Breach bared

Dam tunnel collapse in Arunachal begs explanation

By Nitin Sethi
Published: Wednesday 31 August 2005

an under-construction tunnel of the Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh collapsed late night on August 7, 2005, following heavy rainfall. Fifteen contract labourers got trapped inside and could be rescued only after 18 hours, by the evening of August 8, 2005. The state government, surprisingly, didn't know about the incident till non-governmental organisations (ngos ) tipped off the state power minister's office, which then promptly shot off an enquiring facsimile to the general manager of the project at Ziro, Lower Subansiri.

The tunnel is being constructed by multinational company Larson and Toubro (l&t), a sub-contractor of the main project proponent National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (nhpc) . Neither l&t nor nhpc have so far attributed it to any reason. The tunnel is one of the eight headrace diverting tunnels of 9.3 metre diameter that l&t is to construct for power generation.

Local ngo s accuse nhpc and its contractors of breaching the Supreme Court (sc) orders that imposed strict rules for work for the dam site. On April 14, 2004, the sc had also demanded an inter-departmental committee to monitor the project's environmental impact; nhpc hasn't yet provided any infrastructural support to the committee, nor has the state government organised even its first meet. Meanwhile, Arunachal Citizen's Rights, an Itanagar-based ngo, has demanded an inquiry into the incident. River Basin Friends, another ngo based in Assam's Dhemaji district, has blamed rampant deforestation and excavation at the site for the mishap.

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