Yazali, the first commercial town built by Nyishi tribals, might soon be submerged
A town damned
Bustling markets, multi-storey houses, schools, and places of worship: Yazali in Arunachal Pradesh's Lower Subansiri district is a busy village town with a population of around 4,000 -- most of them Nyishi tribals. But if the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (neepco) has its way, this hub of Nyishi urban life would soon be submerged by the reservoirs of the 130 megawatt (mw) Ranganadi Hydro Electric Project, Stage ii (rhep-ii).
Stage i of the project lies about 10 km downstream from Yazali. The 405 mw project began in 1978 and was completed in 2002. But it can deliver only 65 mw of power. According to R P Sharma, neepco's technical director, "The full benefits of stage-I cannot be achieved till stage- ii of the project is completed." This will involve construction of storage dam around 110 metre in height. The structure will submerge Yazali town and affect around 10 villages in its vicinity.
The plains of the river valley were ideal for settled agriculture. "We took up wetland rice cultivation in the Yazali valley, giving up jhum, since it was proving detrimental to our forests," says Likha Jimmy, a young entrepreneur, and anti-dam activist, of Yazali. The town grew along with its surrounding villages. Its proximity to the plains of Assam made Yazali the locus of much inter-state commerce.
There were other developments. In 1962, Yazali got a school and many from the remote reaches of Arunachal came here to study. The present Govt Higher Secondary School in Yazali is reputed to have produced the first literates of the Nyishi community.
On November 25, 2005, Jimmy had organised a protest meet against rhep-ii. T he outcome of the gathering left him utterly disappointed. "The people did oppose the dam, but none of them dismissed it unequivocally," he says.
Meanwhile, Jimmy and other rpapfp activists are waiting the project's Environment Impact Assessment (eia) report, which they believe would be ready by February end. The activists are planning to organise a series of awareness camps before the eia is discussed in a public hearing. Resource persons from outside Yazali are also being roped in to sensitise the people against rhep-ii .
But they will have their task cut out. With district administrators being changed according to the whims and wills of local politicians, the people have no option but to beseech neepco authorities, who seldom provide complete details to the affected.
Today, life in Yazali goes on as usual. Markets are buzzing, children are on their way to schools and offices are running as usual -- the last thing on anybody's mind that one day this life might be thrown into complete disarray. If the neepco has its way, a large water body might replace bustling Yazali town.
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