Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

NHPC rushes repairs, groups block work

The NHPC is working against time to carry out maintenance and repair at the stalled Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project, but frequent problems created by pressure groups has hampered work, according to officials.

By Smita Bhattacharyya
  • Published 10.02.16
  •  
The unfinished Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project

Jorhat, Feb. 9: The NHPC is working against time to carry out maintenance and repair at the stalled Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project, but frequent problems created by pressure groups has hampered work, according to officials.

The National Green Tribunal's eastern zone bench, Calcutta, comprising Justice Pratap Kumar Ray, judicial member, and professor P.C. Mishra, expert member, in December last year allowed removal of stone chips required for construction from the riverbank during monsoon as it might impede the Subansiri's flow. It also allowed application of concrete in incomplete tunnels, maintenance of expensive equipment lying in the open and maintenance of the roads inside the project area.

The tribunal ruled that no new construction was to be undertaken but ordered that the project proponent "is entitled to undertake emergency maintenance work for safety and protection of the public and property".

The directive came in thewake of an appeal by NHPC authorities and the Union ministry of environment and forests to undertake emergency repair and maintenance work at the dam for safety and protection of the public.

An official said they had four months to complete the work but roadblocks created by pressure groups, including not allowing movement of materials, beating up of drivers and even burning a truck on the mistaken assumption that the NHPC was starting construction again had hampered progress.

"According to the order, we are trying to complete as much maintenance and repair work as possible but it is being hampered with one group or the other coming to stop it," he said. He added that once the rains start, work will have to stop and this could pose a threat to workers and the public.

In another hearing on February 4, the bench asked Aabhijeet Sharma, who filed an application for a stay order on the construction work, to file a rejoinder. The next hearing is scheduled for March 21.

The 2,000MW Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project at Gerukamukh along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border has been stalled completely by pressure groups like the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, All Assam Students Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, among others, from December 2011, amid fears that seismic activity could pose a threat to people in downstream areas.

The NHPC had completed nearly 70 per cent work by December 2011 and the project was scheduled to go onstream in December 2012. However, the stalled project now faces a daily loss of Rs 10 crore.

In December 2014, Union power minister Piyush Goyal called a tripartite meet with 26 groups from Assam but nothing came of it except the forming of a new eight-member committee, which is yet to give its report on the downstream impact.

A source said the BJP-led NDA government seemed to have done a U-turn on seeing the opposition to the project and with the Assembly elections close, it did not want to upset the electorate by trying to push through something which it had initially opposed.

Despite the huge loss on the project, investing more money in downstream protection work and trying to gain the people's support by undertaking welfare schemes, the NHPC is eyeing a projected profit of Rs 3,000 crore for 2015-16, the highest till date.

In 2013-14, profits had fallen to Rs 978.79 crore from 2,348.22 crore in 2012-13 because of the stalled Lower Subansiri project. In 2014-15, the company posted Rs 2,400 crore net profit. The profit of the company stood at Rs 1,900 crore till September 30 last year.