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Subansiri Hydro project in eye of storm

Written by: Staff
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Guwahati, July 5 (UNI) Work at the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Power project in Arunachal Pradesh is underway even as the people downstream in Asom, with the help of the anti-dam forces, are crying foul and alleging massive violation of environmental norms by the developers.

The bone of contention is the Lower Subansiri project on the Asom Arunachal Pradesh border. The project promises to produce 2000 MW of electricity, enough to remove the electricty shortage of North East and also substantially reduce the water level during the floods in the plains of the region.

But the anti-dam activists like Peoples Movement for Subansiri Brahmaputra Valley (PMSBV) do not agree. According to them, the ill effect of the dam and resulting submerging of valley will be more in Asom. There will be 3400 ha of submergence of eastern Himalayas, 42 ha in the Tale Valley sanctuary, they alleged.

The concrete dam will have a height of 116 mt from the riverbed, with gross storage at full reservoir level/minimum reservoir level 1365 M cu mt/923 M cu mt. Spread over an area of 4070.9 ha land, the cost of construction has been estimated at Rs 7537.94 crore.

The construction is being done by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (NHPC).

The people of Dhemaji, Dhakuakhana and Majuli, who are likely to be worst hit by the downstream impact of the dam, had formed the Peoples Movement for Subansiri Brahmaputra Valley (PMSBV) and had been creating awareness regarding the result that the dam will bring.

They have alleged that the NHPC was flouting Supreme Court directives regarding environmental safeguards at the project site at Gerukamukh. Quoting a January 2006 report of the Shillong-based regional office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), PMSBV secretary Keshab Krishna Chatradhora told UNI that the project compliance was stated to be unsatisfactory. The report concluded that 'the project compliance does not come under the category of satisfactory compliance'.

Initially a single dam with installted capacity of 4520 MW was supposed to be built, but considering the environmental aspect it has been divided into three stages, the Upper, Middle and Lower Subansiri.

The lower Subansiri proposed to harness the hydel potential of the lower reaches of the Subansiri river. The left bank of the dam would be in Asom and the right bank of the dam, the powerhouse and most of the submergence would be in Arunachal.

But the anti-dam activists alleged serious violations of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The Centre was yet to take any step to stop construction even after repeated reports by government bodies pointing violation of rules, he alleged.

He said, ''The NHPC has been violating rules from the very beginning. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was prepared without consulting the local people who have the best understanding of the possible effects.'' ''The major drawback of the EIA report is that it does not mention the downstream impact of the dam,'' Mr Chatradhora noted. He also criticised selection of site for the project, pointing out that the area fell under Zone V of seismic zone and was susceptible to landslides due to soft rock bed.

But a NHPC spokesman brushed aside this entire allegation. ''Every single rule has been followed as far as environment is concerned and about seismic activity, bigger dams have been constructed in more seismic prone zone. Technology has improved and we are also not far behind,'' he said.

But despite this, the work in the dam site has been on and it is expected to be commissioned in true sense by 2010.

UNI SG-MT BA SS SRS SND1255

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