Preserving Nature Over Power: Communities Reject Hydropower for Untouched Wilderness

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“Hands off our sacred rivers, yak pastures, and precious habitat for snow leopards, tree frogs, golden ducks, and red pandas”

For more than two years, Lakpa Angjuk Bhote and Karma Bhutia community activists and conservationists have been knocking on every possible door in order to save nature and their indigenous property.

However, three private companies-Shangrila Urja Pvt. Ltd., White Flower Energy Pvt. Ltd., and Summit Energy Solution Pvt. Ltd.-are looking to establish hydropower stations despite adequate electricity there, as claimed by Bhutia.

“We don’t want electricity. We want our flora, fauna and rivers. We already have enough electricity. Afraid to build during the day, they carry out their cowardly activities after midnight, forcefully constructing infrastructure, encroaching on our private and natural properties,” he said.

“We are the guardians of this biocultural heritage landscape. We refuse to be displaced by profit-hungry extraction companies. We will not relent till they leave!” he added.

Observing their relentless efforts for the conservation of the most pristine place on planet, Hollywood legendary actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio raised his voice for the protection of rare animals found in Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung areas, focusing on hydropower dam construction and how it has a adverse impact on Lungba Samba Biocultural Heritage Special Conservation Zone.

He took to social media yesterday and wrote, “Hydropower dam construction in Nepal threatens one of the Earth’s most pristine places-home to snow leopards and endangered red pandas. The local communities are urging the Nepalese Supreme Court to halt these construction plans on the sacred rivers of the Lungba Samba Biocultural Heritage Special Conservation Zone.”

“The magnificent Chhujung, Chhunjam, and Bakhang Rivers are deeply sacred for the Lhomi Singsa and Bhote people, who are among the most marginalised Indigenous Peoples of Nepal,” reads his post. “These groups sustain their livelihoods through farming and collecting medicinal herbs and other non-timber forest products while honoring the land.”

DiCaprio claimed in his post that if constructed, these dams would be a clear violation of the Lungba Samba Biocultural Heritage Special Conservation Zone Act and Procedure enacted by the first elected local government in 2020, which prevents destructive hydropower, road building, and mining practices.

“Help the Lhomi Singsa and Bhote people continue to be guardians of this vital landscape like they have for generations,” he requested.

They have lodged petitions in the Supreme Court against Shangrila Urja Pvt Ltd, White Flower Energy Pvt Ltd, and Summit Energy Solution Pvt Ltd.

However, their hearing has never been a priority. They were always slapped with another hearing when the date arrived.

“On top of that, local representatives appear to have colluded with companies and zipped their mouths with muscles and money,” they said.

They also expressed that the planned hydropower construction on the Chhujung, Chhunjam, and Bakhang Rivers of the Lungba Samba valley threatens one of Earth’s last pristine places-home to endangered snow leopards, red pandas, and tree frogs.

“We, the marginalised inhabitants of the Bhotkhola, urge them to honour the Lungba Samba Biocultural Heritage Special Conservation Zone our lawmakers enacted and stop your plans for constructing hydropower on our sacred rivers now!” said Bhote.

The magnificent Chhujung, Chhunjam, and Bakhang Rivers, and the entire Lungba Samba Pass, between Makalu and Kanchenjunga protected areas, are deeply sacred for the Lhomi Singsa and Bhote people, who are among the most marginalised indigenous groups of Nepal with their own language, culture and customary laws.

“We perform rituals for safe passage in these holy rivers and surrounding forests with the belief that living spirits reside in them. In our traditional belief system, humans are not even allowed to enter some of these forests out of reverence,” he explained.

“We sustain our livelihoods and survival through rearing yaks and naks, collecting medicinal herbs and other non-timber forest products, and honouring the land.”

However, destructive activities initiated by three profit-hungry hydropower development companies ( Shangrila Urja Pvt Ltd, White Flower Energy Pvt Ltd, and Summit Energy Solution Pvt Ltd ) include harassing and intimidating local community members, obtaining false project permissions through illicitly influencing government officials and representatives, submitting fake ‘copy-paste’ Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), encouraging their workers to kill endangered wild animals for bushmeat to show their power, and building an illegal road from Chyamtang to the Chhujung River through our community forests, spiritual forests, and yak pasturelands, as well as nationally protected forests under the pretence of an ‘agriculture’ road.

Karma Bhutia Community Activist and Conservationist said, “If allowed to proceed, over two dozen glacial lakes would be completely destroyed, harming the overall ecosystem.”

“Their actions are in clear violation of the Lungba Samba Biocultural Heritage Special Conservation Zone Act and Procedure enacted by our first elected local government in 2020, which prevents hydropower, road building, mining and other such destructive activities, and was passed with the support of 235 households,” he said and added.

“Now, these hydropower companies, which use names like ‘Shangri-La’ and ‘white flower,’ want to dam all 3 free-flowing rivers, a move that would devastate countless vulnerable species, including aquatic biodiversity, and displace us from our homeland forever. Our homeland is the real Shangri-La.”

 

Source:  Himalayan Times