World Heritage Day celebration sees demand made for preservation of Asia’s first hydel power project at Sidrapong

Wednesday, Apr 19, 2023 06:30 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Apr 19, 2023 00:55 [IST]

World Heritage Day celebration sees demand made for preservation of Asia’s first hydel power project at Sidrapong

DARJEELING,: The issue of the preservation of Sidrapong Hydro Project, the first of its kind in Asia, was raised at the venue itself Tuesday on World Heritage Day. The Sidrapong Hydro Project is located about 9 km away from Darjeeling and was installed way back in 1897.
At present, the WBSEDCL has started a project at the site demolishing the quarters to make way for a museum. Opposing it, a programme was held by the Rashtriya Sampad Sangrakshan Samity (RSSS) and the Darjeeling chapter of International Trust for Art, Culture and Heritage (INTACH).
Speaking in the programme, RSSS member Jiwan Bhandari said: “This area had been taken in lease from the Darjeeling Municipality in 1978 by the Power department. These lands are all under the municipality but slowly they are demolishing quarters and buildings which were there from British time. On the other hand, the powerhouse had been rendered useless.”
“Till now seven houses have been demolished and a museum is being made there. The old machines are being removed from the powerhouse to be put in the museum. There are plans of installing new machines in the powerhouse so that more electricity can be generated. We are against all this,” said Bhandari.
The RSSS had been formed with members of different tea gardens around the area.
With the Sidrapong Hydro Project being the first in Asia, it was only in Darjeeling that electricity through it was generated and supplied to the hospital at Darjeeling, the Governor’s House, Correctional Home and the nearby tea garden factories like Rishiat, Orange Valley, Chungthang and Arya tea estate.
Locals believe that the British could have set up the project for their business purpose as tea gardens needed electricity in the factories for tea processing. The area where the project is located started after the Burdwan Raja donated the land to the British.
Power from the hydro project was supplied till 1978 after which it just became an additional electricity supplier to the main grid.
“If they want to generate electricity then it can be done in a different place and this place should not be demolished as it has a history of its own. We appeal to political parties and the government to stop this and save this place from being destroyed,” said Bhandari.
On the other hand, INTACH Darjeeling chapter chief convenor Bharat Prakash Rai said, “We decided to mark World Heritage Day here to see what was happening at Sidrapong. We learnt from officials here that a museum is being made. We feel there is no need for that as this place is a heritage in its entirety. Everything here should stay intact so that it can be declared a heritage.”
“We need to make people aware of this along with leaders so we can all protest against this. If needed we will also file a case in the High Court if this present project does not stop,” he said.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi