On Indigenous People's Day, India's Tribals Face Bleak Future
As the world celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day, hundreds of families belonging to various indigenous communities are getting displaced in the North east region of India, thanks to a mega dam construction - Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project. The dam, India’s largest ever, has drawn criticism from experts who fear great adverse impact on human life, as well as on the wildlife of the state. Above all, for thousands of indigenous people of the state, the dam could mean a total wipe out of their land, culture and identity. A video shot by IndiaUnheard correspondent Apak Gadi - an indigenous man himself - captures this threat of the mega dam with clear precision.
The Indian subcontinent is divided into five seismic zones with respect to the severity of the earthquakes. Arunachal Pradesh falls in seismic Zone V which is considered one of the most vulnerable areas. In 1950 Arunachal had an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.6 Mw. It has been measured as the second largest earthquake of the country and 8th largest in the world since 1900. Tremors from this earthquake were felt strongly in Kolkata, near 1,000 kilometres away.
According to a seismic vulnerability study by Arunachal Pradesh Remote Sensing Application Centre, parts off the state such as Peki Medi village in Upper Siang district, continue to experience frequent tremors on a daily basis.
However, the government of Arunachal Pradesh has a drawn a hydropower policy which aims to build about a hundred dams with a total capacity of 56,000 MW. So, apart from Lower Subansiri projects, the government is building 4 other mega dams beside numerous micro projects. These mega dams are projects on Kameng River Basin, Siang River Basin, Dibang River Basin and Lohit River Basin.
The Lower subansiri dam has been mired into controversy from the very beginning. An Assam Assembly panel has asked for work on the dam to be stopped immediately. Even the Ministry of Environment and Forest has admitted that the Environment Impact Assessment of the project wasn’t properly done.
Among the many communities that are being directly affected by lower Subansiri dam are Nishings, Apatanis and the Galos – the tribe that Apak Gadi belongs to. Based in west Siang district, where lower Subansiri dam is getting constructed, these trbes are small ethnic communities whose culture and heritage are entwined with the nature. So for Galos destruction of nature through mega dams doesn’t only mean threats of earthquake, but also loss of culture and identity through displacement.