Following the heat generated over the mega dam issue, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has convened a meeting of all ministries concerned on October 13 to ascertain the status of the hydroelectric projects in the North-east.
The meeting that was earlier scheduled on October 30, was postponed because of the Ayodhya judgement that was delivered on the same day. The inter-ministerial meeting is likely to be attended by representatives of Ministries of Power, Water Resources, Environment and Forest among others, official sources confirmed.
The proposed meeting has evoked much interest because of a letter purportedly written by Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh to the Prime Minister, virtually endorsing the stand taken by those agitating against the ‘mega dam’ in Arunachal Pradesh.
Jairam Ramesh has called for a “moratorium on any further clearances for hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh” since “these are bound to be the subject of agitation” in Assam, besides review of all sanctioned projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
He writes, “the feeling in vocal sections of Assam’s society particularly appears to be that ‘mainland India’ is exploiting the North-east hydel resources for its benefits”, he reported to the Prime Minister. Even leaving aside elections, these issues are important in themselves and merit our serious consideration. Personally, I believe that some of the concerns that were expressed cannot be dismissed lightly. What I could assure the audience, of course, is that for projects not yet started, we will carry out cumulative environmental impact assessment studies as well as comprehensive biodiversity studies. There should be a “moratorium on any further clearances for hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh” until downstream impact assessment studies, cumulative environment impact assessment studies and biodiversity impact studies are completed.
The 135 dams of different capacities being planned in Arunachal Pradesh “are being given green signal” without carrying out studies. The Government of Assam should be a party to these MoUs, especially where downstream impacts are significant”.
Ramesh had though indicated that all projects may not be scrapped, though efforts will be made to minimize the downstream impact citing the case of Subansiri downstream hydroelectric project. (Source-The Assam Tribune)
This of course is a welcome step but after reading the same, a few questions were raised in my head. They are:
- The 2000MW dam that is in progress in Gerukhamukh itself will produce so much of electricity that the entire North-East might not need, so does it need too much of intelligence to assume that where the Surplus power produced by the 135 dams planned will Arunachal will go? -Obviously to the so called Mainstream part of India.
- Does it make sense to put lives of Millions in Assam and Arunachal at stake to fulfill the power need of the so called Mainstream?
- Why is that even though Assam and Arunachal falls in the category 5 of high geographical vulnerability area, but still the government gives clearance to all the Dam projects?
- Mr. Jairam Ramesh has assured of Studies to be conducted now. But the question was it not supposed to be conducted before MoUs were signed? So does this make it a electoral gimmick as the elections are Coming soon in Assam?
- Mr. Ramesh has also asked the audience not to question a few dams in Arunachal and Bhutan even if it has bad impact as those dams also have strategic importance. So does it mean, millions still loose their lives in the show of might where India wants to loosen the claim from china in the process by constructing Dams? Is it the only way to solve the political problem?
To all the questions above, a comprehensive movement against the constructions of dams is the answer. And the people of the states have been doing the same. And at least it has been able to make the think tanks of the country question the step. Hope it comes out with a good comprehensive solution to the problem.