Developing news from Assam: Struggle against the Lower Subansiri dam project

January 12, 2012

As the struggle of the people of Assam intensifies against the lower Subansiri big dam project, and the mainstream media conveniently ignores it, we bring together an account of the struggle from reporting in local newspapers. We hope to follow up by reporting from the ground and in depth analysis of the issues related to the project and peoples’ resistance against it. – Ed.

10 injured in firing on anti-dam agitators – The Assam Tribune, Jan 13
Police detain KMSS protesters, fire in air – The Sentinel, Jan 13
Big dam parley remains inconclusive – The Sentinel, Jan 5
Assam to seek fresh opinion on Arunachal dam’s effects – The Morung Express, Jan 5
Update from KMSS – Jan 4
KMSS, AASU stage blockade against NHPC – The Assam Tribune, Jan 2
Farmers’ outfit resumes indefinite blockade – The Sentinel, Jan 2, 2012
KMSS to start its blockade programme today – The Sentinel, Jan 1, 2012
Arrest and Harassment of Anti Dam Protesters in Assam – PUDR Statement – Dec 29, 2011
NAPM Condemns Arrest and Harassment of Anti Dam Protesters in Assam – Dec 26, 2011

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10 injured in firing on anti-dam agitators

A report from The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – At least 10 anti-mega dam agitators sustained injuries when the Dhemaji district police opened fire on an assembly of protestors at Thekeraguri under Boginadi Police Station of Lakhimpur district around 7.45 pm today. The Dhemaji police, led by the district Superintendent of Police, has been carrying out action against the protestors till the filing of this report, general secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) Akhil Gogoi alleged.

He alleged that the State Government seemed to be keen on turning the process of its discussion with the anti-mega dam agitators into a farce. Or else, there is no logical reason as to why it is applying force to facilitate transportation of huge quantities of diesel and other construction materials to the Gerukamukh site of the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project (LSHEP).

He also made an appeal to the anti-mega dam organisations and the people of the State to take note of this development and to unite for intensifying their agitation against the mega dams coming up in the region.

The KMSS and its allies – Takam Mising Porin Kebang, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba-Chatra Parishad, All Assam Minorities Students’ Union – and the people of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts had to resume their National Highway 52 blockade agitation in a stretch of around 40 km between Ghagornagar and Gogamukh this afternoon. They were protesting the administration’s bid to send five diesel tankers and several construction material-ladden trucks to the LSHEP’s Gerukamukh site.

Later, they withdrew the blockade when around 100 anti-mega dam activists detained by the Boginadi Police were released following a discussion between the leaders of the organisations spearheading the agitation and the Lakhimpur district administration.

The Dhemaji police entered the scene just when the agitators were withdrawing from the NH-52 and opened fire on them, Gogoi alleged.

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Police detain KMSS protesters, fire in air

A report from The Sentinel, Assam

GUWAHATI, Jan 13: At a time when the people of the State are in a joyous mood for the Bhogali Bihu celebrations, the North Bank of the Brahmaputra is burning with the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) continuing its blockade programme in the districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji.

The protest programme of the KMSS took an ugly turn today after the police forcefully arrested more than 100 supporters of the KMSS from the Ghaghor Chariali area near National Highway No. 52 in Lakhimpur district and allowed the NHPC trucks carrying the construction materials to move towards the Lower Subansiri Project site. The police also fired in the air to disperse the protesters. The police also took the agitators to the Bhoganadi Thana. However, hundreds of the local people came out on the streets to stop the NHPC vehicles from moving.

Akhil Gogoi, KMSS secretary, said that for the last few days police were forcefully arresting the agitators who were staging protest in the two districts. “It seems that the NHPC is using the police against the agitators and trying to move the construction materials with the help of the police,” Gogoi added.

The big dam protest is being spearheaded by KMSS which is holding protests along the National Highway No. 52 and preventing trucks from carrying machineries and equipment to the NHPC project site in Arunachal Pradesh.

