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Centre�s bid to break deadlock over Subansiri dam

By Kalyan Barooah

NEW DELHI, July 13 - In a fresh attempt to break the deadlock over the 2,000 MW Subansiri (Lower) Hydroelectric Project, Union Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal is going to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Talking exclusively to this newspaper, the Union Power Minister said that he wants the scenario to be a win-win situation for both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. One positive aspect, he said, was that Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is very keen to sort out the issue.

�I am going to convene a meeting shortly with the Chief Ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,� he said.

Construction work of the ambitious power project on Subansiri river at Gerukamukh along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border has been stalled since December 2011 following protests by agitating groups like Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, All Assam Students Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad.

The minister said that he is not against the people who are opposing the project because their grievances are genuine. �When I became the minister, I went through the file and found that many issues were genuine like impact on agriculture, irrigation, flood control and downstream impact,� he said.

Replying to questions, the minister further said that an estimated Rs 6,000 crore has already been invested in the project. It has now been five-six years since the work has been stalled, he remarked, adding that interest rates and other costs are piling up. �The project cost has gone up by two and a half times,� he added.

Goyal, however, admitted that the Centre�s response to the issue was bit delayed. �The Centre had appointed a joint expert group that made certain recommendations on the power project, but by then Assam had gone into election mode. But now, the Government of Assam is keen to sort out the problem,� he said.

Meanwhile, referring to the priority of his ministry, Goyal said that the Narendra Modi Government has trained more focus on the northeastern and southern states of the country. �In the Northeast focus, upgrading the infrastructure is the top priority. Some 900 villages are proposed to be electrified in Arunachal Pradesh,� he said, adding, the northeastern states are currently buying power at the exchange at the rate of Rs 2.20 per unit.

In the Northeast, the transmission facility is so abysmally poor that Rs 10,000 crore is being invested for upgrade of infrastructure in the region, including Sikkim, he said.

The minister also said that there is no problem with the availability of coal. �If the states want, we can supply them more coal,� he said.

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