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Arunachal to go ahead with Subansiri project, ignore protests

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, Sept 18 (IANS) - The 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project in Arunachal Pradesh will be commissioned by 2012 despite strident protests in Assam with environmental concerns over construction of mega dams, project builders said Saturday.

"The construction work of the Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project is at a very advanced stage and we hope to commission three units in March 2012 and the remaining five units by December 2012," National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) chairman-cum-managing director SK Garg told IANS.

The nearly Rs.9,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam, including the state government, making vociferous protests and demanding scrapping of the construction work citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam.

"We are open to mending ourselves wherever it is required. Safety of the people is of paramount importance to us and we are not going to compromise on safety norms," Garg said.

Such was the intensity of the protests that union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh last week took part in a daylong consultation with various civil society and environmental groups on the issue of dams in the Northeast.

"I would let the prime minister know about the apprehensions of the people of Assam regarding building of dams in Arunachal Pradesh. This is not just the issue for Assam, this has been an issue for the entire nation," Ramesh said.

"Big dams would lead to catastrophic environmental hazards in downstream areas in Assam," Samujjal Bhattacharyya, advisor of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), said.

The NHPC chief said all prior environmental clearances were taken before starting construction of the project.

"We had taken clearances from the Central Water Commission, Central Electricity Authority, and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for the Subansiri project," Garg said.

The Arunachal Pradesh government has signed MoUs with several private firms for 10 major hydropower projects to generate an estimated 30,000 MW power in 10 years' time.

The State, bordering Myanmar and the Tibet region, has the potential to generate an estimated 50,000 MW of hydropower.

Among the major projects currently being executed in the state are the Ranganadi project, the Subansari project and the Taloh power project.

Despite stiff opposition, the Arunachal Pradesh government is adamant on continuing with the construction of dams.

"We are happy and welcome the NHPC's announcement that the Subansiri project would be commissioned in 2012," parliamentarian from Arunachal Pradesh Takam Sanjay told IANS.

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