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Big dam parley remains inconclusive

More talks between Assam Government and anti-dam groups to be held

A report from The Sentinel, Assam

GUWAHATI, Jan 5, 2012: The big dam parley between the Assam Government and the agitating groups of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chattra Parishad (AJYCP), the Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) and the Mising Mimag Kebang (MMK) remained inconclusive today.

After the meeting, general secretary of the KMSS Akhil Gogoi said that though the discussion was held in a congenial atmosphere, no concrete outcome emerged from the talks. The peasant body said that the government, however, had agreed to accept the report of the proposed expert committee which the latter would constitute, but disagreed to stop the ongoing construction works at the Lower Subansiri Project site.

While jointly addressing the press persons after the 7-hour marathon meeting with the leaders of the anti-dam groups at Dispur, GoM chairman Pradyut Bordoloi and two other members Rokybul Hussain and Ardhendu Dey said that the first meeting with the anti-dam groups was “constructive”, but the government would take final decision on the fate of the ongoing big dam projects after getting reports from the CD Thatte Committee constituted by the Central Government and another expert committee proposed by the State Government.

“We will accept what these two reports say about the big dams in the region,” said Pradyut Bordoloi, adding, “We can’t stop the construction of the Lower Subansiri dam right now, but we will clear all the doubts in the minds of the people and the agitators relating to the same.”

According to the GoM members, the Indian Government has told the Central Water Commission to conduct the basin study of the other proposed dams in the region.

The KMSS also said that the expert committee proposed by the State Government would submit its report on the lower Subansiri dam within six months. “The GoM said that if the expert committee report on the lower Subansiri dam comes negative, then the government will accept it,” said Akhil Gogoi.

The KMSS, however, said that it would continue to block the transportation of construction materials to the Lower Subansiri Project site at all cost, but would not stop the transportation of food stuffs, water and diesel for running generators to the dam construction site.

“The government didn’t accept our demand to stop the construction of the Lower Subansiri dam,” said the KMSS general secretary, adding, “The government told us not to stop the transportation of construction materials to the dam site, which we couldn’t accept.”

While on the issue of other dams which the Arunachal Pradesh Government proposes to build, Gogoi said, “The GoM told us that the Assam Government would first study the feasibility reports of these proposed dams and after that it will decide what to do with these projects.”

According to Gogoi, the GoM has promised the peasant body to hold more such discussions in the coming days to sort out the issue. “Our blockade against the transportation of construction materials by the NHPC vehicles to the project site will continue,” Gogoi said, adding, “The government is trying to divide the agitating groups in this issue. But we will never allow the government to do the same.”

“We appeal to the agitators to lift their blockade programme for congenial atmosphere for talks. We can understand the sentiments of the agitators. They are not against the development of Assam, but they are worried about the impact of such big dams in the State. We will clear all the doubts in the days to come,” said the GoM.

A group of representatives mainly consisting members from the AASU, MMK and TMPK also participated in the meeting with the GoM today. The group has placed its demands before the GoM, which include the holding of a tripartite discussion involving the Central Government, Assam Government and anti-dam groups to find an amicable solution to the issue and a downstream impact study as well as cumulative impact assessment before construction of any big dam in Arunachal. The delegation also demanded that the Assam Government should take up these issues with both the Central and Arunachal governments to take effective steps to keep all the construction works of the Lower Subansiri and other such projects in Arunachal on hold till a solution is arrived through the tripartite discussion.

The TMPK and the MMK have also submitted a memorandum in this regard to the GoM today. “We need more discussions with the State Government in this regard. But till the findings of the expert committee come to the public domain, the NHPC should not carry on with its construction works,” said Samujjal Bhattacharya, AASU advisor.

On January 14, a meeting among the civil society groups, the expert committee and the GoM will be held to discuss the big dam issue. On January 20, the GoM will also held discussion with other indigenous groups of the State.

