Aapdara’s had enough with delays and dodging

Dikchu, 24 Nov:

Residents of Aapdara, a village near Dikchu which sits right above the dam and head-race tunnel of Teesta Stage V hydel project, has been grappling with sinks and slides ever since the project was commissioned back in 2006. Over the more than a decade that has passed since, their worries have only increased and now the 27 affected families that call Aapdara home want no more assurances and token repairs – they want NHPC to acquire all their affected lands and property and compensate them properly so that they can relocate to safer sites.

They took out a protest rally here today, driven to desperation by what they see as NHPC’s disinterest towards their situation and administration’s casual approach.

The residents have clearly had enough of seeing their lands sink away, houses tilt, courtyards crack and landslides tear off from the below the village, tugging at its very foundations.

Through the years, the villagers here have suffered damage, received inspection teams. The cycle is proving too repetitive and the condition too traumatic for the people who are demanding that NHPC acquire everything - from their imperiled lands to the in-threat houses - compensate them adequately so that they can relocate.

While this demand has been raised often by the people since 2015 when matters came to a head, it had not been taken into consideration with any seriousness by the concerned authorities until recently. The trouble at Aapdara has now clearly grown too dire to be sidestepped any longer and measures were taken to evaluate the scale of damage with the intention to compensate the affected families, paving the way for their relocation.

The 27 families of Aapdara Dikchu, Lower Tintek, East Sikkim, are demanding long pending justice.

“Our houses were declared completely damaged by the 2011 earthquake but we were not provided new homes under the REDRH scheme and were just offered meagre amounts,” says Saroj Rai, one of the affected people of Aapdara.

The Buildings & Housing Department has already certified the valuation of these 27 houses for the compensation but recently that NHPC dodged paying up on the claim that the damage was a surface issue and not related to the dam or tunnelling.

On 17 June this year, the approach road to damsite was blocked due to a landslide and the people took this as an opportunity to make a stand and did not allow NHPC to initiate repairs on the road unless compensation was paid. They also argued that if machines were deployed, the activity would cause further devastation.

They also complain that the disaster management authorities have not even assessed the situation properly.

The affected people have requested the administration and Land Revenue Department to order an official stay on NHPc’s road repair works to avoid further damage to their homes.

They add that the assessment report of the Mines & Geology Dept in 2015 was unfair and unacceptable to them because it was too vague and did not establish clear accounatbility.

The people are demanding that adequate compensation be paid and a proper Rehabilitation & Resettlement package provided to them along with a regular/permanent job.

They add that the a fresh stability report of their village to be prepared by an autonomous body independently without consulting NHPC as it has been already delayed and pending for settlement since 2015.