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Dam stokes border dispute

- Meghalaya apprehensive of Kamrup project

Shillong, Oct. 16: A 2MW dam coming up in Assam’s Kamrup district could become the new flashpoint in the Meghalaya-Assam border dispute.

There are 12 areas of dispute along the inter-state border, including Langpih (Lampi in Assam), which both states claim as their own and where the project is coming up on the Assam side.

In a letter to state power minister A.T. Mondal, United Democratic Party working president Paul Lyngdoh today stated, “The party seeks your immediate response and to set aside apprehensions vis-a-vis the above nefarious designs of the neighbouring state. The above clarification should be placed in the public domain so as to enlighten the people of the state about the stance of the power department.”

Lyngdoh also said the project would amount to the state government accepting the preposterous claim of Assam over the village and its neighbouring areas.

“It will also encourage a project that will severely impact the lives of residents of at least 26 villages who stand to be displaced once the Khri river is dammed for the purpose of facilitating the power project,” the letter said.

The Indigenous Bio-diversity and Social Welfare Organisation, Meghalaya, an NGO working in the environment sector, has been asking the government to come clean following reports about the project.

The reports claim that Assam officials made a survey of the river last week to gauge the feasibility of the plant being set up on the Khri in Kyrshai village of West Khasi Hills district along the inter-state boundary with Kamrup district. They stayed in the area for three days. The reports also claim that there could be a loss of 15 square km of land if the project comes up along the Khri, a charge refuted by the Kamrup administration.

“I have only seen media reports, but I have not been able to confirm or deny them. Even in the past, there were reports about Assam undertaking a survey of the river for establishment of a power project,” West Khasi Hills deputy commissioner S. Kharlyngdoh said over phone from Nongstoin, the district headquarters.

Sources in Shillong said the secrecy surrounding the plant could put ties between the two states under strain and with elections scheduled for next year it could become a “hot” political issue.

According to the Kamrup administration, a 2MW micro hydel project is being set up on the Dron (as the river is called in Assam) in the private sector at a cost of Rs 13 crore in the greater Lampi area.

Asserting that the “small” project would not cause any damage to habitation or vegetation, Naren Basumatary, circle officer of Boko, said, “There are around 30 Garo families living in the area called Dronpara, 15km inside the inter-state border. Nobody will be displaced and the ecology will not be damaged by the plant. The technical bid is over and government is in the last stages of finalising the financial bid. The sub-divisional land advisory committee has also approved 65 bighas for the project, the only one coming up in the district. The project will help five revenue circles, including one in Goalpara district.”

Kamrup deputy commissioner S.K. Roy told The Telegraph that the project site was far away from the inter-state border and that the power department was looking after the nitty gritty of the project.