In an ironic twist to the controversial 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project issue, it has now come to light that about seven years ago, the Arunachal Pradesh government had warned the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) — the builders of the dam — against undertaking further construction on at least two occasions.
This is in stark contrast with the current stand of the Arunachal government, which has become a vocal supporter for construction of mega dams along rivers in the state.
The warnings were made through two letters — dated January 30, 2005, and March 16, 2005 — written by the Arunachal Pradesh power secretary to the chairman and managing director, NHPC.
The letters from the Arunachal government had pointed out “serious procedural lapses”, stating that its approval had not been acquired for the project.They further held that dam construction activities "may aggravate the prevailing boundary dispute between the people of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam…the boundary issue is a very sensitive and important and, therefore, cannot be delinked as suggested by you (the NHPC)".
The Lower Subansiri dam is the focal point of an ongoing agitation by the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, based on environmental, seismic, socio-economic and cultural concerns.
They have been protesting against a planned network of over 168 dams, mostly major projects, along rivers in Arunachal Pradesh. Stating that the order to implement the project was passed on the natural consent of the NHPC and the Union ministry of environment and forests, without Arunachal being represented or heard, the letters noted that displacement of people and providing for their relief and rehabilitation are “very difficult issues”.
The letters had also alluded to a Supreme Court judgment: “The implementation of the project is also in violation of the order dated 19/4/2004 passed by the Supreme Court… would therefore tantamount to contempt of the SC order.”