Meghalaya govt. defends plan to dam river Umngot

People of 12 villages are opposed to the project

April 16, 2021 04:04 am | Updated 04:04 am IST - Guwahati

A view of the Umngot river. File

A view of the Umngot river. File

The Meghalaya government has defended its plan to dam Umngot, arguably India’s clearest river, despite protests from more than a dozen villages downstream.

The villages in the West Khasi Hills district are near the border with Bangladesh but the site of the proposed 210 MW Umngot Hydroelectric Project is upstream in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills district.

The Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), which is struggling to stay afloat because of unrecovered dues of ₹600 crore, will be executing the project.

“We understand that many people downstream are dependent on the tourism that the river Umngot generates. But there will be no impact because the dam site is at a considerable distance from the area,” said State Power Minister James Sangma.

He vouched for the viability of the Umngot project and said the State will take all stakeholders on board.

“We will hold consultations with all the stakeholders not just to allay their fears but also to motivate them to support such a project as we are facing an acute shortage of power,” Mr. Sangma said.

But the villagers are unmoved. They say the dam would cripple tourism in Shnongpdeng, Dawki and adjoining areas.

Protesters had disrupted two proposed public hearings called by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board on April 8 and April 9.

The MeECL, meanwhile, has been battling is financial issues. The corporation has instructed all officials in its power distribution wing to recover dues from defaulting consumers within two months or pay for alleged inefficiency.

The officials have also been asked to start cutting off power to defaulters of all categories from April 16.

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