Other States

Anti-dam monk opts out of poll contest for ‘greater green cause’

Lama Lobsang Gyatso, a Buddhist monk and a crusader against mega dams, has opted out of the Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh for a “greater green cause”.

The Janata Dal (Secular) had given the 39-year-old monk a ticket after he had decided to challenge Chief Minister Pema Khandu in Mukto, one of the three Assembly constituencies in Tawang district.

Mr. Khandu is the BJP candidate from Mukto. His brothers — Jambey Tashi and Tsering Tashi — also are party candidates for the other two seats in the district.

“Saving the fragile Eastern Himalayan ecology matters more than contesting. I do not want the votes of people against big hydropower projects to be split since an environment protection forum is backing the Congress candidate,” Mr. Gyatso said.

The ‘Save Mon Region Federation’, of which Mr. Gyatso was a leader, has declared support to Mukto Congress candidate Thupten Khunpen.

The monk, who was an administrator at the landmark Tawang Monastery, felt that it would be better not to affect the chances of Mr. Khunpen, a former abbot of a minor monastery in the district, in the bid to defeat Mr. Khandu, an advocate of hydroelectric projects.

Mr. Gyatso left the monastery after falling out with a former abbot who allegedly gave sanction to a number of mega hydroelectric projects. During opposition to two proposed mega dams in Tawang district, Mr. Gyatso was arrested on April 28, 2016. On May 2 that year, the police fired at protesters who were demanding his release, killing two monks.

One of Mr. Khandu’s pursuits is harnessing the “huge hydroelectric potential” of Arunachal Pradesh. “Getting clearance for the projects is a major hindrance. The issue must be discussed,” he had told industry captains last year.

His father and former Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu had scripted the State’s hydropower policy in 2007, which entailed charging upfront money from dam developers per megawatt of installed capacity. Between 2007 and 2015, the State government signed agreements with public sector and private players for 142 hydropower projects ranging in capacity from 4.5 MW to 4,000 MW.

This policy was in line with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s plan to add 50,000 MW of hydropower in India by 2017. Arunachal Pradesh accounted for most of the projects envisaged.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 5:35:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/anti-dam-monk-opts-out-of-poll-contest-for-greater-green-cause/article26647237.ece

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