Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s announcement that the Centre would soon resume construction of NHPC’s 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydel project has stirred a hornet’s nest in Assam, with several groups, including the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), threatening that they would not allow the project at any cost.
Goyal on Wednesday had told the media that the Centre would resume Lower Subansiri project construction within a week. On Thursday, he told a delegation of the Assam BJP that the central government would convince the people of the state so that the project was completed soon. Nearly 60 per cent complete, there was no progress in construction of the project, located along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, since December 2011 following massive protests in Assam.
“The Home Ministry has given us assurance to clear those hurdles, and we will resume work on Lower Subansiri project within a week,” Goyal told Arunachal Pradesh CM Nabam Tuki when the latter called on him Wednesday. The minister also announced that the project would be completed in about three years.
Both AASU and KMSS have hit out at the Centre and announced separate agitations beginning next week. In Lakhimpur district, which will directly bear the brunt of the project’s downstream impact, student groups burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in protest.
“How can the government go ahead with the hydel project when an Expert Committee has recommended several modifications?” asked AASU president Sankar Prasad Roy.
The student body also recalled an advertisement by the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections in Assam newspapers in which the party had promised to hold political as well as technical consultations among the Centre and the governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh before taking a final decision on dams and hydel projects in Arunachal.
The agitating groups have been raising concern over the seismic safety of the dam as also over downstream effects and environmental issues, including threat to bio-diversity both in the upstream and downstream areas. The NHPC has agreed to bring the dam height down from 167 to 116 metres following recommendations by an expert group.
KMSS president Akhil Gogoi said his group will resist all attempts by the government to resume work on the Lower Subansiri project. “The BJP government has taken an anti-people decision. It has changed stand after coming to power,” Gogoi said.