Dibang dam will destroy 3.24 lakh trees: activists

Anti-dam activists addressing a presser.

The anti-dam activists in Assam on Thursday opposed the proposed Dibang hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh saying construction of the country's biggest dam would make the state's annual flood problem more destructive.

"Already water released from the power projects in Arunachal Pradesh is causing havoc in North and Eastern Assam districts. And the Centre now wants to construct a 278-meter high dam on the Dibang river for the project. Just imagine the destruction it would cause in the downstream areas in Assam when excess water is released from such a high dam. This will wipe out Dibru Saikhowa national park and several towns and villages in upper Assam," Akhil Gogoi, leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) said here while announcing its agitation to oppose the dam.

The opposition comes a day after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved Rs 1,600 crore on pre-investment activities and various clearances for the Dibang Multipurpose Project proposed to be constructed along Dibang river in the state bordering China.

An investment of Rs 28,080.35 crore has been pegged for the country's biggest hydel power project of 2880 MW capacity.

Agitations by KMSS and others have stalled the 2000MW Lower Subansiri hydel project along Assam-Arunachal border since 2010. 

The Dibang project is likely to take nine years from receipt of a government sanction. The project envisages construction of a 278-meter high concrete gravity dam (above deepest foundation level), an underground powerhouse and six horseshoe-shaped headrace tunnels of length varying from 300m to 600m to carry water into the powerhouse and six horseshoe-shaped tailrace tunnels of length varying from 320 m to 470m to carry the water away from the powerhouse.

"The project is going to be an ecological disaster as the detailed project report says Arunachal Pradesh will lose 3.24 lakh trees and 193 lakh cubic meter stones would be extracted from the hills or rivers of the state for it. Such huge stone mining would increase the flow of sediment into the downstream areas and would destroy our cropland, rivers and ecology. We can never allow this to happen," Gogoi said. 

"This is also a U-turn by Modi from the promise he made in a rally in Pasighat before the 2014 Lok Sabha election that his government will only go for small hydel projects as local people are scared of big dams," he added.

The government, however, said the multi-purpose project with flood moderation of all rivers flowing down to Assam will prevent flooding in the downstream areas. 

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu welcomed the Cabinet decision saying it would get the benefit of Rs 26,785 crore from the project pushing the economy of the industry-starved state.

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