Project affected communities from across Himachal Pradesh come together under one banner
Medha Patkar and Sunderlal Bahugana throw their weight behind Himalaya Niti Abhiyan
Bilaspur, 9 April 2009 : More than 3000 people affected by dams, mines, urbanization and destructive development projects in the state of Himachal Pradesh came under one banner of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and held a historical rally in the streets of Bilaspur shouting slogans of “Aaj Himalaya Jagega – Loootne wala bhagega” and “Vikas chahiye vinash nahin”. The rally which happened despite the rains playing havoc all morning and a hot afternoon sun later, culminated with a public address by social and environmental activists, Medha Patkar and Sunderlal Bahguguna as well as the leaders of the various movements.
“There is a historical significance of holding the Himalaya Bachao Rally in Bilaspur – the region which was witness to the largest and oldest displacement in the country and the State – that of the Bhakhra Dam. The displaced persons of this project are yet to be rehabilitated in a just manner and are still without titles on land” said Bhagat Singh one of the convening members if the Himalaya Bachao Rally. Nand Lal Sharma, the leader of the Bhakhra Oustees Sangarsh Samiti started his address with a quote that the Bhakhra Dam once refereed to as a “Mother state” has been reduced to a “beggar state” as a result of the Dam.
“It is shocking that the courts and government justify the displacement by other big dams citing Bhakhra as an example and quoting that it has benefited the local communities and made their lives better – where as the reality on the ground is opposite and the rest of the country does not know this” added Medha Patkar. She slammed the current development paradigm for the nexus between the state and companies that are transferring people’s resources for private interests. She emphasized that the “constitution of India recognizes that planning has to come from the villages” and this should be implemented so that people can plan their development according to their needs and their environment.
Sundar Lal Bahuguna focused on the need for Himalaya specific development model which is based on forestry, forest based agriculture and preservation of water sources – the only way that the water crisis for the entire country can be addressed. He condemned the growth of mining projects in mountain states fir the havoc that they play with the mountain ecology and people’s lives.
Chitranjan Sen, National organizing Committee member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties lent his weight to the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and promised to provide all national support ot be able to make the campaign successful.
Guman Singh, convener of the Himalaya Niti Abhiyan said that it was high time that the movements and agitations fighting in various corners of the state came together with their common demands on the issue of displacement, land grab and environment destruction.
Leaders of movements against the following projects were present at the rally and public meeting:
Bhakhra Dam Oustees, District Bilaspur, H.P. and from Hissar, Haryana
Proposed Harish Cement Plant, Sundernagar, District Mandi
Jaypee Cement Plant at Baga, District Bilaspur and Solan
Industrial Hub at Nalagarh, District Solan
Proposed Himalayan Ski Village, District Kullu
Hydroelectric projects in Kinnaur District
Proposed SEZ in Gagret in Una District
Beas Satluj Link Project, Pandoh and Sundernagar, District Mandi
Tower Lines and Power Grid project at Banala
Renuka Dam project, Sirmour
A people’s manifesto was announced at the end of the public meeting with a list of demands which will be discussed with representatives of the political parties on 11th April, 2009 as a part of a 2 day conference being held in Bilaspur.
Some of the demands in the people’s manifest include proper rehabilitation of Pong, Pandoh and Bhakra dam oustees; scrapping of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894; withdrawal of the section 17(4) Urgency Clause Notice issued for the Renuka Dam project; implementation of the Forest Rights Avt 2006; evaluation of the cumulative environmental and social impacts of hydro-power projects in Himachal and a moratorium on all such projects till such an assessment is done; scrapping of the SEZs in the state; a complete halt on mining and mine based industries in Himachal; strict implementation of Section 118 of the Himachal Land Reforms Act and; strengthening mountain specific development policies for the state.