CWC may commission cumulative impact assessment of dam projects in Brahmaputra basin in Assam

2,000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project in the basin has been stalled since 2011 due to safety concerns

By Anupam Chakravartty
Published: Thursday 12 December 2013


Central Water Commission (CWC) chairperson A B Pandya has hinted at a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of all the five tributary basins of Brahmaputra, where dam projects are being developed.

This followed a meeting in Guwahati between CWC officials, governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), and 32 anti-dam organisations including All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). The meeting on Friday was called to resolve the deadlock over the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project (LSHP) in Dhemaji district in Assam (located on Assam-Arunachal border).

The NHPC project has been stalled since 2011as it has been facing stiff opposition from various environmental and political organisations. In the past seven years, at least six expert committees have raised alarm on the dam’s safety and its possible impact on downstream areas. Samujjal Bhattacharjee, adviser to AASU, had earlier suggested that a technical review of the project should be conducted together by experts who opposed LSHEP and the ones who supported it.

Government hopeful of resumption of project

At the meeting, Assam power minister Pradyut Borodoloi said that everyone had agreed to expert-to-expert dialogue being demanded by AASU and were hopeful that the project would resume after the talks this month. 

Unhappy activists

KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi, however, was not satisfied with the outcome of the discussion. Gogoi, who was representing the 32 organisations opposed to the construction of LSHEP, said, “Officials from Central Water Commission, NHPC and Assam government are all bothered that the work should resume and have ignored the dam safety and other related concerns. He also alleged that the committee which was formed in 2011 to review the dam design is not independent and comprises only of NHPC officials.

Tale of committees

In 2011, a committee of experts from Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and IIT- Guwahati had said that construction of big dams in the foothills of Eastern Himalaya was not feasible as the region fell under sensitive earthquake prone zone and was highly seismic. The Central government then formed two teams of experts—one appointed by NHPC and the other comprising of people from Gauhati University. The committee, comprising former bureaucrats with the ministry of water resources, C D Thatte and M S Reddy, said the project is not scientifically and technologically viable and calls for a major overhaul in the design. It also indicated that an independent dam design review panel should be set up, following which NHPC set up a dam design review panel. The panel is yet to present its report.


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