Thursday, September 10, 2009
Hydel Projects: The New Battle Ground
In a move to meet the growing demand of power supply in the country, the central authority continues to build mega dams in Northeastern states to generate more power despite the opposition and continuous protest from the locals.
Though the authority is yet to finalise the time frame for the construction of the controversial 1500 MW Tipaimukh multipurpose project in Manipur, state-owned National Hydro-electric Power Corporation, NHPC takes up construction work of South East Asia’s biggest hydel power project 2000 MW ‘Lower Subansiri hydel project’ in a contentious area of Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
However, the project has been facing constant criticism because it is ignoring the ‘downstream social life’ in Assam as well as the upstream ‘environmental effects’ in Arunachal Pradesh.
Namani Subansiri Jalavidyut Prakalpa Birodhi Okya Mancha, a united body of more than thirty organisations of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Sonitpur and Jorhat districts (Majuli sub-division) opposing the project, made it clear that the dam in Gerukamukh is going to be a huge water bomb ready to burst upon the people living in the downstream areas.
The united body’s Kiran Deori has expressed strong resentment about the fallout of the mega dam project in the downstream areas of the Subansiri river in Assam covering three districts and called for the immediate halt of the on-going construction work at the dam site till all clearances required for the protection of the ecological and topographical concerns of the downstream areas are addressed.
If this is ignored, the front will launched various forms of agitations to stop the construction process, functionaries of the front told a visiting journalists team recently.
Keshav Krishna Chatradhar of Alliance Against Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project, AKYAMNCHA, a local resistance group in Assam said, “There’s no downstream study by NHPC or the implementing agencies. So they should stop construction works immediately.”
On the other hand, All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union has been demanding a ‘white paper’ on the upcoming mega dams in the state. Reports said that the Prime Minister of India launched the 50,000 MW Hydroelectric Initiative to fast track hydropower development in the country in May 2003. This initiative proposes to bring on line installed capacity of about 50,000 MW through 162 projects in 16 states by 2017. While 72 out of 162 schemes totaling up to 31,885 MW are in the North East, Arunachal Pradesh alone has 42 schemes with 27,293 MW capacity. It is of little wonder then that Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as the new centre of massive dam building in the country.
“We’re demanding a white paper on these mega dams. We’ve given an ultimatum to the Chief Minister in this regard,” Takam Tatung,President AAPSU said. “We will launch a democratic movement if the government fails to meet our demands within the next month.”
In Manipur, many NGOs and environmentalists have been criticizing the government’s move to construct the Rs 6000 crore worth Tipaimukh hydro-electric project confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers on the grounds that it would seriously affect agricultural land, local flora and fauna, not to mention the displacement of people and livestock.
The project site at Tipaimukh, located 200 km upstream of Barak River from the Bangladesh border, is high on the talks agenda as environmentalists express deep concern because if the 162 meter high dam is constructed, it could deprive Bangladesh of its share of project on downstream impact.
Chief Engineer Choudhury said, “We will moderate the flood situation as the project is going to sacrifice more than 330 MU of electricity generation for the sake of flood moderation by operating the reservoir 15 meters below FRL (full reservoir level).”
However, the actual construction of the dam will begin this year as the American engineering company; involved in the world’s biggest hydel project-the three gorge dam of China-is being commissioned for the project. Similarly the construction of Tipaimukh dam in Manipur will take time until the JVC (joint venture company) is formed, Uday Sangker Sahi, concerned NHPC Chief Engineer (Civil) told this reporter.
Though the Centre had appointed NHPC as the implementing agency for the project, it will now be a joint venture between NHPC (69 per cent), Shimla-based Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (26 per cent) and Manipur Government (5 per cent), the engineer informed.