Government’s uncertainty on Amochu hydropower project confuses villagers
Sonam Wangdi, PhuentshoglingMay 10 2014
The government’s uncertainty about the 540 Megawatt Amochhu project has left many villagers of Lingden under Phuentshogling Gewog equally uncertain about their future. Lingden is one of the 21 villages under Chhukha Dzongkhag that would be affected by the Amochu Hydropower Project.
Only after extensive consultative meetings with the stakeholders, people of Lingden had then finally agreed to forgo their land for the project. But the recent news of the project being shelved; which has come after more than a year and a half since the agreement, have left people in a quandary.
For Lakhman Rai, 65, a villager from Lingden, said not much agricultural activities have been going on in his land since the project came into being. In fact, he had been travelling to places as far as Lhamoizingkha frequently in search of substitute lands.
His plan to construct a bigger house also had to be pushed further. “There is no hope left among the people because we felt even if we work towards developing our living environment by incurring expenses, we will be able to reap its benefit only for a year after which the project will start. And those expenses, I am not sure if the government would consider compensating.”
Moreover, he says, there is no certain order from the government’s side on what they should be doing or the progress of the project. “We are left in a dilemma.”
The other villagers are also in a limbo.
They have been visiting places within their gewogs and other dzongkhags looking for land substitutions which they now feel might be futile.
The uncertainty has also hampered other works of the village.
“People had readied nurseries to raise saplings for orange, teak and other hardwood trees. They in fact had plans and hope to bring development to the village thereby uplifting their own socio economic conditions,” said Lingden’s Tshogpa, Gesingh Lepcha.
Another villager, Bhaktiman Rai, said one issue the villagers face is the lack of road connectivity. “We have put forth this matter to the gewog administration many times and we learned that it was actually in the initial plans. However, because of the project, we are not sure if the plan will get through or not.”
Another villager, Ash Man Rai, said the uncertainty of the project has hampered a lot of their planned activities. He said development works for the school in the village could not be taken up as well. As of now, the school just has one academic building with six classrooms.
The School Principal, Tobgay, said they are in need of two more classrooms. “Despite the need for physical development of the school, nothing of that sort has been mentioned in the current plan.” Tobgay said there is a need to fence the entire school area. “Moreover, we have five teachers and we need staff quarters for them to stay.”
Last month, the Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, in an interview with one of the newspapers had said the government of India, like in the case with most hydropower projects, had not decided on the financing of Amochhu. But it was included in the 10,000 MW electricity target. Commenting on the matter, the Economic Affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, said since the project is within the 10,000 MW target, it would be constructed anyway.
However, for now there is no tentative date of when the construction would begin, he had added.