Activists seek information on hydropower projects in Bhutan

Updated - February 18, 2015 05:41 am IST

Published - February 18, 2015 12:00 am IST - Guwahati

: Environment activists, conservationists, student leaders on Tuesday raised concern over the lack of authentic information in the public domain on the current state of existing and proposed hydropower projects in Bhutan being built with the assistance of Government of India and Indian companies and their possible downstream cumulative impact in Assam and West Bengal.

A discussion forum jointly organised by Aaranyak, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) and International Rivers (IR) here brought to light that there is very little information in the public domain on 10 hydropower projects with total projected installed capacity of 10,800 mega watts coming up in Bhutan by 2020 with technical assistance from India.

Making a presentation at the discussion forum on the existing and the proposed hydropower projects in Bhutan, South Asia Programme Director of International Rivers Samir Mehta said the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) of India has identified about 76 locations in Bhutan where hydropower projects were proposed to be built for generating 23,760 mega watts of electricity and every single river flowing through the Himalayan nation has been proposed to be dammed. Of these, ten projects with a total generation capacity of 10,800 megawatts are targeted to be completed by 2020 with Indian assistance. He, however, alleged that neither the Royal Government of Bhutan nor Government of India had put the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports in the public domain and concerned authorities in both the governments declined to share them.

Taking part in the discussion, Programme Head, 'Water, Climate and Hazard Programme' of Aaranyak, Partha J. Das and environment activist Neearj Vagholikar of Kalpvriksh expressed concern that the people living in the downstream areas in western Assam were still in the dark about the hydropower projects coming up in Bhutan and how they were going to be affected despite the fact these projects were coming up with Indian assistance.

Mr Vagholikar alleged that Royal Bhutan Government was yet to respond to UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s request, made in 2012, for information including the EIA report on the 720 megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project under construction, and the cumulative impact on Royal Manas National park in Bhutan and Manas National Park in Assam.

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