GUWAHATI, July 22 � The much trumpeted Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) on NE hydroelectric projects is nothing but an exercise at �evolving a suitable framework to guide and accelerate the development of hydroelectric power in the NE region.� This was the assertion made by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) here today.
The IMG report has recommended basin wide studies in Subansiri and Siang basins. But at the same time, it has specifically recommended that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) �will not hold up the environmental clearance to individual projects for non-completion of such basin wide studies,� said KMSS general secretary Akhil Gogoi.
The State�s Power Minister, when he refers to this IMG as a result of the concerns expressed by the people as well as Government of the State, he resorts to a big lie, alleged the KMSS general secretary. He was referring to the assertions made by the State�s Power Minister yesterday on the mega-dam hydel project issue.
Addressing a press conference, Akhil Gogoi also alleged that the Assam Government has compromised the interest of the State on the issue of the mega-dam projects. The Chief Minister and three of his Ministers, including the Power Minister, are behaving with the Central Government and the power lobby of the country in a manner that resembles the behaviour of the slaves with the colonialists, he said.
The present State Government is surrendering the right of the State over its natural resources, including the water resources, to the private companies, he alleged.
The KMSS general secretary also dared the Assam Power Minister for a public debate on the mega-dam issue and to make public the response of the Union Government towards the plea of the Assam Government for cumulative impact studies on all the mega-dam projects proposed in the NE region. He also asked the Power Minister to tell the people elaborately, and, in a convincing manner, as to why moratorium is not declared on the construction of all such projects till such studies are completed.
Or, is it a fact that the Assam Government believes that findings of such studies will favour construction of all such projects, questioned the KMSS general secretary. He wanted explanation from the Minister also on the issue of the usefulness of the cumulative impact studies if the individual projects are granted permission without the completion of the cumulative studies.
The KMSS general secretary also said that the Central Water Commission (CWC), which is authorized to go in to the issues concerning the Subansiri and Siang Basins, is solely a �pro-dam civil engineer-run technocracy,� and the CWC cannot be the organisation to conduct a free and fair study, the KMSS general secretary said.
He laid stress on addressing the water-related issues in an inter-disciplinary manner, covering their geological, ecological, social and political dimensions.
The KMSS general secretary resented the failure of the Central Government to complete the discussion between the MoEF multi-disciplinary Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects and the multi-disciplinary Assam Expert Committee, comprising the IIT-Guwahati, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University experts on the Lower Subansiri Hydel Power Project.
Instead of allowing the discussion between the EAC and Assam Expert Committee to conclude logically, the Central Government has tried to sideline the Assam Committee with engineer-dominated committees only to serve the interest of the dam lobby, alleged the KMSS general secretary.
He also alleged that toeing the lines of the Central Government and the power lobby, the Assam Power Minister has now been questioning the expertise of the Assam Committee. This is despite the fact that it was he who took the lead in forming this committee, said the KMSS general secretary.
The new committees are�Planning Commission�s Independent Technical team constituted in January last and the Joint Steering Group set up by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) in consultation with the Assam Government.
Significantly, the representative from IIT-Guwahati proposed to be included in the latter committee, was dropped leaving scope to doubt that it was done because of the IIT-Guwahati experts known abhorrence to mega-dam projects on the seismically sensitive Himalayan foothill areas, the KMSS general secretary said.
He also questioned the intention of the Assam Government in announcing the packages for mitigation of the dam-break loss before completion of the review of the structural issues of the Lower Subansiri Project (LSHEP) by the Planning Commission�s international technical team.
Moreover, the Assam Power Minister owes an explanation to the people of the State as to whether the LSHEP is redesigned to provide it the capacity to moderate flood as has been claimed by the Minister.
The KMSS general secretary also dared the Minister to tell the people what was the impact of the Grand Coulee Dam on the local eco-system, including its impact on the Solomon fishes.