No conclusive study on the non-suitability of construction of large dams in the Northeast region has come to the notice of the ministry, Jayanthi Natarajan, minister of state in the environment and forests ministry told the Rajya Sabha in response to a question by Kumar Deepak Das, member of Parliament.
In the last three years, the ministry had given the environmental go-ahead to 165 power projects in the northeast region while 143 power projects were given forest clearance, the minister added.
“Representations against construction of hydro power projects in the Northeast region have been received by the government. These relate to safety of dams and downstream impact,” Natarajan added.
Hydropower projects are increasingly becoming an emotive issue in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with locals protesting against a network of about 168 dams being planned across rivers in Arunachal aiming at generation of more than 63,300 MW of power.
Reportedly, the network is being built in brazen disregard for environmental, seismic, socio-economic and cultural issues.
“Till date, no cumulative impact study has been done even as dam building continues in the most seismically volatile region on earth. Till a seismic, environmental, socio-economic cost benefit analysis is done, our opposition will continue,” said Akhil Gogoi, leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, which is leading the anti-dam movement in Assam.
In seismic terms, Arunachal Pradesh lies in the Very High Damage Risk Zone, having seen 87 major and minor quakes in 67 years (1929-1993).
The hilly state, with a population of about 14 lakh, is commonly seen as one of the last pristine zones of the country with a population density of just 17 persons per square km.
“These are traditional lands, the public has to be consulted first. If there is no conclusive study why are you giving clearances?” asked Jaaddik Tali, president, Voluntary Arunachal Sennaa, a leading anti-dam group in the hilly state.
HT had earlier reported how from 2005 to January 2012, the Arunachal Pradesh government had already collected Rs. 1,333 crore as upfront premium and processing fees for the hydropower projects.