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The "Power" Factor


This article was published in an e-zine titled North-East Today The Power Factor

Anti-dam protestors, fleeing workers and huge monetary losses- these are the thoughts that come to our minds when we think NHPC.
In the North-Eastern states of India, NHPC has been on the news, and still is, since December 2003. In December 2003, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) awarded the contract to build a gravity dam, named Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project (LSHEP), on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, in Lower Subansiri District.
Several problems arose ever since for the construction of this dam, which is expected to supply a power of 2000MW. The “arun of the river” power station, as called by NHPC, is estimated to be completed by February 2014 and if completed, it will be the largest hydroelectric project in India. The hurdles that LSHEP had to face include opposition and protests, unavailability of land around site, landslides and re-design. Due to unavailability of land around the site, which is 2.3km upstream of Gerukamukh village, and landslides at the site, construction was not commenced until April 2007 when the site could be made clear for construction. When the foundation was only half built, the construction had to be redesigned for stability against bedrocks at an undesired level. It took another year for the alteration in the design to be completed and in October 2008 the dam’s new design was accomplished.  Again in 2009, the construction work was frozen for the period of May-November due to floods of the Monsoon season.
But the greatest hurdle came on December 16th 2011 when protestors of several organization including Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), hindered the dam’s construction work by occluding transportation of construction materials to the construction site by holding demonstrations along National Highway 52. The protestors are concerned as the completion of LSHEP will entail the destruction of almost 40 square kilometers of land around it which includes the  Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forestsHimalayan subtropical pine forests,  part of the Tale Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, an elephant corridor and some existing agriculture fields. The organizations reason that completion of the LSHEP may induce adverse ecological and environmental impact to the state of Assam since it is located downstream.
NHPC has been losing almost 4-5 crores of money on a daily basis due to the cessation of construction work by the anti-dam protestors since December 2011. As a result the cost of the project has increased to approximately Rs. 4,500 crores more than the earlier estimate. Since the project has already begun it will be of a huge loss for NHPC if construction is stopped altogether.
For Hydel power stations the government of that state where the dam had been built, receives 15 percent of the power generated for free. This serves as a fee for using the resources of the state. For a state like Arunachal Pradesh this free power is enough to run the whole state and even more than enough at times, to export power. In such a situation it will be inexpedient for the government if it doesn’t let the dam to be built. As a result the government of Assam has asserted that to mitigate the ill effects of the dam on the environment and the people, measures would be taken.  It is also contended that the dam was required for the state’s development. In 2010, the per capita consumption of electricity of India was almost 631kWh (kilo Watt hours) and that of the North-Eastern states was about 222kWh. As strides are made in the state’s development, demand for electrical power in Assam has been ever increasing. Also since Assam has fair ground water resources harnessing it is essential for the development of the state. Water is a renewable resource and its proper exploitation is required for mankind as it will lead to the uplift of the socio-economic status of the dwellers by providing employment.

As safety concerns have been raised and money has been put in already and development of the states is in stake, an unbiased solution will only be that the dam is built but with maximum protection and minimum damage to the environment and people dwelling near it.

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  2. The so called protests are now turning into profit making business.....unless govt deals with Akhil gogoi and Sam Bhattacharyya...this problem will not be resolved.

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