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Free-flowing rivers: Teesta declaration on environmental concerns of North-East

Statement by the Global Secretariat of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation:

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Representatives from various indigenous groups and environmental organizations convened in Gangtok, Sikkim, for the North East India Meet on Free Flowing Rivers. The gathering, hosted by the Affected Citizens of Teesta, Centre for Research and Advocacy (Manipur), and the Borok Peoples Human Rights Organization, concluded with a significant resolution aimed at safeguarding the region’s rivers and biodiversity.
The Teesta Declaration outlined pressing concerns regarding the construction of large dams in the region, highlighting the environmental, social, and climatic impacts. Participants vehemently opposed the continuation of projects such as the 1200 MW Teesta III dam in Sikkim and urged for its decommissioning, citing the catastrophic burst of the dam on October 4, 2023, which resulted in the loss of lives and extensive property damage.
The resolution of the North East India Meet on Free-Flowing Rivers here:
We, the participants of the North East India meet on Free Flowing Rivers, held at Gangtok, Sikkim, organized by the Affected Citizens of Teesta, Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur and the Borok Peoples Human Rights Organization from 29 till 30 November 2023 resolved the following:
  • Ensure the free and unhindered flow of all Rivers in Sikkim and across North East India. Recognize the rights of River to flow free.
  • Recognize the intrinsic survival and cultural relationship of indigenous peoples and their self-determined development over their rivers, forest and land.
  • The Government should stop building large dams in North East India due to fragile biodiversity, high seismicity, increased disaster, climate change and myriad social and environment impacts.
  • Scrap and decommission the 1200 MW Teesta III dam in Sikkim.
  • Stop plans to build 520 MW Teesta IV dam in Sikkim, 3097 MW Etalin dam in Arunachal Pradesh, 190 MW Pabram Dam in Manipur etc in North East India. No more dams in Sikkim and Himalayan region.
  • The Government should stop the classification of large hydroelectric project as green, clean, renewable energy and climate friendly solutions due to their climate, social and environment impacts.
  • The Government should recognise/acknowledge the non-feasibility of building dams in the Himalayas in North East India due to impact of climate change, such as Glacial Lake Outburst, landslides, earthquake.
  • International Financial Institutions, viz, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other bilateral donors, should stop financing large dams and related infrastructures across North East India.
  • The Government should promote sustainable and just energy sosolutionsnd feasible alternatives in close consultation and rightful participation of all communities across North East India.
  • Ensure rightful participation of all communities in all development decision making affecting their rivers, land, forest, lives and future.
  • Frame Mountain and Rivers Protection policies rooted in recognition of community rights and intrinsic relationship with Rivers and mountains.
The participants affirm that rivers are our life and source of folksong, identity and culture of indigenous peoples in North East India. Rivers are source of religious and recreational space. Rivers have rights to flow free. 
Free flowing rivers are crucial for the sustenance of people, fishes, fragile ecosystems and good climate in the Himalayas.
  • Concerned that the free flow of our Rivers are obstructed by the construction of large dams, viz, 1200 MW Teesta III Hydroelectric Project, 510 MW Teesta V hydroelectric project, 2000 MW Lower Subansiri dam, 105 MW Loktak Hydroelectric Project, Mapithel dam, Dumbur dam, etc.
  • Took serious note of the bursting of the 1200 MW Teesta III dam on 4 October 2023 that lead to loss of lives and destruction of massive properties. Concerned with the unaccountability of the dam project authorities and government for lack of preparedness to prevent the disaster. Express solidarity with the suffering of all the people and families affected by Teesta III dam disaster.
  • Express our concern with rapid climate change, melting of Himalayan glaciers, causing glacial lake outburst, landslides and has increased the disaster potential in North East India.
  • Condemns the classification of large dams, including 1200 MW Teesta III Hydroelectric Project as green, clean and sustainable climate change solutions. Dams are no solution to climate crisis, but worsen it.
  • The massive pursuance of mega infrastructure projects, roads, high voltage transmission and distribution lines to support large dams, caused deforestation and violence on our earth and people.
  • Concern with the ongoing plans to build the 520 MW Teesta IV Dam, Etalin dam, Dibang dam, Tawang dam etc across North East India.
  • Concerned with the push for large dam building in a high seismic area and biodiversity hotspot area without the consultation and consent of the indigenous peoples in North East India.
  • Concerned with increased financing of large dams and infrastructures by Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, etc. that intensify adverse impacts and debt burden of North East region, besides adverse impacts.
  • Concerned that multinational companies are benefiting from dam building, while remaining unaccountable from the violence on earth and people.
  • Concerned with dilution of laws, such as EIA Notification, 2020, FCA Amendment Rules, 2023, that will facilitate pursuance of unjust energy solutions like large dams.

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