Construction work of its 2000-MW Lower Subansiri hydro-electric project stalled for over three years now following stiff opposition by local groups over dam safety, National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation (NHPC) is now looking at CSR projects to win public support to break the jinx and resume work.
The public sector power company has reached out to 2133 schools across five districts – three in Assam and two in Arunachal Pradesh – which are directly adjoining the project site, with NHPC looking at winning over public support through CSR route – in this case the toilet way.
“We are directly reaching out to over one lakh households whose children go to schools where we are providing toilets as well as safe drinking water as part of the prime minister’s Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyaan. The programme has also helped reach out to the people especially in Assam where protestors have kept the project hanging for more than three years now,” Rakesh, executive director of NHPC’s Lower Subansiri hydel project told The Indian Express here today.
Many schools in these five districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh either do not have toilets or have just some makeshift arrangement in the name of toilets, Rakesh said. “Children in some villages in remote areas don’t have toilets at home too. But with toilets in schools the future of these children from the backward areas are bound to change for good,” the executive director said.
This CSR project of providing toilets in schools under Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyaan implemented by NHPC’s Lower Subansiriproject has been adjudged as the best in this category amongst various power sector entities in India, Rakesh informed. NHPC has earmarked Rs 40 crore for constructing 2242 toilets, of which 2228 are coming up in 2026 schools in three Assam districts and 124 toilets in 107 schools in two districts of Arunachal Pradesh, he informed.
A recent study conducted by the Guwahati-based OKD Institute of Social Change and Development has revealed that 90 per cent households in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower ubansiri district do not have sanitary latrines. The study also said that unhygienic and unhealthy practices including open defecation are rampant in the district.
NHPC has also taken teachers and members of management committees of these schools to its Lower Subansiri project site when they go to the company’s project office at Gerukamukh to sign MoUs for toilets. “They get an opportunity to clear their doubts regarding the project in the process,” Rakesh said. The public sector giant had last year also brought in Operation Smile to carry out cleft surgery of over 100 children in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts as part of its CSR programme.
The Lower Subansiri hydel project is located at Gerukamukh on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh inter-state boundary. While work began in 2005 at an original approved cost of Rs 6285.33 crore, the same has risen to over Rs 15,000 crore due to the massive delay. The public sector company has been incurring a daily loss of Rs one crore due to the shut down that began in December 2011.
While protests raised by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and various other groups had prompted the government to constitute an expert committee in 2012, a new 8-member expert committee formed in December last year is expected to submit its report by March.