Work on Lower Subansiri HEP sans people’s concerns opposed

October 21, 2019 SANDRP – With work on NHPC Ltd’s 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro power project restarting after a wait of almost eight years, anti-dam organisations led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) vowed to launch an intense resistance movement to stop further construction of the project. AASU, in a statement, alleged that work on the Lower Subansiri project at Gerukamukh along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border has been started ‘treacherously’, risking the lives and property of people living in the downstream area. AASU said a scientific study on the possible impact of the dam in its downstream areas besides a cumulative impact study must be completed before expediting work at the dam site.– KMSS adviser Akhil Gogoi said NHPC’s announcement to resume work on the Lower Subansiri dam is not acceptable. “If the NHPC doesn’t stop the work, we will be forced to launch an agitation. In 2011, work at the Lower Subansiri project site was brought to a halt after several dam experts from Assam raised concern over its design. The NHPC is going ahead with its previous plan to construct the dam without even a dialogue with all the stakeholders,” Akhil said, cautioning the NHPC and government to not play with lives and property of the people of Assam.
– AASU said when talks were held between the Centre and anti-dam groups from Assam, the then Union power minister, Piyush Goyal, had promised that work would only resume when experts come to a scientific conclusion after studying various technical aspects. The students’ body, however, accused the government of ‘betraying’ the anti- groups’ trust. (17 Oct. 2019)
Almost after eight years works has started in the NHPC Limited’s 2000 MW Lower Subansiri hydro power project along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh. Work at the project site came to halt since 2011 following protest of anti-dam groups. A senior official associated with the project who do not want to be named told ET, “Ceremonial work started on Tuesday. First we have to take up massive repairing works at the site. Contractors for the project are yet to arrive. We are expecting to complete the project in next four years.” The revised cost estimate of the project is Rs 17,000 Crore, making it economically unviable. (16 Oct. 2019)
In the last week of Sept. 2019, unanimous opposition to the project was strongly echoed in the public interaction programme held in Lakhimpur. Over 30 speakers, taking part in the event organized by Namoni Subansiri Bandh Birodhi Aikya Mancha on Saturday at Basudev Kalyan Trust of North Lakhimpur town, opposed the setting up of the big river dam project by NHPC Limited at Gerukamukh in Dhemaji-Arunachal border area which is a highly seismic zone.
Notably, the Namoni Subansiri Bandh Birodhi Sangrami Aikya Mancha, the common forum of over 20 anti-big-river dam activist organizations, organized the event on SLHP covering Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli districts with a view to collect public opinion for the motion or against the project. The event, which was chaired by environmental activists Keshab Krishna Chatradhara, began with a booklet release programme.
The dignitaries of the partner organizations of the forum released a booklet titled Amar Kobologia regarding SLHP. Taking part in the event, all the speakers expressed vehement resentment over the Union and State government as well as NHPC’s move taken to resume the construction works of the SLHP. They alleged that the governments and the NHPC had attempted to impose tremendous threat upon the people of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli at a time when the Ranganadi Hydro Electric Plant (RHEP) operated by NEEPCO, located at Yazali in Arunachal Pradesh, was ravaging Lakhimpur since 2008. They condemned these attempts and warned the government not to treat public sentiment politically and not to use the big river dam as an electioneering issue.
Expressing his opinion, advocate Arup Kalita strongly opposed the construction of the SLHP and sharply criticized Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who was once the president of AASU, alleging him of bowing down to big river dam lobbies and turning his back to public interest. Writer and social activist Nripen Phukan explained the enormous proportion of the possible devastation of SLHP along with the past destruction caused by Ranganadi flood due to release of excess water from RHEP. “NHPC will suffer no loss if the people of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji are washed away by flood caused by SLHP,” he remarked. (30 Sept. 2019)
Assam KOPILI HEP Disaster No trace of bodies Sources said loose earth in the basement of a two-storey pump house of the project is causing hindrance and it might take more time to recover the trapped persons. The earth blocking the entrance of the pump house has been cleared and excavators put into service to dig out the mud inside.
Assam Hills Minister Sum Ronghang said the state government should order an independent inquiry by a team of experts to bring out the truth behind the rupture in the pipeline. Local residents said Neepco should stop blaming the coal mining authorities for the disaster. (15 Oct. 2019)
There was no trace on Oct. 14 of the four employees of NEEPCO who were feared to have been trapped inside a pump house of Kopili Hydro Electric Plant in Assam’s Dima Hasao district since its pipeline burst eight days ago. The flood not only submerged several office buildings, but also damaged more than 90 per cent of the machineries of the project, besides washing away the approach bridge of the plant. Massive pressure in the tunnel created a water fountain rising up to several hundred feet into the sky. (14 Oct. 2019)
NEEPCO CMD VK Singh on Oct. 15 said that properties worth Rs 600 crore (approx) have been damaged in the tragedy. (15 Oct. 2019)
Ten days after a pipeline at Kopili Hydro Electric Plant in Assam’s Dima Hasao district burst, flooding vast stretches of the project, four employees of the plant are yet to be located, officials said on Wednesday (Oct 16, 2019). Dima Hasao SP Sreejith T said that the four missing employees are yet to be located. “It is expected to take a few more days,” he said. NEEPCO general manager and head of Kopili Hydro Electric Project, Debotosh Bhattacharjee, said, “We are trying to open approaches to the underground sections where the employees are trapped. The sludge left after the waterlogging is causing obstacles in reaching the location.” (17 Oct. 2019)
DRP NB 21 Oct. 2019: Opposition to restarting work on Lower Subansiri HEP without addressing Assam people’s concerns