Gogamukh (Assam): An expert committee set up by the Assam government to study environmental concerns over construction of mega dams has warned of excessive flooding if the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project in Arunachal Pradesh was allowed to continue with its present structural design.
"We have recommended some remedial measures like flood moderators to prevent flooding in downstream areas in Assam," said Chandan Mahanta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati.
Mahanta is among eight other experts drawn from various institutions in Assam as members of the committee constituted by the government in 2007 to study the environmental impact of the project.
"At present, there are no flood control moderators in the ongoing project and hence there are apprehensions of excessive flooding. But if remedial measures are incorporated, there should be no problems," Mahanta said in an interaction Sunday.
The nearly Rs.9,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam, including the state government, making vociferous protests demanding scrapping of the construction work citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam.
The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) last month said that with the work at an advanced stage, the project would be commissioned by 2012 despite strident protests in Assam.
"From geological point of view, we have suggested reduction of the dam height to prevent flooding, besides other technical recommendations," said Jatin Kalita, another member of the expert committee.
The expert committee report was made public at an interactive meeting at Gogamukh, the site of the ongoing Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project, on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.
The meeting was organised by the All Assam Students` Union (AASU) and All Mishing Students Union (AMSU).
"We are hopeful the issues could be resolved amicably if remedial measures are taken and the project is redesigned so that there is no adverse environmental impact in downstream areas," Mahanta said.
"Priority for Assam is not power generation, but controlling floods and hence the recommendations need to be taken into consideration."
NHPC Chairman-cum-Managing Director SK Garg said in an interview recently that three units of the Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project would be commissioned in March 2012 and the remaining five units by December 2012.
"We are open to mending ourselves wherever it is required. Safety of the people is of paramount importance to us and we are not going to compromise on safety norms," Garg said.
The NHPC official said prior environmental clearance was taken before starting construction of the project.
The Arunachal Pradesh government has signed MoUs with several private firms for 10 major hydropower projects to generate an estimated 30,000 MW power in 10 years` time.
The state, bordering Myanmar and the Tibet region, has the potential to generate an estimated 50,000 MW of hydropower.
Among the major projects currently being executed in the state are the Ranganadi Project, the Subansari Project and the Taloh Power Project.
The Arunachal Pradesh government is determined to continue with the construction of the dams.