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A new dam will be built in the ecologically fragile region of Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India, close to the border with China. It will be India’s largest and one of the world’s tallest dams.

The committee has refused environmental clearances for the project twice because it would destroy forests and impact the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park downstream in Assam state.

The company charged with the dam, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), proposed several changes to the starting project to protect the forest. But on August 28, the Forest Advisory Committee rejected the latest proposal.

In fact, the ecological and social costs of destroying the forest, which is a major source of livelihood for the tribal population, would be far from the benefits of the project.

In its pre-election campaign, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party promised not to go ahead with the project and people supported the party enthusiastically.

The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samittee (KMSS), a farmers’ organization, is now accusing the prime minister of being a traitor;  and other organisations against the dam also protest against the 16,000 crores (US$2.6 million) Dibang project. Most of the power produced will be exported to help ease power shortages elsewhere in India.

The decision of the central government to build the dam has been taken without any public consultation or study of the potential impacts in downstream Assam state, ignoring all expert and advisory committees in an attempt to harness “green” hydropower.

The Dibang is located in a strategic and important region, which borders Myanmar in the east, Bhutan in the west and China in the north and it is described by politicians as India's “future powerhouse”, the key focus point of the country's dam building programme. China is involved in a major dam building programme, using the waters of the Brahmaputra, which is one of the world's major rivers, winding across the Tibetan Plateau through China, India and Bangladesh.

The dam building programme has been controversial: opponents say it not only ignores geological and ecological factors, but it also fails to take into account the impact of climate change in the region. Moreover, no plan has been put in place: though India and China have signed a limited agreement to data on river flow, there is no specific deal on managing the Brahmaputra's waters.

In the meantime, protests about the dams have been growing, while Narendra Modi keeps repeating about the importance of hydropower can also be harnessed using smaller projects, while protecting the environment.


The gLAWcal Team

EPSEI project

Monday, 29 September 2014

(Source: China Dialogue)