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Assam: Anti dam protests get louder

By K Anurag
October 25, 2010 21:16 IST
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Public protests against the construction and proposed mega dams on rivers in Assam and upper reaches of rivers in Arunachal Pradesh are getting louder. 

Protestors in Assam demanded a moratorium on construction of these dams till a cumulative impact study was carried out.

Spearheading the protests against the dams, the All Assam Students' Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and All Mishing Students' Union have raised the alarm that these mega dams would have a catastrophic effect on life and livelihoods of people living in the downstream areas of the Brahmaputra river in Assam. The organisations during a recent public hearing in Guwahati told the Union Minister for Environment and Forests (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh that they were not going to allow these dams to be built without having a proper environment impact study for each individual dam.

The protests have received a shot in the arm after an expert group comprising of faculty from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, Dibrugarh University and Guwahati University, after carrying out a detail study of the under construction 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydro-Electric Project at Gerukamukh in Assam, recommended that a dam of this magnitude should not be constructed in an area that is tectonically unstable. The expert committee in fact recommended that no mega dams should be set up in tectonically unstable Lesser Himalyan region that included Arunachal Pradesh. The project is being constructed by the National Hydro-Power Corporation amid loud protests.

In fact, in view of the protests, the NHPC engaged the experts group in consultation with Assam government to make a detail study of the plausible impact of the Subansiri project. After the experts group had recommended against a mega dam in the location, Assam government has now taken a stand that the Centre or the NHPC may set up another technical committee to study the project.

All the protesting organisations are incensed at the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam for its 'failure' to honour the mass sentiment against the dams and register its protest with the Centre.

Notwithstanding protests in Assam, the Arunachal Pradesh state government has been lobbying very hard with the Centre for the necessary clearance to start construction of 132 river dams in the state including 23 mega dams with minimum individual generation capacity of 500 MW. As per the proposals, 23 mega dam projects will generate 31,580 MW of electricity. Among them Siang Project will be the biggest one with a generation capacity of 11,000 MW.

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K Anurag in Guwahati