Subansiri project resumes after 8 yrs, angers agitators

Work underway in the Lower Subansiri project at Gerukamukh along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. (Photo by Gaurav Jyoti Neog) 

After eight years of halt due to protests in Assam, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) resumed work in the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro power project at Gerukamukh along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. 

The public sector undertaking expects that the project would be ready for power generation by April 2023, if the work continues without any further halt. 

The resumption of the work, however, angered the agitators in Assam, who threatened to launch a fresh agitation to stop construction work saying it would have adverse impact at the downstream areas in upper Assam districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli.

The work of the project was halted in December 2011 due to agitation and blockade by several NGOs and student bodies in Assam, who suspect that the dam would have devastating impact on the downstream areas in case of an earthquake as the entire Northeast falls in the seismically active zone V. 

An official of the NHPC told DH on Wednesday that all technical issues have been rectified as per suggestions of an expert committee and the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to prevent adverse downstream impact. The NGT had cleared the project in July this year. 

The estimated project cost has shot up from Rs. 6,900 crore to Rs. 20,600 crore. The official said,"nearly 50% work of the dam on the Subansiri river flowing down Arunachal Pradesh, turbines and power house is complete and would take at least four-woring seasons (winter) to get the project ready for power generation."

There are eight units, each having capacity to generate 250 MW hydel power.

Reacting to the resumption of the work, Akhil Gogoi, peasants' rights activist, who leads Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) warned that the project would wipe out downstream areas in case of a major earthquake. "Floods will be more devastating during winter, farmers will not get water for irrigation and fish and other fauna will disappear from the rivers in the downstream areas. We will not accept this and will fight to stop construction of the big dam. We demand that all big dams including the Lower Subansiri be scrapped," Akhil said.

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