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Archive for the ‘ASSAM’ Category

‘Power is needed, but at what cost?’

Posted by ajadhind on September 19, 2010

source – tehelka

With around 160 hydal power projects planned on Brahmaputra, there is a need for a holistic environment assesment

By Pradyut Bordoloi, Power Minister, Assam

Assam power minister, wears a worried look
Assam power minister, wears a worried look

As a power minister in the state of Assam – I probably have practically understood the meaning of a bipolar syndrome. On one hand I constantly need to mobilise power in the face of a demand growth explosion in my State – on the other hand I cannot turn blind eyes to the other side of development problems. How does one not get worried knowing that nobody is seriously studying the ramification of allowing reckless construction of river dams in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra water system. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has apparently identified as many as 160 assorted hydal power projects to be put up in the highlands of Arunachal Pradesh without carrying out a holistic study.

Hydel power projects like the one on Lower Subansiri River will enable us to get 600 megawatt power from 2012. At the moment, Assam has a deficit of 300 megawatt, which will grow every year. But when you look at the gamut of sanctioning projects in totality, you realise that there are several lacunas in the system of allotting power projects in a remote area.

Environment and Forest ministry carries out an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study for every single project. Usually a small group of experts would fly down from Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata to a location in the North East for EIA study. They stay for a night in a hotel in Gauhati, or in a nearest urban centre. Maybe the entity, which is going to promote this power project, would have a helicopter commissioned for such a study. They will fly around the zone; they will have an aerial view of the proposed site. Then they will get back to Delhi and they will file their EIA, which may not see all dimensions of an environmental impact. An individual EIA will cover only 20-25 km radius of that project site. But has anybody imagined what would be the cumulative effect of 160 hydel power projects in the region? Twenty years from now when 160 power projects in various capacities are ready, what will be the combined adverse effects on a downstream state like Assam?

This is one point that gets us worried. That’s why the government of Assam, despite my being a power minister, we have raised this issue again and again in different forums.

What we keep saying is that before the CEA (the Central Electricity Authority) allows anybody whether it is a government or a private entity to put up any hydal project in the highlands, a comprehensive EIA should be carried out to see dimensions of the cumulative effects in the entire area. Once you carry out the comprehensive study, you should identify which part of the highlands would be safe, where probably the downstream adverse affect will be minimal and where probably you can take some redressal measures.

Arunachal Pradesh government is apparently signing MoUs with all sorts of fly-by-night operators. Prospectors are pouring in, paying upfront value and sign MoUs. All these private players may not have any accountability; they do not care about the environmental affect in the downstream areas. It is very dangerous to allow reckless construction of river dams in the upper reaches of Brahmaputra, without having a roadmap determined by the appropriate authorities – be it the power ministry or central water commission or central electricity authority. And the problem is, when a power project is allowed, multiple agencies are involved. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. There is hardly any coordination. Everybody is doing his or her own job, but hardly any cohesive approach is taken to monitor in a holistic manner.

The Lower Subansiri Dam being built
Lower Subansiri project currently being developed by NHPC is on the fault line of the great earthquake of 1950

Because of our objection, an inter-ministerial group on this issue was formed. The group has recommended that a study on Brahmaputra basin be carried out. But unfortunately they are not doing anything. Arunachal Pradesh thinks if these projects come up, they would become the richest state in the country. They might not have any concern for the people of Assam who live in the downstream areas. If you ignore all these environment issues, it will bring catastrophe in the future.

At the same time I have seen there are certain groups who are totally against dams or any kind of developmental activities. All these groups have converged in Assam and are spreading lot of disinformation while the Central government puts everything in a cold storage. I think there should be a generated condition for an informed rational decision. We should not let anti-developmental people spread all sorts of misinformation and corrupt the minds of the people of Assam. We are not against river projects, but we have to know for sure that the places where the dams will be put up are safe and that adverse downstream effects can be properly addressed.

