KMSS seeks halt to mega dam clearances

GUWAHATI, Nov 3 – Leading peasant organization Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today launched its anti-mega dam agitation with the dispatch of its memorandum on the issue to the Prime Minister of the country, chairperson of the UPA, Union Power Minister and Union Environment and Forest Minister. Over 1,10,000 people have put their signature on the memorandum.

The memorandum has called for protecting the Brahmaputra and its tributaries as cultural and ecological endowment of the people of the NE region and the country as well. Besides, it has demanded complete moratorium on all clearances, including pre-construction clearances, by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the mega dam hydroelectric power projects of the NE region.

It has also called for immediate revocation of the clearance granted to the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project (LSHEP), 1750-MW Demwe Lower and 1500-MW Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Power Projects. For, it argued, these projects were granted environmental clearance without assessing their downstream impacts as well as prior informed consent of the people.

Constitution of a special study group consisting of independent reviewers, including scientists, social scientists, people's representatives, to study the environmental and social impacts of all the existing dams in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan has also been sought by the memorandum.

In future, it said, the people of Assam will endorse only the small dam projects where the community's rights will be fully ensured and these projects should be taken up only after getting the full, prior informed consent of the people of the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys.

“The Brahmaputra and the Barak river basins are our lifeline and addressing these issues is essential to ensure the long-term social and environmental security of Assam," said the signatories to the memorandum.

Conducting the function, public activist Prof Deven Dutta said that the argument of the authorities that the mega dams could not be abandoned or decommissioned, as huge sums of money have been spent on them, sounds absurd. For, he said, this is tantamount to the assertion that the atom bombs are to be detonated to justify the expenditure of astronomical amounts on them.

Earlier, the members of the KMSS marched to Panbazar from the Navagraha Kali Mandir campus in a procession and they held a meeting in front of the Centenary Gate of Cotton College.

Speakers, including former Cotton College principal Prof Udayaditya Bharali, columnist Nitya Bora, Prof Deven Dutta, advocate Satyendra Prasad Deka, KMSS secretary Akhil Gogoi, Dr Akhil Ranjan Dutta of Gauhati University, AGP leader Hemanta Kalita, Handique Girls' College student Mani Saikia, Cottonian Arup Kalita, among others, questioned the indecision of the State and Central governments in respect to the June 28, 2010 report of the eight-member expert group on the LSHEP.

KMSS secretary Akhil Gogoi demanded that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi should immediately announce his stand on the mega dam issue clearly. In case he fails to side with the people, the Chief Minister should get prepared to face the people's wrath, he warned.

The members of the 'symbolic' gathering at the spot, who also included a good number of leading citizens of the city and representatives of some city colleges like the Handique Girls’ College, Cotton College and B Borooah College, took the pledge to go even to the extent of sacrificing their lives to resist the mega dam hydroelectric power projects. They also vowed to take resort to any sort of militant agitation to attain at their goal.

However, Akhil Gogoi later clarified that the KMSS agitation would not take recourse to violent methods unless compelled by the Government. He also made an appeal to the members of the Congress to join the movement.