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Anti-dam protests gain strength

The All Assam Students' Union today demanded decommissioning of the 405MW Ranganadi hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh and a downstream impact survey of any such project before it is commissioned, dashing the hopes of early resumption of work on the Lower Subansiri project.

By VINOD KUMAR SINGH in Dhemaji
  • Published 28.07.17
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Dhemaji, July 27: The All Assam Students' Union today demanded decommissioning of the 405MW Ranganadi hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh and a downstream impact survey of any such project before it is commissioned, dashing the hopes of early resumption of work on the Lower Subansiri project.

Work on the 2000MW Lower Subansiri project, located at Gerukamukh in Assam on the state's border with Arunachal Pradesh, has been stalled since December 2011 over safety issues.

The AASU submitted an 11-point memorandum to a central team at Lakhimpur circuit house this morning before the team visited the Ranganadi breached dyke at Bagulijan in Lakhimpur and neighbouring Majuli district to assess the gravity of the damage caused by floods.

Lakhimpur and Majuli are two of the worst affected districts in the current wave of flood, which has impacted 25 lakh people in 29 of the state's 33 districts.

The AASU, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and locals have held release of excess water from the Ranganadi dam into already overflowing rivers such as the Ranganadi, the Dikrong and the Subansiri as the primary reason for the devastating floods in Lakhimpur and Majuli this time.

Neepco director (technical) V.K. Singh had recently said that the release of excess water from the reservoir was routine and had attributed the flood to breach in Ranganadi dykes. "In 2008 also there was flooding in Lakhimpur. The flood occurs because several rivers join the Ranganadi before it enters Lakhimpur," he added.

The AASU memorandum pointed out that Lakhimpur town was inundated in 2008 in winter when there is less water in the river. It also asked Neepco not to throw debris from the dam in the river.

Neepco's Ranganadi project, which was commissioned in 2002, is located at Yazali in Arunachal Pradesh, about 45km from Lakhimpur town. The Ranganadi is 5km from the town.

The AASU demanded an inquiry into the cause of the devastating deluge in Lakhimpur district on July 11 this year and punishment to those who negligence had resulted in the devastation. It demanded a package of Rs 1,000 crore from the Centre for flood damage, scrapping of bank loans of affected farmers and compensation to and rehabilitation of the flood-affected.

The KMSS and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) staged separate protests in front of the Lakhimpur deputy commissioner's office, demanding closure of big dams of the NHPC and the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) Limited, and compensation to and rehabilitation of flood-affected people of Lakhimpur by Neepco. KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said release of excess water from the Ranganadi dam was responsible for the flood in Lakhimpur and Majuli. The Lakhimpur unit of the Congress has also planned a protest against big dams this week.

The AASU, KMSS and the AJYCP are at the forefront of the movement against big dams without proper survey.

"The flood this time has only made their case stronger and any hope of early resumption of work on Lower Subansiri project has been dashed," an official said.

The central team, led by V. Shashank Shekhar, joint secretary of Union home ministry, comprises senior officials of the Union ministries of home, water resource, finance, expenditure, road transport and highways, rural development, Niti Aayog, agriculture and cooperation. The team wrapped up the day with a review meeting in Majuli on the flood and its solution.

The Duliajan units of AASU, AJYCP, Muttock Yuba Chatra Sanmilan, Tea Tribes Students Union, Gorkha Students Union, Brihottor Asomiya Mahila Manch and Nibonua Yuba Parishad burnt an effigy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi near Duliajan police station in Dibrugarh district this afternoon in protest against the Centre's alleged deprivation of Assam's flood-affected of financial assistance. "If the Prime Minister can provide Rs 500 crore to the flood-affected victims of Gujarat, why is he yet to provide assistance to the people of Assam?" AASU central organising secretary Anil Gogoi asked. The AJYCP demanded Assam floods be declared a national calamity.

Additional reporting by Pradip Kr Neog in Duliajan