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13 Jul 2017

Hill protesters shut hydel plant

Rajeev Ravidas, TT, Kalimpong, July 12: Gorkhaland supporters today laid siege to an office of the NHPC in Kalimpong and forced officials to shut down a nearby hydel power plant on the Teesta.
Sources said people from Mungpoo and neighbouring villages along NH10 started gathering outside the office around 9am and stayed put for about 5 hours until the officials showed them an email informing the executive director about the closure of the plant.
Party leaders supporting the Gorkhaland cause claimed there were around 5,000 protesters, but the NHPC put the number at about 500. This paper couldn't independently verify the claims.
The132MW Teesta Low Dam Project (III) in Rambi has an annual production capacity of 594 million units and supplies power to the state government.
"The chief engineer of the plant showed us the email he had addressed to his executive director stating that the power generation would have to be stopped immediately. Only then did we agree to leave the place," said Miren Lama, a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader from Mungpoo.
Chaman Pradhan, a GNLF leader from the area, said they had written to NHPC last week to stop the plant immediately. "Since our appeal remained unheeded, we had no choice but to get them to shut the plant. This is part of our agitation for Gorkhaland," he said.
A senior NHPC official in Siliguri confirmed that the Rambi plant had to be shut down this afternoon.
"Over 500 people demonstrated outside our office. The situation had become so tense that we took the decision to shut down the plant. We have informed the Kalimpong administration, police and the chief secretary about it," the official said.
Gorkhaland supporters had last month forced the closure of the 51MW Rammam hydel power plant and emptied the water required for production into the river.
The NHPC has another 160MW plant at Kalijhora, a few kilometres downstream from Rambi. Sources said the Rambi and Kalijhora power stations put together had the capacity to generate about 1300 million units annually. The NHPC sells all the power it generates from the two plants to the state government.

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