The anti-dam lobby is opposed to the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project in Arunachal Pradesh, claiming the big dam would have an adverse ecological impact in the downstream areas in adjoining Assam.

The anti-dam groups have since the past one month been off and on staging road blockades, leading to delay in the construction of the power project.

The nearly Rs 10,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam making vociferous protests and demanding scrapping of its construction, citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam.

Despite stiff opposition, the Arunachal Pradesh government is determined to continue with the construction of the dam.

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Assam to seek fresh opinion on Arunachal dam’s effects

A report from The Morung Express

Guwahati, January 5 (IANS): The Assam government Thursday assured more than two dozen-odd anti-dam organisations that it would seek fresh expert opinion within six months on whether the 2,000 MW hydro power project in adjoining Arunachal Pradesh would lead to adverse ecological impact in downstream areas. A group of five ministers constituted by the government held talks with four major anti-dam groups, representing more than 30 different organisations, in Guwahati.

“We told the groups that the government would seek expert opinion within six months if at all the dam in Arunachal Pradesh was safe or not or whether it could have any ecological impact in the downstream areas as apprehended,” state Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi told journalists after a seven-hour long marathon meeting.

Among the anti-dam groups that took part in the meeting includes the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU), the Krishak Mukti Samaj Samity (KMSS), the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and the Takam Mising Poring Kebang (TMPK). “We wanted the government to ask the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to stop all works at the ongoing Lower Subansiri power project site until the expert committee report was ready. But the government said it would only ensure that the NHPC project would not allowed to be commissioned until the expert report comes in,” KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi said after the meeting.

The striking groups said they would continue to protest along the National Highway 52 and prevent trucks carrying machineries and equipment to the NHPC project site in Arunachal Pradesh. The National Highway 52 is the main lifeline linking Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of India via Assam. The anti-dam groups have since the past one month staging road blockades on and off leading to delay in construction of the power project. The nearly Rs.10,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam, making vociferous protests and demanding scrapping of the construction work citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam

The Arunachal Pradesh government has signed MoUs with several private firms for 10 major hydropower projects to generate an estimated 30,000 MW power in 10 years’ time. The state, bordering Myanmar and the Tibet region, has the potential to generate an estimated 50,000 MW of hydropower. Among the major projects currently being executed in the state are the Ranganadi project, the Subansari project and the Taloh power project. Despite stiff opposition, the Arunachal Pradesh government is adamant on continuing with the construction of dams.

Impasse over the dam protest continues

Guwahati | January 5 (NNN): The impasse over the dam protest continues as talks between the state government of Assam and the organisations spearheading the protest failed today. Several organisations are protesting against the construction of a big dam for the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro-electric Project along Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

Representatives of Assam government comprised of five senior ministers held talks with leaders of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS), a farmers organisation based in Assam. Reports said the ministers assured the agitators that experts would be engaged to study the impact of the project which may take about six months. However, the talks could not end well after the protestors demanded that the construction work be halted immediately.

Construction works for the project, being constructed by the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation (NHPC), has been badly hit in the wake of an indefinite blockade enforced by the protestors. The protestors are not allowing any vehicle carrying construction materials to move to the dam site. “We’ve told the government in no uncertain terms that the construction works should be suspended till the experts come out with their report as regards the possible downstream impact,” KMSS leader and noted RTI activist Akhil Gogoi told journalists.
He accused the government of trying to cause a rift between the protesting groups. “Why did they not invite all the anti-dam groups? What made them to sit separately with us?” Gogoi asked. He added that the blockade against the NHPC would continue. Advisor of All Assam Students Union (AASU) Samujjal Bhattacharya wondered as to how the HNPC was constructing a dam of such magnitude in a highly seismic zone without studying the cumulative downstream impact.

