Experts call for major redesign of India’s largest dam

The company behind India’s controversial Lower Subansiri Dam has been asked to modify the dam design amid safety concerns.

In a positive move last month, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi announced an expert panel has suggested additional safety measures in the construction of the stalled Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project.

The 2,000 megawatt dam is being built by the state-owned National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) on the lower reaches of the Subansiri, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is the largest dam in India now under construction.

The controversial project has been stalled for almost two years now because of massive protests in Assam by local people and the farmers’ organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti.

The expert review panel raised concerns about flaws in the dam design and earthquake risks. NHPC have agreed to implement the recommendations of the Joint Steering Committee to mitigate the downstream impact at a cost of about Rs 470 crore.  Social activist from Assam K.K Chatadhara argues this is not enough. “This is a political announcement and it will not work in reality,” he says.

The Subansiri dam is being touted as “another chapter of environment subversion in Northeast India” by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP). The organisation recently sent a letter to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects criticising on the quality of the interim report on the basin-wise Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Subansiri Sub-basin.

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