National Hydroelectric Power Corporation to modify Subansiri dam design, add safety measures

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said a Centre-appointed expert panel has suggested additional safety measures in the construction of the stalled Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Project by NHPC. The central decision was conveyed in a letter by the Union Minister of State for Power Jyotiraditya Scindia earlier this week, Gogoi told reporters here.
"As per the recommendation of Thatte Committee, an independent Dam Design Review Panel (DDRP) was formed. It has proposed some additional safety measures in the construction of the dam. Now, NHPC has been asked to modify the design of the dam," the Chief Minister said.
The DDRP examined issues like foundation competency, seismic aspect, dam design and existing ground conditions, the Gogoi said. He said the Power Ministry had accepted the recommendations and asked NHPC to proceed accordingly. Scindia further informed Gogoi that NHPC would implement recommendations of the Joint Steering Committee to mitigate the downstream impact at a cost of about Rs 470 crore.
On allocation of power to Assam, the letter said "the Technical Experts Committee appointed by the Planning Commission to examine technical aspects of the project has recommended that Assam be given first charge on the 300 MW of unallocated power in addition to the already allocated power of 208 MW of paid and 25 MW of free power." The construction work of the ambitious 2,000 MW project on the Subansiri river has been stalled after protests by locals and many organisations, mainly by RTI activist Akhil Gogoi-led Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti.
Gogoi said Scindia had also referred to the delay in the construction due to agitation and asked the Assam government to expedite the work. The project, located at Lower Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh, near North Lakhimpur on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, is the biggest hydroelectric project undertaken in the country so far. The cost of the project was estimated to be around Rs 6,285 crore and scheduled to be commissioned in December 2012. However, strong protests were lodged by various groups on the issues of safety and downstream impact.
Earlier NHPC had constituted an Expert Group consisting of experts from IIT Guwahati, Gauhati University and Dibrugarh University to study the downstream impact after Assam government expressed concerns. To check the structural safety of the dam, the Planning Commission had appointed a two-member Technical Experts Committee to study the technical reports of the Expert Group.
Further, as desired by Assam government, a Joint Steering Committee was formed by NHPC in 2011 to suggest feasible and practicable remedial measures in the downstream areas with reference to Expert Group's recommendations along with issues related to flood, bank erosion and sediment control.