Perilous Condition in Karbi Langpi Hydro Project

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The 100 mega watt Karbi Langpi hydroelectric project, located at high altitude of Baithalangso in west Karbi Anglong is facing serious threats due to massive soil erosion in the catchment area of the main feeder. Enormous chunks of top soil with green undergrowth and giant size stones slide down into the river near the embankment since the beginning of monsoon downpour in the catchment, causing the accretion of considerable quantities of biomass and debris near the flash point of the regulated torrent.

According to people in the locality, a considerable extent of deforestation in the higher ridges where the principal river Karbi Langpi is revived perennially has left much of the area barren. In addition, the forest department (Hamren Division) did not do any customized work while taking up the so called large scale plantation (in record actually) in the river catchment before actual commissioning of the project. Crores of rupees were allocated by the power sector to the forest department, but they did not use the money for the intended purpose. Neither did the department undertake any conservation measures to protect the existing natural forest cover.

Although the project authority is attempting to prevent wearing down of soil with bamboo guard walls and sand bags, they have found the effort to be more counterproductive than of help so far, according to a project officer. Due to incessant rainfall, water levels are rising in the dam and the ascend is abnormal due to the existence of huge amounts of debris. If the authority choose to release excess water from the dam, thousands of tonnes of mud, stone and other waste will overwhelm clean areas with violent flow of the released water on either side of the river.

At the time of filing this report, the authorities still had not taken any steps to tackle the situation and people of the locality are fully expecting a catastrophic outcome from nature’s fury for which human greed is responsible.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.