He said, “The talks are a good beginning. We want solution of the issue through talks and so, agitating. Government should take some concrete measures.” The ASSU leader appealed to the NHPC to immediately suspend works and stop carrying construction materials to the project site by respecting the ongoing process of talks. The AASU leader warns of a statewide agitation if the government does not pay heed to their demand.

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Jan 4 – Update from KMSS

The Assam govt has finally agreed to hold talks with people’s organization on the issue of mega dam in Lower Subhansiri area that people are opposing since last one month. The anti dam movement led by KMSS and AASU has pressurized govt to listen to people’s resistance against construction of such big dams. The group of minister and the people’s organization representative will talk across the tables on 5th January in Gauhwati.

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Jan 2- KMSS, AASU stage blockade against NHPC

An article from The Assam Tribune

NORTH LAKHIMPUR, Jan 2 – The anti-dam movement activists led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and its associate organisations resumed their blockade against NHPC in North Lakhimpur for an indefinite period from today.

The KMSS and its associate organisations like MMK, AATASU, AADSU, AAMSU and AJYCP blocked movement of construction materials meant for NHPC’s dam site at Gerukamukh after a gap of two days on NH-52 at Ghagar Nagar in North Lakhimpur today.

Similarly, the All Assam Students’ Union and 13 other organisations started their blockade against the NHPC on NH-52 at Kakoi Chariali in North Lakhimpur from today. The AASU yesterday made it clear that they would stage a complete blockade on movement of NHPC’s construction materials across the State to make them come to the negotiating table to resolve the impasse on the mega dam on river Subansiri at Gerukamukh. Both these blockades led by the KMSS and AASU stalled the movements of vehicles carrying materials and construction goods of NHPC in North Lakhimpur.

Our Staff Reporter from Guwahati adds: The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and 26 organizations representing different ethnic groups have extended the blockade against movement of materials for the Lower Subansiri project for a period of three more days with effect from today.

The AASU and 26 organizations have been demanding that construction of all mega dams in the highly seismic zone including the Subansiri project should be stopped as per the recommendations of experts.

The AASU and 26 organizations also created observation centres at different parts of the State from today to keep watch on the movement of the materials for the Subansiri dam project. The AASU, in a release, said that the observation centres have been set up at Kake in Lakhimpur district, Bishwanath Chariali in Sonitpur district, Bebezia in Nagaon, Bhebarghat in Darrang, Rangiya in Kamrup (Rural), Tihu in Nalbari, Patacharkuchi in Barpeta , Patiladoha in Bongaigaon, Golokganj in Dhubri, Dudhnoi in Goalpara and Jagiroad in Morigaon district.

The release said that the observation centres would function for three days.

Representatives from the AASU and 26 organizations would meet again in Guwahati on January 4 to decide the future course of action.

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Jan 2 – Farmers’ outfit resumes indefinite blockade

A The Sentinel, Assam article

GUWAHATI/DHEMAJI, Jan 2: The North Bank of the Brahmaputra has witnessed a wave of protest as the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti has again resumed their indefinite national highway blockade programme in the two districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji today.

The influential peasant body temporarily lifted its ongoing protest against the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and Arunachal Pradesh government for two days — December 31 and January 1 — to build a congenial atmosphere for talks on the controversial dam issue with the Assam government.

Besides the KMSS, 30 other organizations of the State have also joined the blockade programme as part of their campaign to prevent the NHPC from constructing the lower Subansiri dam on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

The protesters of the KMSS blocked the national highway at Ghaghor in Lakhimpur district preventing movement of NHPC vehicles carrying construction materials to the project site. Sources said that more than 2,000 villagers joined the agitators at the Ghaghor camp. The members of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) have also blocked the national highways in Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts.

The national highway no. 52 is the main lifeline linking Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of India via Assam.

The AASU has also announced that monitoring units, comprising its members and allied groups, had started functioning from Monday in Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Nagaon, Darrang, Kamrup, Nalbari, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Goalpara and Morigaon districts to keep check on the movement of NHPC vehicles from or through these districts if any, to the project site.

