Guwahati, Oct. 17: The Centre has agreed to some modifications in the design of the Lower Subansiri dam to incorporate additional safety measures.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said Union power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has informed him that the power ministry has accepted the recommendations of the dam design review panel, which had suggested additional safety measures to make the dam seismically safe.
“The Centre has also agreed to allocate 300MW paid power to Assam in addition to the earlier decided 208MW of paid power and 25MW of free power from the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project,” he said.
The chief minister also circulated a recent letter from Scindia among media persons at the press conference. “The technical experts committee appointed by the Planning Commission to examine the technical aspects of the project has recommended that Assam should be given first charge of the 300MW of unallocated additional power,” Scindia said in his letter.
The letter mentioned that “to mitigate the downstream impact, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited (NHPC) has committed to implement the recommendations of the joint steering committee that was constituted in consultation with the Assam government with financial implication of Rs 470 crore approximately”.
According to Scindia, all the issues with reference to the Lower Subansiri project have been examined and an independent dam design review panel was constituted based on the recommendation of Thatte Committee. “The panel has examined the issues involved such as foundation competency, seismic aspect, dam design review and existing ground conditions and has proposed additional safety measures,” the letter said.
“The ministry of power has accepted the recommendations and NHPC has been asked to take the project forward on the lines suggested by the panel. With these measures, the dam’s safety will be adequately addressed,” it said.
NHPC executive director (Lower Subansiri project) Rakesh told The Telegraph that it would be implementing the panel’s recommendations. He said the Mini Ratna Category-1 PSU would release the complete details of the safety and other measures.
According to Rakesh, Assam will now be getting 533MW power, including the 25MW free power. “It is more than one-fourth of the 2,000 MW the project will produce,” he said.
Scindia sought the Assam government’s help to convene tripartite talks with the groups agitating against the project in order to resolve the impasse.
Several groups, including All Assam Students Union and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), had launched protests against the project, raising concerns over the issues of safety and downstream impact.
“Now, as the Centre has assured us of addressing these issues, I urge the groups to withdraw their agitation. I hope that they will co-operate with us,” Gogoi said.
Gogoi, however, expressed concern over the delay in construction of the dam caused by the protests, which has resulted in cost escalation. “If the construction is not resumed it will result in increase in power tariff that has ultimately to be borne by the public,” he said.
Sources in Dispur told The Telegraph that with the NHPC agreeing to the modifications, it will be in the interest of all stakeholders, including those opposed to the big dams, to ensure that work on the project is resumed soon.
“As the need for power is increasing in Assam, efforts have to be made to see that the project is completed soon,” one of them said.