Economic blockade of the Manipur kind has changed lane to now trouble Arunachal Pradesh, thanks to a marathon anti-dam protest.
Several Assam-based organizations had from December 16 enforced a blockade on NH52 to prevent turbines and construction material from being carried to a major dam site straddling Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The blockade in Lakhimpur district of northeastern Assam, though dam-specific, spilled over to all vehicles to and from three districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
The dam on river Subansiri at Gerukamukh is for the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) under the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015, but has undergone cost escalation because of frequent protests.
“We extend our moral support to any democratic movement including this one against mega dams, but fact is East Siang, West Siang and Upper Siang districts of our state, dependent on NH52, have been facing acute shortage of fuel, medicine and other essentials since the blockage began,” All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (Aapsu) president Takam Tatung told HT from Itanagar.
Tatung said an Aapsu delegation met the anti-dam protestors on Friday requesting them not to harass the common people of Arunachal Pradesh. “They agreed after we told them that even vehicles carrying pregnant women for delivery have not been spared,” he added.
Because of its mountainous terrain and lack of proper healthcare facilities in the districts, people in Arunachal Pradesh have to use highways in Assam to reach state capital Itanagar.
The meeting between Aapsu and anti-dam protestors followed an appeal by a group of ministers constituted by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi for calling off the blockade. “Our movement is not against the people of Arunachal Pradesh and so we have ensured their people don’t suffer. But mega dams such as LSHEP are against the greater good of the people and not desirable in a highly seismic zone,” Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti leader Akhil Gogoi said.
The anti-dam protestors also referred to a report by an expert committee comprising scientists from IIT Guwahati and universities in Assam. The report, submitted to the government a year ago, advised against mega dams in a tectonically unstable region.
Arunachal Pradesh has at least 140 hydroelectric projects, big and small, in various stages of construction. New Delhi is banking on these projects totaling more than 35000MW to take care of India’s power problems.