| File picture of AASU protest against the Subansiri dam project |
Guwahati, Sept. 9: The ministry of environment and forests has asked Jindal Power Ltd to lower the height of the 460-metre Subansiri Middle Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh to save the bulk of the forest area from submergence.
This was decided at the 40th meeting of the expert appraisal committee for river valley and hydroelectric projects under the ministry in the third week of August.
“We have been asked to review the height of the project,” Jindal Power Ltd CEO V.K. Abbey told The Telegraph today. He said steps were being taken to adhere to the Centre’s directive.
The project with 8 units of 200MW each is being executed by Subansiri Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd — a joint venture of Jindal Power Ltd and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited (a government of Arunachal Pradesh enterprise). The project is on the Kamla river near Tamen village in Lower Subansiri district.
The project was allotted by Arunachal Pradesh in August 2009 after the Supreme Court’s order of July 10 last year which said any proposal in the upper stream of the Subansiri would be considered independently as and when submitted by the proponents.
There is already a lot of opposition to dams in the Northeast with student organisations and pressure groups calling for a complete halt to construction.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is coming on a two-day tour of Guwahati and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh for two public hearings on big dams tomorrow.
On the adverse effects of the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project in Assam, Ramesh had said last month, “I cannot assure that the project will be stopped but I will take all necessary measures to ensure there is no adverse effect in the downstream area.
An expert appraisal committee on the project said submergence since the dam would submerge a very large forest area — 2,867 hectares to be precise — it was advised that the developer should consider reducing the submergence area, dam height and optimise the project. The company said of the 2,867 hectares facing submergence, only 1,333 hectares are covered with forests.
The committee also pointed out that issues like energy conservation measures, landscaping of quarry sites and others are missing in the environmental management plan submitted and the company has been asked to include it when they submit the report the next time.
It suggested setting up of few more rain gauge stations in the Kamla basin to get more rainfall data so that it can be reviewed at the time of giving environment clearance.
The project is scheduled to be commissioned in 2017-18 and the estimated project cost is Rs 11,203 crore.