Other States

Residents of 12 Meghalaya villages oppose dam on India’s clearest river

Stiff resistance from at least 12 villages in Meghalaya has cast a cloud on a 210 MW hydroelectric project on Umngot, considered India’s clearest river.

The villages are near the border with Bangladesh in East Khasi Hills district but the dam is proposed upstream in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills district.

The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) had on Friday scheduled a public hearing for the project to be executed by the otherwise cash-strapped Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL).

Hundreds of people from more than a dozen villagers obstructed officers from conducting the public hearing at Moosakhia in West Jaintia Hills district on Friday. The MSPCB officials faced a similar situation at Siangkhnai in East Khasi Hills district on Thursday.

“Everyone is against the mega-dam project as their livelihood is dependent on the river,” Alan West Kharkongor, president of the Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum, said.

The locals fear that the project, if executed, would cause irreparable losses by wiping out their areas from the tourism map, besides affecting many villages in the downstream areas dependent on the Umngot.

The project documents say people of 13 villages along the Umngot are likely to lose 296 hectares of land due to submergence if the dam comes up.

Not all villages are opposed to the project, though. People of at least four of them have mobilised support for the dam.

The Umngot river attracts many tourists to Dawki bordering Bangladesh. The water of the river is so clear that boats seem to rest on a crystal glass surface besides casting their shadows on the river bed.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 1:11:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/meghalaya-locals-oppose-dam-on-indias-clearest-river/article34291199.ece

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