“We shall not allow a single vehicle carrying equipment meant for the NHPC,” AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told IANS. “We shall intensify our movement if the government does not agree to shelve the NHPC project,” said KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi.

The anti-dam lobby is opposed to the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Power Project in Arunachal Pradesh, claiming the big dam would have an adverse ecological impact in the downstream areas in adjoining Assam.

The anti-dam groups have since the past one month been off and on staging road blockades, leading to delay in the construction of the power project.

“Surely, the frequent strikes are hampering our work,” NHPC executive director AK Chabbra said, adding, “We have completed similar projects elsewhere in the country and we are confident all safety measures are being taken here and there should be no apprehension as far as safety aspects are concerned.”

Sources informed that the continuous blockade by the KMSS and AASU has triggered a scarcity of food and construction material at the project site. The KMSS supporters today rounded up few Dophola tribal people from the Gogamukh area for buying daily ration for the members of the construction companies at the project site. Later, these people admitted that they are being used by the workers of the construction companies to buy ration for them.

The nearly Rs 10,000 crore project that began in 2003 is mired in a blazing row with several environmental and pressure groups in Assam making vociferous protests and demanding scrapping of its construction, citing adverse ecological and environmental impact in downstream areas in Assam.

Despite stiff opposition, the Arunachal Pradesh government is determined to continue with the construction of the dam.

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Jan 1, 2011 – KMSS to start its blockade programme today

A The Sentinel, Assam article

GUWAHATI/DHEMAJI, Jan 1: After two days of temporary suspension of blockade programme by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) in the two districts of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji on the North bank of the Brahmaputra, the influential peasant group along with TMPK, AJYCP, ATASU, AAMSU and ADSU has declared to start their blockade stir from tomorrow.

The KMSS temporarily lifted its ongoing protest against the NHPC and Arunachal Pradesh government for two days – December 31 and January 1.

General Secretary of the KMSS and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi said that tomorrow’s blockade programme in the two districts would be an indefinite one. “The agitators will be camped at Ghaghor in Lakhimpur and Gogamukh in Dhemaji,” Gogoi added.

He further said that the blockade was lifted to build a congenial atmosphere for talks on the big dam issue with the Assam Government. “We have not received any positive signal from the State Government for talks on the issue. It also proves that Dispur is not at all sincere in this regard. Therefore, we have no other way but to resort to blockade programme,” said the KMSS general secretary.

The KMSS and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) are opposing the NHPC’s big dam project at the lower Subansiri site and blocking movement of men and materials related to the lower Subansiri project at Gerukamukh on the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border where the NHPC project site is located.

Meanwhile, the AASU along with 26 other indigenous organizations, which started a three-day blockade in the two districts from Friday last against NHPC vehicles carrying construction materials to the dam site at Gerukamukh, has also extended its blockade programme till January 4.

The AASU has also announced that monitoring units consisting of its members and allied groups would start functioning from tomorrow in Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Nagaon, Darrang, Kamrup, Nalbari, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Goalpara and Morigaon districts to keep check on the movement of NHPC vehicles in any from or through these districts.

Meanwhile, sources informed that the continuous blockade by the KMSS and AASU has triggered scarcity of food and construction materials at the project site. If the blockade continues for next few more days, the scarcity of food and construction materials would be acute. Irked by the KMSS’ blockade, the Arunachal Pradesh Government has urged the Centre to ban the KMSS, which was, however, opposed by Assam.

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Arrest and Harassment of Anti Dam Protesters in Assam – PUDR Statement

Dec 29 2011

Which ‘People’ are the Dams for? PUDR Condemns arrest and lathi-charge on anti-dam protesters in Assam

December 29, 2011

People’s Union for Democratic Rights strongly condemns the police firing, lathi-charge and arrest of peaceful protesters of the anti-dam movement in Assam in the last two days. Nearly 400 people who had been gathering at the protest site at Ranganadi in Lakhimpur town of north Assam since 16th of December were arrested in the wee hours of 26th December. Later when thousands of protesters reassembled to continue their protest at Chauldhowa in the morning of 27th December, police fired in the air, burst tear gas shells, and resorted to lathi-charge to evict the protesters.

