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Arunachal Pradesh farmers demand rollback of NHPC’s CSR funds

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With a poster that reads ‘No Dam in Ane Siang, No Negotiation,’ and the motto of ‘No Election, with NHPC Money,’ more than 1,500 local residents, mostly farmers gathered in Arunachal Pradesh on Saturday for a public rally. The SIFF is an umbrella organisation representing various Adi farming communities.
Following a coordination meeting held on March 5 at Parong Dere of East Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh, the members alleged that dam-affected villages were not consulted before implementing CSR schemes. The protesters who gathered under the banner of Siang Indigenous Farmer’s Forum (SIFF), are demanding immediate rollback of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds allocated by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to the district administrations of Siang and Upper Siang.

Demands made by Siang Indigenous Farmer’s Forum

Farmers at the rally and other local residents protested against the construction of a dam on the Siang River, expressing their concerns over possible corruption related to NHPC’s CSR funds. The central public sector hydropower company has reportedly allocated Rs 16.61 crore to the Siang district administration, and Rs 94.29 crore to the Upper Siang district administration. The forum expressed that CSR funds should not be utilized for government schemes, as per the guidelines of the Companies Act, 2013.
The forum also demands immediate transfer of the deputy commissioners of the two districts. The SIFF has said that the public will resort to indefinite, peaceful sit-in protest in case of non-fulfilment of its demands within a week.
The proposed Upper Siang Hydroelectric Project with 11 GW and now the CSR activities planned in the villages to be impacted by the dam is a violation of Gauhati High Court that cancelled 44 such projects in the dam, says the SIFF.

Five-point resolution

A meeting was held where a five-point resolution was adopted. Other resolutions that were adopted included boycotting the Aadi Ba:ne Kebang due to its support for the pre-feasibility report (PFR) on the proposed 11,000 MW Siang dam, formation of an independent inquiry committee to check corruption in the Siang and the Upper Siang district administrations, and arranging for a public hearing with the residents of the villages that will be affected by the proposed 11,000 MW Siang dam.

Background

In 2017, NITI Aayog had proposed a 300-metre-tall hydroelectric dam in the Siang Valley. In December 2022, NHPC undertook the pre-feasibility study for the dam. Despite opposition against hydropower dams in Siang, NITI Aayog feels dam building in Siang is reasonable as a counter to Chinese dam-building activity on the Tsangpo River, which is the source of Siang or what becomes Brahmaputra as it enters Assam.