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Mega Dam Projects - Impact on North-Eastern States
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A design to tame the vast river system of the Mighty Brahmaputra and unleash the infinite power within it has been capturaing human imagination since the dawn of technology. One of the largest river system in the world, sitting on the foothill of the largest mountain range Himalayan, is nothing but an enormous powerhouse flowing over the a fertile land. This land, politically designated as North-East India, is now about to become the savior to the electricity starving future super power of the world, India. Is the dream that was harnessed even back in 1950s by the Indian government going to be fulfilled? Is the mega dam under construction on the Lower Subansiri on Assam-Arunachal Pradesh a fulfillment of that dream? How will science handle the power of Nature and cultural balance of local society with same hand? Will this dream be a curse or blessing to Assam and North-Eastern states of India?

Dr Sanjib Baruah is answering almost all of these questions and many more, dwindling in common men's mind. In his series of Articles published in various news papers and magazines across India, throw lights into the real picture of the mega dam projects in the region. Dr Baruah's studies spanning years with dam experts, not only put insight to the sceince behind the projects and also their socio-economic cum environmental impact on the local society. His articles can be a good reference to any questions or concerns common people have on the project. His articles keep open the dirty politics and also grave threats beyond just an industrial aspect of such mega dams in Assam and other North-Eastern states of India. It may open eyes of many who are blindly believers of economic growth behind such a mega projects in the region.

Dr. Sanjib Baruah

Dr. Sanjib Baruah is currently professor of political science at Bard College in New York, United States. His articles on the Lower Subansiri Mega Dam projects is an eye opener of not only for the authorities constructing the project and also for the common people of North-East India. He is the author of many books like "India against Itself: Assam and the Politics of Nationality", "Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India", etc.

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  • Political Economy of Hydropower in the Eastern Himalayas

    The large dams being built on the rivers of the eastern Himalayas have become highly controversial. The hydropower that north-east India is expected to produce is meant almost entirely for use elsewhere. That these dams will be exclusively hydropower and not multipurpose dams. more...
  • L.C Jain, Assam and mega dams

    There are often references to the World Commission on Dams [WCD] and its 2001 report Dams and Development in the discussions on Lower Subansiri and the other hydropower dams in Arunachal Pradesh. But one rarely hears of one of the reportís key authors - the Commissionís Vice Chair, Gandhian activist and economist the late L. C Jain. more..
  • Subansiri River Water Dispute Tribunal

    The Ministry of Water Resources has now on its website the draft National Water Policy 2012. Parts of the document may surprise those following the debates on Lower Subansiri. Some of the ideas are fully in line with what the protesters are saying about how decisions ought to be made on mega dams. more..
  • Lower Subansiri and the Politics of Expertise

    A major focus of the debate on dams has been the safety of large dams in earthquake prone Northeast India. By comparison, much less attention has been paid to a particular feature of these dams: that they are almost all designed solely to generate electricity. more..
  • Dams and Livelihoods

    There are often references to the World Commission on Dams [WCD] and its 2001 report Dams and Development in the discussions on Lower Subansiri and the other hydropower dams in Arunachal Pradesh. But one rarely hears of one of the reportís key authors -- the Commissionís Vice Chair, Gandhian activist and economist the late L. C Jain. more..

Lower Subansiri Dam - Photo by kazu Ahmed , courtesy

Do you know these facts?

  • India is the fourth largest consumer of electricity in the world after US, China ans Russia. But in 2011 the country was running on a deficit of 10% which is close to 12,000 MW.
  • India's power is the main fuel to it's growth and need constant supply of mmore power to sustain it's growth. The country's answer to it's power crisis is the 150 dams project in Arunachal Pradesh of N-E India. Many of the dam projects will supply more than 1000 MW of electricity with a total capacity of some 40,000 MW!
  • The current mega dam project under construction is the 'Lower Subansiri Dam' situated on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh. This dam will have a capacity of 2000 MW and once completed, it will be the largest hydro-electric project in the country and one of the largest in the world.
  • In the earlier plans of dam projects by Indian government in Arunachal Pradesh had a vision of multipurpose dam proejcts. Unfortunately the course of the plans changes over time, and the power hungry government turned over most of the projects into single-purpose "power-only" dams. Unlike multipurpose projects where the resources generated by hydropower are used to fund public goods like irrigation, flood control or navigation, in single purpose hydropower dams there is little effort to balancing the conflicting interest at stake, and to making development equitable.
  • The current lower Subansiri dam reservoir will submerge 45 kilometer length of Subansiri river and will destroy close to 30 square kilometer of land. This destruction will include the rare rain forests, part of a wildlife sanctuary and an elephant corridor.
  • If Indian government completes it's dream of 150 projects, it will create a devastating affect for the most beautiful wilderness in the country. Unlimited area of breathtakin rain forest, probabaly the best white water in the world, rare wildlife species, rare fish species will be destroyed forever. The serne beauty that has immense potential for tourism will vanish just in the blink. It will completely shake the natural balance of the North-Eastern region and it's hard to imagine the consequences of the same to the local people.
  • Assam, sitting at the foothill of the Arunachal Pradesh, already a victim of grave flood situation. The dam project will change the complete geography and demography of the region. The livelihood of the region will be affected, thousands of people suffer for agriculture, fishing and homes.
  • From economic point of view, the host state, Arunachal Prasesh, will be compensated handsomely with royalties from hydropower sales, and some of the people displaced in a physical sense in the immediate project area will be compensated and rehabilitated. But a large share of the socioeconomic costs will be borne disproportionately by thousands of poor people who depend on small-scale fishing and subsistence agriculture in a very large region, well beyond the area covered by the so-called environmental impact assessment reports. This large areas are none but the Brahmaputra valley, Assam.
  • The natural disaster handling of these projects are also very important. Geographers characterise north-east India as a seismically active region where earthquakes impact the hydrologic characteristics and morphology of rivers and water bodies. In this region such changes occur not just in the vastness of geological time, but in the time-scale of ordinary humans. The earthquakes of richter scale more than 8 has been witnessed every few decades in this region. The destruction of such violent earthquake has affected the complete geogrpahy of the rivers many times. But construction of Subansiri project is hardly equipped to meet such devastation, and if it fails to sustain an earthquake of this sort, it may flush away everything and anything around it's vicinity into the Brahmaputra.
  • It is believed that there is no proper research is done to protect the demography and environment of the region. As the economic pressure is extremely high on the government, it is apparent that the demography or environment is paying less attention to the government.

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