Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric project
GUWAHATI: The AASU (All Assam Students’ Union) makes it clear that the Centre is prompt to implement the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project ignoring a directive issued by the Supreme Court of India and the threat to the safety of life and property of people living in downstream Assam. The students’ body also alleges that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest is going to seal the fate of people living downstream the hydel project ‘in just 40 minutes’.
In a statement issued to the press on April 19, 2019, AASU president Dipanko Kumar Nath and general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had approved the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project in 2003. “At that time when the construction of the project was underway, the Centre did form a number of committees on environmental and technical issues. In their reports, the committees said that the issue of safety of the people living downstream the project in Assam was ignored. On December 8, 2006 leaders of the AASU, top-level officials of NHPC (National Hydroelectric Power Corporation) and representatives from Dispur held a tripartite talk. Following decisions taken at the talk, Dispur formed a committee comprising experts from Gauhati University, IIT-Guwahati and Dibrugarh University. The report of the committee said that the dam was erected on an earthquake-prone area and the issue of safety of people living downstream the project in Assam was ignored. An all-party committee formed by the Assam Assembly also submitted a similar report,” the statement issued by the AASU said.
According to the statement, after that, a meeting was held among the leaders of the AASU and 26 other ethnic organizations, New Delhi, Dispur, leaders of other agitating organizations and experts, leading to the formation of an eight-member committee, including experts from Assam and experts nominated by the Centre. The meeting also took a number of other decisions which have not been implemented even today. The eight-member committee, according to the statement, failed to reach consensus on issues like safety of people living in downstream Assam despite repeated meetings.
The matter, according to the AASU, then landed on the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Kolkata with former AASU vice president Tularam Gogoi filing a petition there. The NGT, Kolkata then formed a three-member experts’ committee to look into the reports of Assam experts and experts nominated by the Centre. Significantly, all the three members of the committee, according to the AASU, were associated with the project from earlier. The case then shifted to NGT, New Delhi that rejected the petition.
Tularam Gogoi then moved the Supreme Court of India seeking justice. On March 11, 2019 the apex court asked the NGT, New Delhi to explain as to why it had rejected Tularam Gogoi’s petition.
Meanwhile, on April 12, 2019 the Ministry of Environment and Forest made it public that it would discuss the report of the three-member committee on April 23, and the Ministry fixed 40 minutes for the discussion.
Now the AASU statement says: “Ignoring the directive issued to the NGT by the apex court, the Centre is prompt to implement the project. Lakhimpur Lok Sabha seat went to poll on April 11 and the very next day i.e. on April 12 the Union Ministry made the discussion on the expert committee public. What’s more is – the issue of safety of people living downstream the project in Assam will be sealed in just forty minutes.”