|Expert panel apathetic to woes of downstream people?|
GUWAHATI, Nov 22 - Though it may sound strange, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) meet for the River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) held on October 24 last seemed oblivious to the fact that the existing Ranganadi hydroelectric project has been blamed by the suffering people of the downstream areas for their flood-related woes.
It also did not consider the fact that without taking into consideration the 405-MW Ranganadi Phase-I Project, the cumulative impact assessment study of the other Ranganadi hydel projects cannot be completed.
The EAC was discussing the agenda item number 9.8 to arrive at conclusions on the additional study for cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity study (CIA & CCS) of the Subansiri river basin in Arunachal Pradesh carried out by M/s IRGS.
There are 26 projects proposed on the three tributaries of the Subansiri, namely Kurung (seven projects of total 99-MW capacity), Panyor (nine projects of total 235.5-MW capacity) and Dikrong (nine projects of total 289-MW capacity). Panyor is the Ranganadi.
It is pertinent to mention here that the above issues were initially on the agenda of the EAC meeting dated September 22, 2017 as item number 8.9.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in a letter to the chairperson of the EAC stated, “As you might be aware that the downstream impact of the already-commissioned 405-MW Ranganadi project (which has a dam on the Ranganadi river and a power house on the Dikrong river) has been a major issue of conflict in the North East, besides during the recent monsoons when water was released, which subsequently flooded downstream areas of Assam and caused great hardship and damage”.
“The Ranganadi dries up in the winter due to diversion of the water to the Dikrong for power generation during the lean season”.
“Further, you would also be aware of the developments in the under-construction 2,000– MW Subansiri Lower project whereby a large number of studies related to downstream and other impacts have been carried out post-environmental clearance granted in 2001 and the construction of the project has been stopped since December 2011 for resolution of technical and downstream issues”.
“Since the ecological and socio-cultural security of the people of Assam is closely linked with its rivers, and under-construction or commissioned projects on the above-mentioned rivers have been major points of conflict, it is important that the Subansiri river basin study, including the ‘Additional Study for Cumulative Impact Assessment & Carrying Capacity Study (CIA & CCS) of Lower Subansiri Basin’ are placed before the people of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam for public consultation,” it pleaded.
It pointed out that the Government of Himachal Pradesh had in the past placed such river basin studies for public consultation. Further, the National Green Tribunal in its judgement dated April 7, 2016 in Save Mon Region Federation & Anr vs Union of India & Ors, had also asked for the Tawang river basin study to be placed before a public hearing.
Another leading environmentalist of the State, Keshoba Krishna Chatradhara also wrote to the EAC chairperson prior to the September 22 meeting to ensure that a process of due consultation is followed with the people of the Subansiri basin, including Ranaganadi (Panyor) and Dikrong (Pare) sub-basins before finalising the recommendations.
But the pleas of AASU and Chatradhara fell on deaf ears. The minutes of the EAC meeting has no mention of these pleas, let alone the concerns raised by the students’ body and the environmentalist.
The minutes of the EAC meeting also shows that the controversial 405-MW Ranganadi Phase-I project has not been included in the list of projects on the Ranganadi river. Environmentalists here are shocked to know as to how a cumulative downstream impact assessment study on the Ranganadi projects could be completed without taking into consideration the Ranganadi Phase-I project.