How Green Are The Dams and Hydropower Projects Of Northeast India?: Divergences In Government Mission and Local Perception Of Energy Security

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Vibha ARORA , Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology , New Delhi, India
Dams and hydroelectric projects taming river waters have long been associated with technocratic pursuit of economic growth, energy security, and the idea of sustainable development. In 2002, the Department of Development of the North Eastern Region (DONER) openly declared India’s North-eastern region with its undulating topography containing numerous perennial rivers (such as the Brahmaputra and Teesta) to be India's future powerhouse. This region has a hydroelectric power potential to generate 34920 Mega Watts and governments are pursuing a hydraulic model of development for financing human development and alleviating poverty.

More recently, much debate has been engendered on how green are dams and hydropower? Do dams and hydropower projects constitute a renewable source of energy and exemplify sustainable development? This paper reviews the inter-connections between global and local contours of this debate, and the impact of resistance to dams and hydropower projects on the local-global perception of hydropower as solution to the energy crises. Based on fieldwork and review of relevant literature, I analyze the hydropower projects located in Sikkim, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh located in Northeast India to understand the divergences in the development vision of the government and the affected local ethnic groups. On the one hand, the power companies, development experts, and the government are advocating the hydraulic model of development and energy security, while on the other hand there is a vocal criticism of such policies and programs by various ‘other’ experts, environmental activists, and the affected locals (villagers and tribals) whose land and rivers are proposed or already have been acquired and nationalized. This paper highlights the competing visions of poverty alleviation and energy security and the contradictions within the trope of environmentalism and its effective use as a tool for imposing and resisting hydropower projects.