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Dam ‘threat’ to Arunachal pilgrim spot

india Updated: Nov 08, 2009 23:28 IST
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According to Hindu mythology, Parashuram, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu, bathed in the river Lohit to wash his hands of the axe with which he killed his mother. That axe is now likely to fall on the pilgrimage spot– thanks to a proposed dam.

Hindu groups in the Northeast want the Ministry of Environment and Forests not to clear the 1,750 MW Demwe Lower hydroelectric project on Lohit -- one of the three major rivers that flow through Arunachal Pradesh and join to form the Brahmaputra in Assam.

This project is one of eight in the state —and 15 across India — that await clearance from the environment ministry.

Every year in January, during Makar Sakranti, more than 1.5 lakh people converge at the Parashuram Kund for holy dips.

Mishmi tribals – they call the site Tailung – also observe the Tamladu and Sanken festivals on February 15 on April 15.

“We cannot let the sanctity of Parashuram Kund be disturbed,” said Dayal Krishna Bora, a local leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader.

The company executing the project -- Athena Demwe Power Private Limited – denied that the environment or water flow of
the Kund will be affected.

The ministry, which had referred the matter to an expert panel, has yet to take a decision.

“The recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee will be looked at and a final decision will be taken in light of
the provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification (of) 2006,” Additional Secretary J.M. Mauskar told Hindustan Times.

Hindu groups and tribes in Arunachal argue that building the project, just 150-200 metres upstream of the Kund, would involve blasting of the hills and a digging a tunnel that could affect water flow and the Kund.

“Lohit has a uniform flow of 400 cumecs (cubic metres per second) throughout the day in January-February,” said Pune-based anti-large dam activist Neeraj Vagholikar. “After the project is commissioned, it will fluctuate from 34 cumecs for 18-19 hours daily in January to 1,729 cumecs for 5-6 hours (peak power generation),” he added.

Cumec is a unit to measure the flow of fluid volume.

Gagan Agarwal, vice-president and project head at Athena Demwe Power, rejected the activist’s claim, saying a bridge had been built near the Kund in 2005 and there was no adverse effect “despite use of heavy machinery and blasting”.

Also, Athena plans “to invest Rs 10 crore toward development of Parashuram Kund’s infrastructure and tourism,” Agarwal said.