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NHPC dabbles in toilet diplomacy

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By Umanand jaiswal
  • Published 4.02.15

Guwahati, Feb. 3: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given NHPC Limited an opportunity not only to contribute towards healthy living but also to know what people actually feel about the Lower Subansiri hydel project, considered unsafe by a section of experts.

As part of its Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan, NHPC is constructing 2,228 toilets in 2,026 schools in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Sonitpur, the downstream Assam districts likely to be affected by the project, and 124 toilets in 107 schools in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. The mission is being executed at a cost of around Rs 40 crore as a part of the NHPC's corporate social responsibility.

NHPC is a Miniratna central public sector enterprise, which was set up in 1975 for development of hydropower. It started constructing the 2000MW Lower Subansiri hydel project at Gerukamukh on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border in 2005 but it was stalled following massive protests over the safety of its dam in 2011.

Rakesh, executive director of the stalled Lower Subansiri hydel electric project, told The Telegraph here today, "During the course of our interaction with local schools and people as part of the project, we find them very welcoming. There is no opposition to the project on the ground. Most understand the benefits that will accrue from it."

Rakesh's remark is in sharp contrast to the ongoing opposition against the dam in its present avatar by a section of organisations such as the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP). Efforts are on to break the standoff (see chart).

Rakesh asserted that the company was not trying to mobilise opinion in favour of the dam or trying to hardsell the project through the mission.

"The abhiyan has helped us know the mind of the people. When they come to the headquarters to sign the MoU, they also want to see the project. We take them around and answer whatever queries they have about the safety of the dam," Rakesh said, indicating that had there been any opposition, the project would not have taken off.

Around 6,000 to 7,000 people associated with the project have visited the site since the launch of the project two months back. For effective implementation of the project, 12 teams of NHPC employees are working with the schools.

"Apart from toilets, provision of water through bore-well has also been initiated in the schools. Each school is being provided between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh," Rakesh said. The power ministry had lauded the project during a review through video-conference on January 30 for being the best among 11 PSUs in implementing the project, he added. Officials of the HRD, which had shortlisted the schools, today conducted a review in Guwahati along with the state government and set July 31 as the deadline for completion of the mission.


Project site: Gerukamukh along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border 
Sanctioned on:September 9, 2003
Original commissioning date: 2009
Anticipated dateof commissioning if work resumes: 4 years
Approved cost: Rs 6285.33 crore
Current cost: Rs 15,894 crore
Approximate power Assam will get: 508MW plus 25MW free power
Project stalled for: Safety concern, downstream impact

Why toilets?

The Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan, part of Swachh Bharat campaign, executed in 2026 schools, has not faced opposition