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Assam experts wary of dam renewal

Call to solve seismic, geological issues

By Avishek Sengupta in Guwahati
  • Published 12.03.16
KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, March 11: Four experts from Assam, who were a part of the eight-member project oversight committee for the Lower Subansiri hydel project, are against resumption of work on the stalled dam in their final report, citing several seismological and geological reasons.

Jatin Kalita, B.P. Buarah, Chandan Mahanta and S.P. Biswas, comprising the Assam expert group, submitted their reports separately in January to the Union ministry of power citing difference in opinion with the government-selected members.

The committee, which was formed in December 2014, after a discussion with organisations protesting against the project, comprised four experts selected by the groups and four others selected by the Centre and other stakeholders. The purpose of the committee was to review the reports of the dam design review panel, comprising C.D. Thatte and M.S. Reddy, formed to look into the structural and seismological aspects of the project. The committee has held 11 meetings so far.

The project has been stalled since December 2011.

"A way ahead for Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project (LSHEP) is likely only after conclusively answering the seismic doubts and foundation apprehensions, along with convincingly allaying downstream environmental and social concerns...clarifications repeatedly sought by Assam EG members of POC on details of seismic calculations have not been responded initially," the expert group said in their report released by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) here today.

Since the Northeast is in a high-risk seismic zone and Assam is downstream of the Subansiri river, the report suggested that if an earthquake strikes, not only will the dam collapse, but the two hills on which it is built as well as the reservoir would collapse, causing massive damage to the state.

The Assam experts had asked the committee during its seventh meeting to engage seismological experts following which the committee assigned A.K. Mahajan and A Goel. However, the experts did not find the reports filed by them comprehensive.

"Both the studies were based on the seismic source zone and Mahajan used nine and Goel six seismic source zones. However, the region has already felt 8.5-magnitude earthquakes, which eliminates Goel's report. Mahajan's value was right but his methods were incomprehensive," the report said.

"Therefore, as far as unresolved seismological uncertainty is concerned, opinion of experts working in Himalayan seismology and earthquake engineering aspects of hydropower projects, preferably from outside the country, is felt unavoidable," it said.

The KMSS, which has been protesting against construction of big dams, welcomed the report and urged all regional forces to unite and join their crusade.