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Experts find holes in NHPC claim on dams

Guwahati, Dec. 13: The expert committee to study adverse downstream impacts of the proposed Lower Subansiri hydroelectric power project today accused the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation of trying to mislead the Centre by giving false and unscientific explanations about impacts of the power project.

The committee, which includes experts from Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and IIT Guwahati, dared the NHPC to hold a meeting at the project site to enable its members to highlight loopholes of the project on the site.

Bhagawat Pran Dowerah, a member of the expert committee, told reporters today that the NHPC could not submit relevant documents and scientific explanations to substantiate its arguments in favour of construction of the Subansiri project during a meeting convened by the Union ministry of environment and forests in New Delhi on Saturday.

The power project is being executed at Gerukamukh village in Dhemaji along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border to generate 2,000MW electricity.

“We have already mentioned in our final report, submitted to the Assam government and the NHPC, that the present site is not at all suitable considering geological and seismological sensitivity of the location. In Saturday’s meeting, the NHPC said it had constructed the Subansiri dam in such a way so that it could withstand an earthquake with an intensity of 8 on the Richter scale. The NHPC officials also argued that there was no possibility of such an earthquake in future at the project site,” Dowerah said.

He said the expert committee asked the NHPC how it could fix the magnitude of 8 on the Richter scale for the dam’s safety when Assam had already experienced two quakes measuring 8.5 in 1897 and 1950. The expert committee member said in 1947 there was an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale in the catchment area of Subansiri.

“It is not at all clear to the experts how flood forecasting and warning system for water release will work without a complete a rain gauge network and real time data gathering system, which the NHPC apparently termed impossible. The NHPC officials in the meeting said they could issue a warning only five hours before in case of releasing huge excess quantum of rainwater from the dam reservoir. Such a short duration will not be adequate enough to take safety measures in case of floods,” Dowerah said.

He said according to the plan, the NHPC would release only 6 cubic metre per second (cumec) of water at the proposed Subansiri project during 18 hours of a day in winter season so that enough water can be stored in the reservoir. The NHPC will release 2,500 cumec of water for the rest six hours to operate eight turbines to produce electricity.

“We have argued that if the NHPC releases 6 cumec of water for 18 hours the river would dry up and pose a serious threat to aquatic lives. For example, a dolphin can survive only in case of minimum release 450 cumec of water,” Dowerah said.

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