Work on the dam had come to a halt in 2011 following massive protests from several organizations. NHPC officials on Saturday said the cost of the project has escalated to Rs 20,000 crore from the previous estimate of Rs 6,900 crore because of prolonged delay.
Union power secretary Sanjiv Nandan Sahai took a review meeting of the project wherein the CMD of NHPC briefed him about the various construction activities and downstream river-protection works. “It was assured that the project shall be commissioned by March 2022,” NHPC confirmed in a statement on Saturday, adding that the power secretary has asked the employees to work with maximum zeal to complete the dam as per schedule.
Amidst massive protests from several leading organizations headed by the All Assam Students’ Union and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, construction of the dam was stalled for more than eight years. The organizations were apprehensive of the devastating impact of the dam on the downstream areas in Assam, especially after some of the experts from the state pointed out defects in selection of the site in a region that lies in Zone V, the most seismically-active area of the country.
Work on the project finally resumed on October 15 last year following recommendations from the NGT. Power secretary Sahai visited all the sites of the project and took stock of the progress.
Speaking about measures taken to mitigate concerns of the stakeholders, a source in NHPC said, “Major corrective measures, as pointed out by the National Green Tribunal, have been undertaken to address the concerns about river-bank erosion in areas upto 30 km downstream from the dam site. The 23km target has already been achieved under monitoring of the core committee of the Assam government.”
The source added, “Earlier, all eight units of the project were about to operate only in peak hours in the evening. However, considering the apprehension that the river may go totally dry due to this in the lean season, one unit will run throughout the day as per National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) recommendations.”
NHPC officials reassured that there are no further legal hurdles now and work is on full swing.
Speaking about the benefits of the project, the officials informed that once operational, Assam will get free power of around 25 MW from it. Apart from this, the quota of power for Assam has been enhanced to 508 MW, adding 300 MW of power from central quota’s share. On the other hand, Arunachal Pradesh will also get around 200 MW of free power from the project as a major portion of the submerged area is located in the frontier state.
During the visit, Sahai was accompanied by Naresh Kumar, chief secretary of Arunachal Pradesh, AK Singh, CMD of NHPC, Tanmay Kumar, Union power ministry’s joint secretary (hydro), PS Lokhande, commissioner (power), Arunachal Pradesh, and Ratish Kumar, director (projects) at NHPC.