The people in the district of Lakhimpur are protesting as the government has started work on the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) on the Subansiri river, without taking into consideration the economic and social implications the dam would have for the people of rural Assam. The farmers of rural Assam have already experienced the outcomes of construction of dams in several other rivers. For past several years the cultivable agricultural lands have been damaged due to sand-siltation, and life has become miserable due to sudden floods caused by water released by hydro-electric projects. Even a report from an expert committee of scientists from IIT Guwahati and other universities of Assam has warned the government against such mega-dams in a tectonically instable region, as it might result in big earthquakes.

Despite such implications pointed out by various sections of society, the government is insistent on building the dam, as it would allegedly increase energy supply to the people. When thousands and thousands of people consisting of farmers, daily wage-earners, school teachers, students and others from middle classes have come out against the dam, the government rhetoric of development for the ‘people’ is an irony.

PUDR, while extending its solidarity to KMSS and other organizations leading the protest, condemns such double standards on the part of the government and demands that the protesters be released immediately, the injured be offered medical treatment and compensation and all projects of big dams in the Brahmaputra river valley, including the one in the Subansiri river be scrapped.

Paramjeet Singh
Preeti Chauhan
Secretaries
PUDR

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NAPM Condemns Arrest and Harassment of Anti Dam Protesters in Assam

New Delhi, December 26 : Tonight at 2:15 am Assam Police in collusion with other security forces swooped down on the protesters at Ranganadi who have been blockading the Highway since December 16 and thwarting state’s attempt to carry turbines and dam materials to project site of Lower Subansiri Dam. Nearly 200 people have been arrested and earlier also security forces have been harassing the ptotestors. In past too, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti fighting against the big dams on Brhamaputra have faced government’s ire and often been attacked and jailed. NAPM stands in solidarity with KMSS and other students groups of the region who have been consistently opposed to the Big dams in highly sensitive seismic zone. We condemn the sustained action and harassment of KMSS and their activists and targeting of Akhil Gogoi for constantly opposing the destructive development policies and corruption of the government machinery.

For past few weeks there been a serious agitation going on against the Assam government and NHPC. Thousands and thousands of people daily wage earners, farmers, school teachers, students, and others from middle class have been gathering at the protest site at Lakhimpur town.

The dam on river Subansiri at Gerukamukh is for the 2010MW Lower Subansiri Hydro Electric Project (LSHEP) under the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). The project is scheduled to be completed by 2015, but a series of questions need to be answered about the big dams, like impact on agriculture, fishes, ecology, earthquakes etc.

The Assamese farmers have joined this movement spontaneously because they have learned from their experiences. Small hydro-projects have already taught them a lesson. For past several years, they have no cultivation as sand siltation had damaged their fields, sudden floods caused by the water released by the hydro-projects have led them to nowhere.

Even though a report by an expert committee comprising scientists from IIT Guwahati and universities in Assam have advised the government against mega dams in a tectonically unstable region, NHPC and Assam Government is hell bent on implementing the project. Arunachal Pradesh has at least 140 hydroelectric projects, big and small, in various stages of construction, together they will endanger the life of residents of people not only in downstream but in upstream as well.

NAPM urges the State and Union government to seriously look at the dam building in country in light of the ongoing controversy over the Mullaperiyar Dam, ongoing agitations against the big dams in Assam, Vishungadh-Pipalkoti HEP in Uttarakhand, Polavaram in Andhra Pradesh, and various dams in Narmada Valley. Dams as a technological tool for development, irrigation, flood control have been exposed. It is high time serious thought was given towards decommissioning of the dams rather than building more big dams.

