Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Efforts on to end NHPC power project impasse in Assam; Power ministry accepts panel’s findings

An NHPC power project
GIVING a flicker of hope on the stalled NHPC power project in Lower Assam, the power ministry has accepted the recommendations made by the Dam Design Review Panel (DDRP) and has asked the country’s largest hydro power producer to implement the suggestions regarding the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project.
The next meeting of the experts committees on the project is scheduled to be held later this month. The Technical Expert Committee (TEC) was constituted...
by the Planning Commission and following its recommendation, the ministry of power constituted a DDRP to review some design features on the dam, the minister of state for power (independent charge) Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a Rajya Sabha.
Regarding the raising of the embankment height, the minister said that NHPC Board has already approved an amount of Rs 470 crore for implementation of JSC recommendations out of which Rs 145 crore is for downstream protection measures. Regarding upstream Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) of the project, the requisite amount of Rs 8.17 crore as demanded by Arunachal Pradesh State Forest Department has already been deposited by NHPC.
In a bid to end the impasse so that work in the project may be continued, discussions are being held between experts from NHPC and experts from stakeholder groups of Assam and another meeting is likely to be held this month to arrive at a consensus, said a government press release.
The recommendations made by Technical Expert Committee (TEC), joint steering committee (JSC) and Dam Design Review Panel (DDRP) on the project were discussed in a tripartite meeting among Govt of India, NHPC and Govt of Assam and various stakeholder groups of Assam in December in Guwahati. A meeting of experts from Govt. of India and NHPC and experts from Stakeholder groups was held on 23rd December, 2013, during which it was decided to meet again in February 2014 to arrive at a consensus.
However, the fate of the country's largest hydro power producer's pet project is still in limbo with the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), ministry of power, NHPC and both Assam and Arunachal governments seeking more time to respond to a clarification sought by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the project's downstream impact.
Earlier last month, NGT had issued notices to all the respondents regarding the release of minimum sustenance water at the rate of 450 cumecs from the Lower Subansiri dam throughout the year to ensure the river's ecological health. The respondents were given three weeks' time with January 29 being the deadline.
Billed as the largest hydro-electric power project in the country, the project has been facing stiff opposition since inception as the locals and various NGOs are up in arms against the project apprehending an impending disaster from the dam. The project was to be completed by this year but even the half of the work is not done yet. Located 2.3 km upstream of Gerukamukh village in Lower Subansiri District on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the 2000MW run-of-the-river power project has experienced several problems during construction to include landslides, re-design and opposition. 

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