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Nyamjang Chhu dam and hydropower expansion in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Protests against dams started in 2011. On 2 May 2016, two protesters lost their lives in police shooting, when they supported Buddhist monk Lama Lobsang Gyatso who is also "Save Mon Region Federation" secretary.


Public protests against the construction of dams in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh in North East India have been going on for some years. In the whole state there are grandiose plans for 50 000 MW. Little of this has been yet built. On 2 May 2016 (as fully reported in The Wire and The Telegraph, 3 May) things took a deadly turn; during a demonstration calling for the release of arrested anti-hydropower movement leader Lama Lobsang Gytaso in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh state, two people were killed on the spot by indiscriminate and unannounced police firing. Unconfirmed media reports and a statement of the Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), the organisation spearheading the protests, speak of four other victims who succumbed to their injuries later in the day, including one woman. Tawang is the last Indian district bordering China, a 2085 square km patch where in 1962 the Chinese army came trooping in. Tawang was historically part of Tibet. The 1914 Simla Accord defined the McMahon line as the new boundary between British India and Tibet. By this treaty Tibet relinquished several hundred square miles of its territory, including Tawang, to the British, but it was not recognised by China.  Tawang is home to the Monpa people, it is a tourist destination thanks to the well-preserved Tawang Monastery and a seat of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Nyamjang Chhu dam and hydropower expansion in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India
State or province:Arunachal Pradesh
Location of conflict:Tawang district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

150 hydel projects planned for Arunachal Pradesh of which 13 in Tawang district.

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,000,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:10,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises: LNJ Bhilwara Group from India
Relevant government actors:National Green Tribunal
Local MP and Union Minister of State for Home
Chief Minister of the State of Arunachal Pradesh
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF)
Local Buddhist monks of Tawang monastery
Legal Initiative For Forest And Environment (LIFE)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Other Environmental impactsLoss of endangered species (black necked crane)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
On 2 May 2016, the 31-year-old Tsering Tempa was shot in the head and Nyima Wangdi, a 21-year-old Buddhist monk from the Tawang Monastery was shot twice.
Proposal and development of alternatives:Preservation of natural spaces and endangered against dams, reconsideration of the plans for too many hydroelectric dams (large and small) in Arunchal Pradesh.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There has been repression against a leading Buddhist monk, and people have been shot dead. However, there has been positive ruling of the National Green Tribunal.
Sources & Materials

BBC news, Two killed in India border town police firing
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Short article in The Indian Express
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3 May 2018, news in The Hindu about the killings in Tewang
[click to view]

Short article in Business Standard, 3 May 2016
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The Wire, Police Firing, Hydel Projects Cast Long Shadow Over Arunachal’s Sensitive Tawang Region, BY SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY ON 03/05/2016, a full report
[click to view]

Facebook page of the Save Mon Region Federation
[click to view]

Extensive article in The Telegraph. Two die in police firing in Tawang, by Ranju Dodum and Pranab Kumar Das. May 2, 2016: At least two persons died and eight were injured when police opened fire on people protesting against the arrest of a Buddhist monk at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh today.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

News of the events in International Rivers
[click to view]

Description of facts and complaint by the National Alliance of People's Movements
[click to view]

Meta information
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2279
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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