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Quake refocuses attention on big dams

By Correspondent

SILCHAR, Jan 6 - The massive earthquake, which had its epicentre at Tamenglong on the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur in the wee hours on Monday and measured 6.8 on the Richter scale might not have done any significant damage in the Barak Valley as it did in other parts of the State, but the severity of the quake has posed serious questions on the construction of big dams in the North East States.

Environmentalist and a faculty of the Department of Ecology and Environment Science at Assam University Silchar, Dr Parthankar Choudhury said that this was by far the most severe earthquake in the region in the recent times. While he brushed aside possibilities of a repeat of what happened in Nepal a year ago, Dr Choudhury did claim that the existence of the big dams will be catastrophic for human life, especially in seismic zone V.

Sharing his thoughts, Dr Choudhury said �the earthquake in the early hours on Monday has leaped well into the list of most severe quakes in North East India.� Claiming that the quake is an alarm bell for people to discourage the efforts made towards construction of big dam at Tipaimukh in Manipur�s Churachandpur district, Dr Choudhury added to say �the decision to construct the dam at such a high altitude ( 183.9 metres) was taken without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study and since it falls very much in the Seismic Zone V, which is highly prone to severe earthquakes such as the one occurred on Monday, there is every possibility that if the dam stands erected, the entire downstream would be inundated even in the lean season.�

Eminent journalist and secretary general of Committee on Peoples and Environment (COPE) and Society of Activists and Volunteers for Environment (SAVE), movements against construction of big dams in North East, Pijush Das echoed Dr Choudhury saying that the construction of a big dam at Tipaimukh must be strongly opposed since the site is located at the juncture of the techtonic plates and human habitation in the surrounding areas on the downstream will face an identity crisis if the dam cracks down because of such intense earthquakes. Referring to the assessments made by a Pune-based NGO some years ago, Das said �If the dam is completed and there is a breach owing to such an earthquake, the water level will be at a height of 36 metres and at a speed of more than 200 km per hour, it will wash away the entire Barak Valley, including the plain areas of Silchar.�

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