups write.