Mr. Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister of India,
(Through the Deputy Commissioner of Golaghat District, Assam)
Sub: Protest against Big Dam and Ensure Social Justice During the time Drought
Dear Mr. Singh,
Greetings from Assam! We would like to bring to your notice the repeated and continuing subversion of downstream concerns in Assam during the rapid development of dams in Arunachal Pradesh. As of June 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh government has already signed agreements (MoUs) for 103 hydroelectric projects for 30, 000 MW. Recent times have seen grave concern being expressed about the poorly studied downstream livelihood and ecological impacts of large dams in both Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring Assam. The concerns include loss of fisheries, changes in beel (wetland) ecology in the flood plains, agricultural losses, increased flood vulnerability due to massive boulder extraction from river beds and sudden water releases from reservoirs in the monsoons. But the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) continues to ask project authorities to restrict their studies to 10 km. downstream of a project. We would like you to personally intervene in this serious matter, both as the PM of the country, as well as a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam. The issue was debated in the Assam Legislative Assembly recently and a House Panel has been set up to investigate the matter. But, the Central government is still ignoring these issues. The latest in this series of subversion of downstream concerns of Assam is the 1750 MW Demwe Lower project being built on the Lohit river. Two public hearings are being scheduled for this project in Arunachal Pradesh on August 11th and 12th. But no downstream impact assessment has been done in the project, both in Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring Assam. We would like to urge you to immediately ask for cancellation of these public hearings and initiation of proper downstream impact assessment studies first. Public consultation will have to be done both in Arunachal Pradesh and downstream Assam after detailed downstream studies have first been completed.
We would like to remind you that in spite of downstream concerns being brought to the notice of the MoEF and its Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydroelectric projects over the past few years, Terms of Reference (ToR) for Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies for over 30 projects in Arunachal Pradesh granted over the last two years have all been restricted to 10 km. downstream of the project! This is a joke considering the huge conflicts in the downstream areas of mega projects such as the 2000.
MW Lower Subansiri and 405 MW Ranganadi Stage – I in recent times. Your office (PMO) did ask for downstream impact studies to be done in Lower Subansiri, but only after the construction work had begun and the project was a fait accompli. In the 1500 MW Tipaimukh hydroelectric project too, the MoEF only asked for downstream impact assessment studies as a post-clearance condition in its environmental clearance letter of October 2008: “Due to construction of the dam, downstream impacts of the project in the State of Assam should be studied.” What is the use of doing downstream impact studies as a formality after work has already begun? We believe that such actions of your government are seriously compromising the social and environmental security of Assam. If these concerns are not taken seriously, the region will see major conflicts on this issue and your government will be responsible for pushing destructive development projects on the people of the Northeast.
At the same time we like to tell you that the Assam govt. has made a lot of statements on the dams issue and perhaps written letter to New Delhi, the situation has not changed on the ground. In fact it has only worsened. This clearly shows that the efforts of the Assam government are clearly inadequate. Here are some examples of the rapid developments in recent times which are completely ignoring downstream issues:
In the last two years the Central Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has given pre-construction clearance to at least 34 hydroelectric projects in Arunachal Pradesh. While giving pre-construction clearance, they have also prescribed ‘Terms of Reference’ for conduct of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) studies. For all projects, without exception, the downstream impact studies have been asked to be restricted to 10 km. only! Therefore the impact on Assam is totally ignored.
The 1500 MW Tipamukh project in Manipur was given final environmental clearance in October 2008 without studying downstream impacts on Southern Assam. One of the post-clearance condition states: ” Due to construction of the dam, downstream impacts of the project in the State of Assam should be studied.’ The same strategy is being employed as in 405 MW Ranganadi and 2000 MW Lower Subansiri. First start work and then ask for downstream study! This is complete nonsense.
On July 10th (2009) the Supreme Court of India lifted the restriction on construction of dams upstream of Lower Subansiri. Now 19 more large dams can be built upstream of Lower Subansiri on the main Subansiri river and its major tributary the Kamala. So even before NHPC can settle all the serious conflicts in the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri project, it has already started planning for the 2000 MW Upper Subansiri and 1600 MW Middle Subansiri.
Three public hearings for mega dams will be held in Arunachal Pradesh in August 2009. One for the 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose on August 6th. Two for the 1750 MW Lower Demwe project (on the Lohit) on August 11th and 12th. Both projects have not studied downstream impacts on Assam as their studies were restricted to 10 km. downstream of the project. This is a big threat to the Tinsukia district of Assam which government of Assam has completely ignored. Important ecosystems such as the Dibru – Saikhowa National Park will be impacted by the dams on the Lohit too.
This issue is urgent and serious. As of June 2009, the Arunachal Pradesh government has already signed MoUs for 103 dams for 30,000 MW! They want to sign a total of 135 MoUs for 57, 000 MW. We are facing a crisis. We ask GoI to put a moratorium on all dam clearances from New Delhi till the Assam Assembly panel investigates the issue. We ask Govt. should immediately make public the interim downstream impact study of the Lower Subansiri project. Why is it being kept a ‘secret”? Any future decision whether to start work or not can only be taken after the completion of full downstream study and detailed public consultation.
The people of the downstream will not tolerate the ignoring of downstream issues any more. We hope you will address these important concerns at the earliest.
We demand moratorium on the mega hydrel projects in North East India.
While we draw your attention to the serious issues of big dam we would like to highlight the drought in Assam. As you are aware the Assam government has declared several districts as drought affected areas. Mere declaration without taking into account the long term policy matters the state will continue to suffer. We strongly argue that the Assam government should be supported and be given clear direction to ensure social justice during this severe natural calamity we also argue that total irrigation be implemented in the state at the earliest.
(Mulan Laskar) (Akhil Gogoi) General Secretary President
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam
Copy to: Mr. Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister, Assam.