Indefinite blockade in Assam over Arunachal dam

January 2nd, 2012 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Jan 2 (IANS) Over two dozen organisations in Assam Monday launched an indefinite blockade of a national highway as part of their campaign to prevent the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) from constructing a dam and a 2,000 MW project in adjoining Arunachal Pradesh.

The protest is being spearheaded by two apex anti-dam groups — the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Krishak Mukti Samaj Samity (KMSS) — which are holding protests along the National Highway No.52 and preventing trucks from carrying machineries and equipment to the NHPC project site in Arunachal Pradesh.

The National Highway No.52 is the main lifeline linking Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of India via Assam.

“We shall not allow a single vehicle carrying equipment meant for the NHPC,” AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told IANS.

Similar protests by hundreds of men and women squatting on the highway were witnessed at several places under the banner of the KMSS and other local organisations in eastern Assam’s Lakhimpur district, about 300 km from here, adjoining the project site in Arunachal Pradesh.

“We shall intensify our movement if the government does not agree to shelve the NHPC project,” said KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi.

The anti-dam lobby is opposed to the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project in Arunachal Pradesh, claiming the big dam would have an adverse ecological impact in the downstream areas in adjoining Assam.

The anti-dam groups have since the past one month been off and on staging road blockades, leading to delay in the construction of the power project.

“Surely, the frequent strikes are hampering our work,” NHPC executive director A.K. Chabbra said.

The nearly Rs.10,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam making vociferous protests and demanding scrapping of its construction, citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam.

“We have completed similar projects elsewhere in the country and we are confident all safety measures are being taken here and there should be no apprehension as far as safety aspects are concerned,” the NHPC official said.

The Arunachal Pradesh government has signed memorandums of understanding with several private firms for 10 major hydropower projects to generate an estimated 30,000 MW power in 10 years’ time.

The state, which shares international boundaries with 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 Subansiri project and the Taloh power project.

Despite stiff opposition, the Arunachal Pradesh government is determined to continue on with the construction of dams.

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