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Teesta V and other dams, Sikkim, India

NE India is heavily targeted by hydropower power. However, Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) say that these dams pose a serious threat to bio-diversity, and the livelihood of thousands of people.


Teesta river is considered a lifeline of Sikkim, a state in north-east India. The river originates in the Himalayas, flows through Sikkim and West Bengal before entering into Bangladesh. According to government estimates, Teesta river system has tremendous potential for hydro power generation because Teesta starts from a high elevation of 3,600 metre above sea level to about 300 metre above sea level, covering a distance of more than 175 km. It descends through various rich alpine and temperate forests. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Teesta V and other dams, Sikkim, India
State or province:Sikkim
Location of conflict:Sikkim
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Indian government has identified the North Eastern region, where Sikkim is located as a potential power house for the country due to its huge hydro power potential. Sites for developing over 28 hydro electric power projects on the river Teesta and its tributaries in Sikkim have been identified. With these hydro power projects, the government plans to harness electricity worth 5,494 MW in Sikkim.

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Project area:2,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Over 4,000, according to the Affected Citizens of Teesta
Start of the conflict:1999
Company names or state enterprises:Jal Power Corporation Limited (JPCL) from India - It is involved in the Rangit-IV hydro power project
Sneha Kinetic Power Projects Pvt. Ltd. (SKPPPL) from India - It is involved in the Dikchu hydro project
Teesta Urja Limited (TUL) from India - TUL has been awarded the 1200 MW Teesta Stage III hydro power project for a period of 35 years by Government of Sikkim.
NHPC Limited (NHPC) from India - Involved in 3 hydro power projects-- Teesta Stage- IV, Teesta- V, and Rangit III
Lanco Infratech Limited (Lanco) from India - Involved in the Teesta Stage-VI hydro project
HIMAGIRI HYDRO ENERGY PRIVATE LIMITED (SSERC) from India - Involved in the Panan hydro power project
Madhya Bharat Power Corporation Limited (MBPCL) from India - Involved in the Rongnichu hydro power project
Gati Infrastructure Group (GATI) from India - Involved in the Chuzachen and Bhasmey hydro power project
Sikkim Hydro Power Ventures Limited (SHPVL) from India - It is involved in the Rangit-II hydro power project
DANS Group (DANS) from India - It is involved in the Jorethang Loop project
Lachung Hydro Power Private Limited (LHPPL) from India - Involved in the Lachung hydro power project
Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Pvt Ltd. (LTHPPL) from India - It is involved in the Bhimkyong hydro power project
Chungthang Hydro Power Private Limited (CHPPL) from India - It is involved in the Bop project
Shiga Energy Pvt Ltd (SEPL) from India - It is involved in the Tashiding hydro power project
Sikkim Engineering Private Limited (SEPL) from India - It is involved in the Rahi Kyoung hydro power project
Samvijay Power And Allied Industries Limited (SPAIL) from India - It is involved in the Rateychu-Bakchachu hydro power project
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region, Government of India,
Ministry of Power, Government of India,
Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India,
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India,
Power Department, Government of Sikkim,
Water Resources Department, Government of Sikkim,
Chief Ministers Office, Government of Sikkim,
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) (,
Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) (
Lepcha Association, New Delhi
All India Indigenous Lepcha Tribe Association (,
South Asia Network on Dam, Rivers & People (,
Intercultural Resources (,
Kalpavriksh (,
Focus on the Global South (,
Hazards Centre (,
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Lepcha and Bhutia communities
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsAccording to ACT, "One of most unfortunate outcome of these projects is the plight of the natives who do not know how to utilize the money given as compensation and within a short period of time all the cash gets blown off on unproductive ventures like buying second hand vehicles, feasting (alcoholism), etc. Ultimately they lose the land and also the money. Further, it increases the instances of alcoholism amongst the tribals resulting in health problems and death causing untold hardship to the families of these ingenuous natives." [5]
"One of the conditions of the environmental clearance is that "All the labourers to be engaged for construction works should be thoroughly examined by health personnel and adequately treated before issuing them work permit." Since, there has been utter disregard to the health care aspect of the people of the affected area. Various studies by NGOs and Aids Control Society of Sikkim raise suspicion that there has been a high increase in veneral diseases (STD) in the region after the project started in the year 2003. This is an alarming situation that could lead to a spread of dreaded diseases like HIV and Hepatitis, for which there is no cure nor and for the people." [5]
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsAccording to the research by Chhetri (2017), apart from inundated lands and homes and businesses, discussion, one other "group affected is quarry workers, who break stones from the riverbank and sell them to construction companies (usually via local contractors). This is an important and, for many households, only source of income. The rising Teesta has submerged most of the quarry sites" "Women have been hit the hardest, as a majority of the local women were employed at these quarry sites, earning on average up to `300 per day, which permitted them a degree of fi nancial independence and the means to support their families. With the closure of the quarries, most of these women now stay at home and their families stru ggle to make ends meet." An other affected category are the small tourist businesses, for example rafters, who now have a small stretch of the river for their activities [1]
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The tribal community members, including Affected Citizens of Teesta, who are most likely to be affected by these dams advocate that to boost local economy and employment in the region, the government should encourage alternate livelihood options like eco-tourism and home-stays.
Activists say that the government could encourage small hydro power projects instead of big dams.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In the name of development, the government is pushing to harness the hydro power potential in Sikkim. This, however, comes at the cost of the fragile ecology of the region, which will be severely affected. Moreover, the lives of the people will be threatened as the region is prone to earthquakes. The plan of development of so many hydro power projects in Sikkim on the Teesta river and its tributaries is not sustainable.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Judgement of the National Green Tribunal regarding grant of Environmental Clearance to Teesta-IV Hydro-Electric Project, Sikkim, 15/11/2017
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[click to view]

Water conflicts and benefits related to hydropower projects: A case study from Sikkim
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Comptroller and Auditor General of India: Audit Report (Civil), Sikkim for the Year 2008-2009
[click to view]

[1] EPW - Ethnic Environmentalism in the Eastern Himalaya

by Mona Chettri
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Affected Citizens of Teesta, an organisation comprising people and groups from different sections of the society who opposes hydro power projects on the Teesta River
[click to view]

[3] Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) - Satyagraha

[4] Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) - Projects
[click to view]

[6] Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) - Deficiencies at Teesta Stage V
[click to view]

The Teesta water dispute: Geopolitics, myth and economics
[click to view]

[5] Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) - Deficiencies at Teesta Stage V
[click to view]

Troubled Waters: Why the Lepcha Community in Sikkim is Resisting Its Government’s Attempts to Build Dams Over The River Teesta.

By Nikhil Roshan | 27 November 2015
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Sikkim decides to scrap four hydel projects, published in the Hindu Business Line, an Indian news paper
[click to view]

Sikkim constructing hydel projects in violation of SC order; published in Tehelka, which is a leading news magazine
[click to view]

[7] Sikkim tribesfolk oppose proposed hydel projects

Maureen Nandini Mitra , Down to Earth Tuesday 31 July 2007
[click to view]

Locals in Sikkim are fighting to save their community and the environment from hydropower projects; Published in The Scroll, an Indian News Portal
[click to view]

Other documents




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Meta information
Contributor:Land Conflict Watch, [email protected]; Amarjyoti Borah, [email protected]
Last update15/06/2018
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