We demand from Assam government that the protesters be released immediately and big dams in Brhmaputra River Valley, Subasniri rivers be all together scrapped. Ministry of Water Resources in this regard should take the lead and stop planning dams in different states of North East in a highly active seismic zone.

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, Prafulla Samantara, Ramakrishna Raju, Vimal Bhai, Rajendra Ravi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar

Update from a local newspaper:

http://www.sentinelassam.com/mainnews/story.php?sec=1&subsec=0&id=101596&dtP=2011-12-27&ppr=1#101596

Administration’s midnight operation boomerangs, North Bank tense

Our Bureau

GUWAHATI/DHEMAJI, Dec 26: The entire North bank of the State continues to remain tense following the forceful evacuation of anti-dam protestors from three makeshift camps on National Highway 52 on Monday night. Hours after anti-dam activists of five organizations, led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) secretary Akhil Gogoi, announced the extension of their blockade for an indefinite period on Monday morning, police and Army personnel descended at the protest site late last night and forcefully evacuated the protesters, saying that Section 144 has been imposed in the area. Around 200 KMSS activists, including its secretary Akhil Gogoi, were arrested and detained in the Lakhimpur Police Station.

As news of the arrest of the KMSS activists spread, thousands of people today came out on the streets of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district demanding immediate release of the jailed activists and an immediate stop to the construction of the mega hydel power project in Gerukamukh of Lakhimpur.

The two districts have come to a complete halt, with the KMSS and four other organizations calling a 48-hour bandh from the morning today. Protests against the alleged police high-handedness was held in several other parts of the State as well. Petrol depots in Lakhimpur district, which were shut down forcibly by the protestors since yesterday afternoon, remained closed today as well.

Tens of thousands of protestors gathered at Gogamukh Chariali, Silapthar, Subansiri Chauldhuwa (Tekeraguri), Boginadi, Rangandi and other places on National Highway 52 and placed trees and boulders on the road to prevent the movement of vehicles. The police had to resort to baton charge and blank firing in the morning today to dispell the protestors.

Anti-dam activists said they had stopped several trucks and tankers carrying construction material at Ranganadi yesterday night when they were apprehended by the security forces. The vehicles were escorted by the police from Lakhimpur under the cover of darkness.

Talking to The Sentinel, Lakhimpur DC Anwaruddin Chowdhury said, “The activists had stopped the movement of vehicles carrying NHPC material from December 16 last. Though the blockade was meant only for vehicles carrying NHPC goods and construction material, the agitators had started to stop the movement of tankers carrying petrol and essential commodities to Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Arunachal Pradesh. Petrol depots were beginning to close down in Dhemaji and Lakhimpur and prices of essential commodities had also increased.”

Stating that the government could not allow the agitators to take the law into their own hands, Chowdhury said, “In the greater interest of society, the district administration imposed Section 144 in the area from Ranganadi bridge to Gagar tiniali last night. Since the evacuators did not pay heed to our request to disperse from the area, we had to forcefully evict them.”

Stating that the police had to resort to blank firing against a few protestors who had assembled to block vehicles in Sauldhuwa today morning, the Lakhimpur DC said that no agitator was injured in the entire evacuation exercise.

The blockade by the anti-dam activists had badly hit the supply of fuel and essential commodities to the NHPC workers in Gerukamukh and the people of the three districts of East, West and Upper Siang of Arunachal Pradesh. The Deputy Commissioner of East Siang District had sent a SOS message to the Lakhimpur DC requesting him to facilitate the movement of stranded tankers to the neighboring State.

Terming the action of the security forces as unbefitting of a democratically elected government, Akhil Gogoi said at Lakhimpur that no NHPC vehicle would be allowed to move until the authorities conceded to their demand of scraping the dam. The outlawed ULFA has also criticized the crackdown on the protestors