Anti-dam activists in Assam have slammed Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh for dismissing the downstream effects of the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Project.
Bangladesh is vociferous against the controversial project 500m downstream of the confluence of Barak and Tuivai rivers at the tri-junction of Manipur, Mizoram and Assam. The river flows into the adjoining country and is the lifeline of southern Assam’s Barak Valley.
"Ramesh should seriously address the issue of downstream impacts of dams in Assam,” said Silchar-based Pijush Das of Society of Activists and Volunteers for Environment (SAVE). He was reacting to Ramesh’s observation – at the 10th Editors’ Conference on Social Sector Issues on January 18 – that the downstream apprehensions about Tipaimukh was ‘false propaganda’ and that the people of Barak Valley wanted to have the project.
While the environment minister was primarily referring to concerns raised by Bangladesh, “we are worried as the downstream impacts on southern Assam were completely ignored in Tipaimukh’s environment appraisal by MoEF”, said a statement issued by SAVE, United Development Organisation, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and Society of Acitivists for Forest and Environment.
MoEF gave environmental clearance to Tipaimukh on October 24, 2008. But a post-clearance condition imposed on the project said: “Due to construction of the dam, downstream impacts of the project in Assam should be studied.”
According to Das, public hearings for the project were held only in the upstream areas of Manipur and Mizoram. “The post-clearance condition clearly shows the concerns of the people of Barak Valley were not recorded.”
The Tipaimukh project, labeled by greens as a “geo-tectonic blunder” owing to the earthquake-prone area it will be on, has been hanging fire for over a decade now. With a proposed dam 390m long and 162.8m high, it was originally designed to contain flood waters in the Barak Valley downstream.
Hydropower generation was later incorporated into the project. The Central-sector North East Electric Power Corporation Limited has been entrusted to execute it.