The North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) has come out publicly to support residents who are opposed to the Umngot Hydroelectric Project.
Specifically, NESFAS, in a press release today, said that it stands by the people of Umsawwar village, with whom it has been working for the past four years.
The village is home to around 530 people and has been at the forefront of protests against the 210 megawatt project since 2012.
“Umsawwar is one of the most progressive villages that has been at the forefront of many empowering initiatives,” NESFAS said. “Women also play an important role in the local dorbar, which has allowed their induction as executive members in the village, which makes them one of the few villages that have done so. They also have a Youth Parliament, which has been very active in looking after the well being of the community. Taking all the stakeholders into consideration, the village has resolved not to part with land for the construction of the Umngot Hydroelectric Project. Thus, if the dam is built, it will go against Articles 25, 26, 31, and 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples to which India has also signed.”
Instead of a disruptive dam, which is expected to flood 296 hectares of land belonging to 13 villages in East Khasi Hills and West Jaiñtia Hills, NESFAS would like to see greater focus on sustainable energy projects, such as those involving solar energy.
It also wants greater appreciation “of the existing local socio-economic and demographic conditions while formulating any interventions,” focus on agrobiodiversity and appreciation for local goods and services.
“NESFAS and Umsawwar would like to request the government of Meghalaya to reconsider the project in light of the unimaginable loss that it will inflict on the indigenous communities of Meghalaya and the solutions that it holds for a sustainable future,” the release concluded.