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Demand for Act on �mega dam liability�

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept 10 � The demand for a �Mega Dam Liability� legislation was raised forcefully by renowned engineer and former UNICEF officer Dr Binoy Kumar Das at the consultation held by the Union Minister of Environment and Forest (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh here today on the mega dam issue.

He said that to ensure compensation of any loss suffered by the downstream people during and after the construction of any mega or medium sized dam over any river in the country, there is the need of a �Mega Dam Liability Bill� in line with the Nuclear Liability Bill. Dr Das is the general secretary of Ruralsan Society, Guwahati.

�From their experience, people living by the riverside can assume how much water they will get in each month of the year and they plan their crops accordingly in different seasons. But as the entire yearly flow regime of the river would change after dam construction, the people downstream would have to abandon their traditional pattern of agriculture and livelihood activities. No one pays any heed to these regular losses suffered by the people living in the downstream of a dam,� said Dr Das in his written submission made to the Minister.

To cover the different costs of compensation, people proposing the dams, selecting their sites, designing them, examining their safety aspects, giving environmental clearance, funding their construction, managing them, etc., should be held responsible for paying the compensations, suggested Dr Das.

The Communist Party of India also asked the Union Minister to continue the execution of short-term schemes for controlling flood and erosion and dredging and navigation in Brahmaputra and Barak.

In a representation to the MoEF, the Assam State council of the party reiterated its demands for giving top priority to long-term integrated multipurpose projects to control floods and generate electricity, comprehensive irrigation schemes, and supply of safe drinking water along with large scale fishery industries.

The party also stressed on a comprehensive scientific study on the downstream impact covering all relevant aspects with a view to harness water resources for safety, security and uplift of socio-economic conditions of the people of Assam.

Drawing his attention towards the growing apprehensions among the people due to the negative effects caused by Ranganadi NEEPCO project during the period 2006 and 2007 and afterwards, the memorandum said that the people fear devastation by the ongoing Subansiri (NHPC) project and other proposed river dams in Arunachal Pradesh.

In their memorandum, the Uttar Kamrup Janakalyan Mancha expressed their concern about the poorly studied downstream livelihood and ecological impacts of large dams in Assam and urged the government to stop the ongoing constructions of all major dams in upstream areas. It also drew his attention towards the large scale devastation of large tracts of agricultural, forests and other land, due to erosion, encroachment, industrialization and dam construction, etc.

Voicing concern on the Topcem India�s initiative to establish their cement industry on a large plot of land at Sila-Gouripur village, it said that the proposed factory would cause serious harm to soil and overall environment of the area and would adversely affect the villagers, particularly the 500 families living on the plot.

The Protesting of Polluted Industries Forum of Chamata Pathar also raised a similar concern regarding a proposed cement plant at Chamata Pathar under Sonapur Revenue Circle by the Cement Manufacturing Company Limited (STAR).

�The proposed area is an agricultural area surrounded by other areas, which are under cultivation. Moreover, since the proposed site is surrounded by villages, withdrawal of huge quantity of ground water will result in acute scarcity of water in surrounding areas,� the memorandum mentioned.

The forum urged the Union Minister to look into the matter and make necessary arrangements to cancel the clearance certificate for the plant.

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