The Assam Assembly's House Committee, which studied the impact of the construction of big hydro-electric dams in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra in Arunachal Pradesh on the areas downstream in Assam, has recommended that no dam be allowed in that State without a proper comprehensive and scientific assessment.

In its final report tabled on the floor of the House on Saturday, the Committee recommended that such multi-purpose provisions as irrigation, flood control, anti-erosion measures and embankment for downstream areas be included in all future hydro-electric projects in the northeast.

As for the 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydro-Electric Project of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) at Gerukamukh, which straddles Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, people living downstream, in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts, and the Majuli river island in Jorhat district in upper Assam are apprehensive about the impact of the dam. The committee recommended that the Assam government take up the report submitted recently by a group of experts with the Centre without delay.

In its final report, the group of experts expressed itself against the construction of the mega dam on the present site.

It suggested that the Himalayan foothills, south of the Main Boundary Thrust (MBT), should not be considered for any mega hydropower project, and recommended the dam's height and production capacity be reduced. The proposed height of the dam is 116 metre.

Epicentre of earthquakes

Quoting seismologists, the House Committee said Arunachal Pradesh was a possible epicentre of earthquakes, so the devastation in the event of a sudden collapse of big dams might be severe, bringing untold miseries to the people living downstream.

“It is feared that the construction of mega dams in the upper reaches of the rivers in Arunachal Pradesh may wreak havoc in the downstream areas and obstruct free flow of water, which will affect both cultivation and habitation. As a consequence, the economy of the region will be shattered. The governments concerned and the agencies associated with power generation should desist from constructing mega dams which may pose a grave threat to the life and property of the people of Assam,” the House Committee said.

It recommended that the Central Electricity Authority, the Department of Power, the government of India, the NHPC and the Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments work out an acceptable solution to the problems being faced by the people in the downstream areas of the Subansiri as a result of the Gerukamukh project.

After the group of experts submitted its final report, the State has been witnessing intensified agitation for halting the dam construction at Gerukamukh, and abandoning all proposals for mega dams in the northeast.

Keywords: Brahmaputra