GUWAHATI, Nov 6 – Criticizing the State Government for its stand on the issue of mega dams on rivers, public activist Prof Deven Dutta today said that both Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Power Minister Pradyut Bardoloi were behaving in an extremely adamant manner on a matter of vital public interest. In a statement, Prof Dutta said the Government as well as the dam project-implementing agencies were having their vested interest in getting the projects cleared, and that its ‘understandings’ with the big dam lobby made it difficult for the Government to retract its stand notwithstanding vehement protests by the people and clear recommendations against big dams by the scientific community.
“The State Government is now talking about having another high-level expert committee simply because the recommendations given by the committee constituted by itself earlier have gone against big dams. Had those been in favour of the Government it would have gone overboard in proclaiming the recommendations in all grandiosity,” he said.
Prof Dutta said it was now apparent that the Lower Subansiri Hydel Project was sought to be pushed through in a hurried and clandestine manner by hiding vital facts about the dam foundation and other critical aspects of possible downstream and environmental impacts. “The Government owes the people of the State an explanation for this and also needs to hold the guilty responsible and accountable for the grave lapses,” he said.
Prof Dutta said while the Government was indulging in the high-sounding rhetoric of power production and progress, it would do well to remember that in the likely event of unseasonal devastating floods and droughts stemming from such unwarranted large-scale interventions in rivers in a highly-seismic zone, the entire Brahmaputra Valley civilization could perish.
“Floods and droughts will jeopardize people’s livelihoods besides eroding the State’s rich biodiversity. For whom the Government will supply power in such an eventuality? The fact that hundreds of crores might have been spent so far for construction of dams cannot be an excuse for stopping the ongoing projects,” Prof Dutta said.
He also urged former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta to make public his stand on dams during his two terms as Chief Minister and now as an Opposition leader. “The growing protest against dams is the result of recent scientific studies and there is nothing wrong or shameful in admitting that dams were supported by many as beneficial a decade back. The Congress is repeatedly attacking the AGP on its earlier pro-dam stance and even though AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary has made public the party’s stand, Mahanta has been silent on the issue,” Prof Dutta said.