There is also concern about dams being built in highly seismic region around the foothills of Himalayas. In 1950, great earthquake of Assam actually changed the entire topography of the area. Brahmaputra changed its course; it’s been flooding the plains of Assam every year since then. Coincidently the very dam of Lower Subansiri project currently being developed by NHPC is located on the fault line of the great earthquake of 1950. God forbids if there is an earthquake of 8.5 Richter scale again, it would be a disaster – at least that is what the people of Assam shudder to think.

I’m not guided by any kind of biased views, but if somebody’s raising an issue that has to be addressed by appropriate authority. In today’s world there is technology to take care of structure even in earthquake prone areas. You have to tell the people of Assam that an appropriate technology is being used and the dam is going to be safe. That has to be told to people or else they are becoming victims of frightening misinformation. They are being constantly told that river dams are like huge ‘water bombs’. Unfortunately even the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad has changed its tune. Consistently, the party had demanded big dams in the state for long 25 years. With the elections approaching, they are now making a U Turn on dams on one up-manship contest against dams.

We have to create condition for debate and discussion on river dams. Let people be told that appropriate technology is being used and that Central Government is very sensitive to these issues – that we are in safe hands. Before that the question that will continue to haunt us in Assam is ‘hydal power at what cost’?
(As told to Kunal Majumder)

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All Adivasi Students Association calls for Assam shutdown

Posted by ajadhind on November 26, 2007

source:- topnews

Guwahati, Nov 27: The All Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) has called for a 36-hour Assam shutdown today in protest against the attack on tribals demonstrators during a rally here on Saturday.

The All-Assam Tea Tribe Students Association (AATSA) has supported the shutdown call. They have called for observance of ‘black day’ in all tea gardens on Tuesday.

Fierce violence broke out between tribals demanding Scheduled Tribes status and local residents during a protest march by the former towards the State Assembly.

Many shops were destroyed and over 100 vehicles were damaged in the ensuing violence.

Curfew has now been relaxed, which was earlier imposed in areas between Dispur and Bashistha.

The tribals blamed the police for the incident in which at least 12 people were killed.

Several leaders from Jharkhand on Sunday reviewed the situation here.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda urged the Assam Government to ensure the safety of tribals who had migrated to Assam.

BJP leader and former Jharkhand Chief Minister Ajrun Munda visited the Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) and asked about the condition of the injured.

Demanding the dismissal of the State Government, Munda said that the Tarun Gogoi Government has no moral right to continue and should quit. He also demanded a judicial probe into the incident.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chief Shibu Soren met the injured Adivasis in the hospital.

According to sources, former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi is scheduled to arrive here today.

The Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have demanded dissolution of the Congress-led coalition government and institution of a judicial probe.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) held the government responsible for Saturday’s violence. (ANI)

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Posted by ajadhind on November 24, 2007

source:-sify timesnow

Guwahati: At least five people were killed and over 70 wounded, 30 of them critically, in a mob attack Saturday on tribal protestors in Assam’s main city of Guwahati, officials said. Curfew was imposed in the Bentola area of the city.

A police spokesman said the clash took place when about 10,000 tribal people, backed by the All Assam Adivasi Students’ Association (AAASA), took out a protest rally demanding Scheduled
Tribe status for the community.

“Local residents of Guwahati and the protestors clashed in the streets after the agitators went on a rampage damaging about 100 vehicles and destroying shops. The angry locals retaliated by attacking the protestors in which five Adivasi people were killed,” senior police official Rajen Singh told IANS.

Police fired in the air to disperse the protestors when they tried to break a security cordon to take out the march through the city streets.

“Local residents armed with sticks and iron rods, besides crude implements, attacked the fleeing protestors and beat them mercilessly,” said Parag Moni Aditya, a witness.

Police and paramilitary troopers have since blocked a major stretch of the city to prevent the protestors from being attacked by the mob.

“More than 3,000 locals were involved in the mob attack,” police official A Das said.
The injured, including women, were shifted to hospitals.

“The condition of at least 30 of the injured is very serious and the casualty figures might mount,” a doctor at the Guwahati Medical College said.

The Adivasis are mostly engaged in Assam’s tea plantations and account for about six percent of the state’s 26 million people.

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