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Central govt approves Lohit Dam study
Ajit Patowary
 GUWAHATI, Feb 1 - Contrary to the promises made on the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as well as the 2016 Assam State Assembly Elections, the BJP-led Central government has approved the Lohit Dam study carried out by the Water and Power Consultancy Services (WAPCOS).

The study has ignored the issue of impacts of the hydel projects proposed on river Lohit on the downstream areas in Assam and the famous pilgrimage spot Parashuram Kunda. This site is a part of the century-old religious-cultural heritage of the people of the NE region and the country.

Moreover, the report has maintained that the water flow variation taking place in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park will not impact the Park. This claim was made despite no study was carried out in the park. It needs mention here that the Assam government had filed an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal in January 2014 stating that no permission was sought for it under Section 35(6) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 for the flow variation taking place in the Park.

The Ministry has cleared 11 of the 12 hydroelectric projects, rejecting the Hupong Stage-I project for which the MoU is yet to be signed.

The 513-page report of the study – ‘Cumulative Impact Assessment & Carrying Capacity Study of Lohit River Basin in Arunachal Pradesh for Development of Hydroelectric Power Projects’ – has been approved by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Though the Ministry has informed the Union Ministries of Power and Water Resources and the Government of Arunachal Pradesh of its approval to the report on October 13, 2016, it has not bothered to inform the Assam government of it, despite the Lohit flowing through Assam too.

Earlier, the Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture had objected to the 1750-MW Demwe Lower project proposed on the Lohit River on grounds of its impact on the Parashuram Kunda.

In a letter dated December 22, 2014, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma had written to the then Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar stating that the Culture and Tourism Ministry is opposed to the project.

The MoEFCC failed not only to place the objection of the Culture and Tourism Ministry in the ongoing matter before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has stayed implementation of the Demwe Hydel Project in the Bimal Gogoi Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 30/2015 (SZ)) case, but it has granted approval to the Lohit River basin study that has remained totally silent on the impact of the project on Parashuram Kunda.

The Demwe Lower Project will be a 124-metre-high dam located 800 metres upstream of Parashuram Kunda. Its massive powerhouse will be on the opposite bank of the Parashuram Kunda. It is a mega hydel project and involves massive excavation of rock and muck from mountains in a 2km radius of Parashuram Kunda.

The total excavated material will be of the size of around 141.42 lakh cubic metres (around 23.6 lakh trucks load). This will thus massively alter the natural landscape in the immediate vicinity, and the sanctity and serenity of this sacred site.

Parashuram Kunda is held sacred by many indigenous communities of Northeast India – the Mishmis, Khamptis and the Deoris, among others.

It has also been a major pilgrimage site for people across the country and is an important part of the tourism circuit in Northeast India. The site finds mention in the Kalika Puran. From a historic perspective, its historicity goes back at least to 11th century, finding mention in the copper plate inscription of Indrapala, the King of Kamrupa (AD1040 - 1065). The Assam Buranjis have a 13th century reference to exchange of waters between Ganga and Parashuram Kunda by the King of Bengal and the Chutiya king of Assam.

In the run-up to the Assam Assembly elections, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav had tweeted on November 26, 2015: “Visited sacred Parasuram Kund in Arunachal y’day. Ecological disaster in waiting due to indiscriminate dam activity. Will take up d matter.”

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