Itanagar: The 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh has been caught in the middle of a big controversy. Environmentalists in Arunachal Pradesh say work continues on India's largest hydro power project without assessing the impact as ordered by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
There have been strong protests, demanding that work on it need to be stopped. The crackdowns on such protests have been equally severe. While the Central Electricity Authority maintains that the only problem with the project is the law and order problem in the area.
Environmentalists say the dam will have a 'disastrous impact' on the river and livelihood of the people.
"It was only after a very strong agitation in the downstream areas that the power company on advice from the Prime Minister Office commissioned a downstream study. The Environment Ministry has been watching silently. He has not played any role in it. Finally work is still continuing and study is happening post-facto. What is the use of such study?" said environmentalist Neeraj Vagholikar.
Those opposed to the project say that Subansiri Dam, along with other 135 other projects in Arunachal, will affect the lives of thousands in the Brahmaputra basin that it endangers even the famous Kaziranga National Park.
An Assam Assembly panel has asked for work on the dam to be stopped immediately. But Environment Ministry's concern seems to stop only at commissioning studies on cumulative impact of building dams on these rivers.
"Quality of our environmental impact assessment leaves a lot to be desired whether its by public sector or private sector. The environmental Impact assessment is done in a shoddy manner" said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The same holds true for several projects in the Northeast. In fact, monitoring and environmental compliance of dams in Sikkim have come under severe criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General. It points out that dams have been awarded to companies like Gati Infrastructure at a potential loss of revenue to the government, and that sufficient precaution against environment degradation has not been taken.