NEEPCO Firm on Killing Hydro Electric Project Over Umium River

Diphu May 16: There have been almost two years of commotion by political parties and environmental activists in Meghalaya and Assam over the proposed 55 Mega watt Killing Hydro Electric Project over the Umium River. The dam is located along the Assam Meghalaya border, and effects the Umsoai region of Karbi Anglong district’s Hamren subdivision, around 200 kilometres from Diphu.

The North Eastern Electric Power Corporation has issued a declaration negating the claims of the bordering population and activists that the gravity dam of the project will inundate huge areas on either side whenever excess water is released.

Recently the Tiwa community inhabiting the Assam – Meghalaya border particularly of Amri MAC (member of Autonomous Council) constituency spoke out abut the issuance of a ‘no objection’ certificate given to NEEPCO. The certificate was given by both Assam and Meghalaya governments as well as the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council initially to conduct a survey to ascertain the prospect of a 240 megawatt hydro electric project.

The river Killing or Umiam originates from the high altitudes of Meghalaya and merges with the Kopili river near Nagaon district. The proposed dam is planned to be constructed in the upper stream of the river within Karbi Anglong district.

The NEEPCO authority publicly announced that it has started preparatory technical works to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Project (run-of-river type) on the basis of the no objection certificate from the Assam and Meghalaya Governments and it has completed preparation of a pre-feasibility report (PFR) on the Killing project.

The NEEPCO declaration claimed that the installed capacity of the project will be 55 MW and the proposed dam will be located near Mikir Pathar village in Karbi Anglong district. The pre-feasibility report shows the maximum water level of the reservoir to be impounded by a 44 metre high concrete gravity dam at an elevation of 514 metres. The authority asserts that the maximum area likely to be submerged will be about 25 hectares.

Karbi Anglong District Tiwa Students Union and Tiwa Mathonlai Tokhra, All Tiwa Students Union, MLA of Baithalangso Dr. Mansing Rongpi, MLA of Mawhatty, Re-Bhoi district Meghalaya Julies Dorphang, Village headman and government recognised headman, traditional or customary heads of Karbi and other community held a protest rally at Umswoai play ground.

The combines groups submitted a memorandum to Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma through the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya, urging him to retrct the NOC issued to NEEPCO on September 26, 2012 for building the project. However there was very little discussion on the similar NOC issued to NEEPCO by Assam government on July 25, 2013 clearing all legal hurdles for survey and commissioning the project.

The local public leaders claimed they were not consulted by anyone in the state governments before the NOC was issued. They are especially upset because this is a very sensitive matter, where the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people are at stake, plus this project will have a massive environmental impact on a vast area.

“If this project is allowed to go ahead and erection of a dyke for the project is allowed, around 30 thousand hectares of land within Assam and approximately 25 thousand hectares of terrain in Meghalaya in the downstream of the river will be inundated whenever surfeit water is released. Around 15 thousand people of Assam and 10 thousand people of Meghalaya will have to face flash flood like situations perennially,” Dr. Mansing Rongpi MLA of Baithalangso said.

Various Tiwa and Karbi organizations have also claimed that vast areas of Nagaon, Morigaon and Kamrup district will also face disastrous situation whenever excess water is released from the project due to inundation caused by artificial deluge; this will also in a straight line wipe out vast stretches of natural forest existing in both states.

The NEEPCO assessment conducted at the site also declared that no human displacement will occur and no historical or heritage sites will be affected due to submergence. The NEEPCO denied the claims of various agitating organizations that an NOC has been issued to NEEPCO by both the State Governments for construction of a 100 metre high dam on Umiam River near Lamalong which will submerge a 600 sq km area affecting 20 inhabited villages of over 1,000 families as not at all correct.

The NEEPCO pointed out that Ministry of Environment; Forest & Climate Change gave a clearance in December 2014 for pre-construction activities at the proposed site of the project and the terms of reference (TOR) for preparation of an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)/EMP (Environmental Management Plan) for the Killing Project. All environmental mediation measures to protecting the environment as per the prevailing laws and acts, will be taken as a part of the project, they said.

The public sector power giant has reasoned the protest rally by the local people demanding scrapping of the project is because of their wrong view of the dam submerging vast inhabited areas.

The authority has appealed for support in favour of the project in consideration of the benefits to be derived by the local populace in the project area. Those bnefits will be in the form of direct as well as indirect employment, and infrastructural development. They say various new modern facilities will improve the socio-political and economic conditions of the area, and they expect the local public will cooperate with NEEPCO in the long run.

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.