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Holes in dam clearance

Guwahati, May 8: Grave discrepancies tumbled out of the lower Subansiri power project closet after a civil engineer from Assam filed an RTI petition to enquire about clearances received by the project.

The engineer, J. Khataniar, found that the Central Electricity Authority gave techno-economic clearance to the 2,000MW power project in 2003 on the condition that integrated flood studies, including reservoir operation in respect of all projects — Subansiri upper, Subansiri middle and Subansiri lower —be finalised in consultation with Brahmaputra Board and Central Water Commission before work began on the project.

The authority had said it reserves the right to revoke the clearance if the condition stipulated is not complied with to its satisfaction.

The engineer submitted another RTI petition to the Brahmaputra Board in February, to which the board said: “There is no information regarding this with us and we have not received any copy of the detailed project report on the basis of which the project is under execution despite several requests made by it to the project authority”.

“This is a serious violation of the clearance. Why has the Central Electricity Authority not revoked the clearance for non-compliance of their conditions, which is a matter of surprise and should not be taken lightly,” Khataniar said at a news conference today.

Recently, the NHPC, which is implementing the project, had advertised that it has received statutory and regulatory clearances from 10 bodies in order to clear doubts.

“Against this, I had requested them to furnish copies of all the clearances. Surprisingly, the NHPC could furnish clearance letters only from four bodies — Central Electricity Authority, the ministry of environment and forests, ministry of power and the Assam government. The ministry of environment and forests had said in its clearance letter that once the construction of the dam is completed, the downstream water flow would be reduced. Specifically, from head race to tail race tunnel flow of the river will slow down substantially which may give rise to breeding of mosquitoes. Without mentioning anything about the probable adverse impact in the downstream area, for which an agitation is on, the ministry directed the NHPC only to take action to check mosquito breeding. This shows how much knowledge they have on this subject and how the people of Assam were neglected,” Khataniar said.

According to clause 4 of the ministry of environment and forest clearance, officials of the regional office of the ministry in Shillong would monitor the implementation of safeguards. “One RTI petition reply received from S.C. Katiyar, joint director of the ministry of environment and forests in Shillong, said they had monitored the project only from 2004 to 2009,” he said.


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