NHPC flouted rules in Subansiri project: RTI activist
Accusing the NHPC of flouting norms in the formulation and implementation of the Subansiri Hydro Electric Project, RTI activist J N Khataniar said this could lead to "serious ecological and seismic problems in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring areas."
Releasing details secured by means of RTI from the NHPC, the Brahmaputra Board and the Ministry for Environment and Forest, Khataniar told reporters here today that the state sector power giant gave "misleading advertisements" in newspapers and media regarding the project.
"In newspapers advertisements, NHPC claimed to have secured statutory and regulatory clearances for the project from ten bodies, including the MoEF, the Ministry of Power, the Brahmaputra Board, Central Water Commission (CWC), Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and so on before beginning construction.
"However, when I filed an RTI seeking information in this regard from the Brahmaputra Board, I was given a reply that no such clearance has been given," he said.
The Brahmaputra Board, in its reply, said: "...it is to state that there is no information regarding requisite statutory and regulatory clearance of the Subansiri Lower Hydro Electric Project issued by Brahmaputra Board to NHPC prior to the starting of the construction works of the project."
The activist, who is also an engineer, conducted on-site inspections at the site in Assam-Arunachal border said, "around Rs 7,000 crore has been spent there since 2003-04, despite violation of clearance rules."
The Subansiri project is an under construction gravity dam on the Subansiri river on the border of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Khataniar also filed an RTI with the NHPC regarding the issue of clearances. The power major in a reply submitted clearance letters from only four bodies -- CEA, MoEF, Ministry of Power and the Assam government.
"The Brahmaputra Board has clearly stated that no clearance was given by it. And the NHPC also failed to give any information regarding clearances it claimed to have secured from five other bodies/ministries", Khataniar said.
"The CEA had in 2003 made it clear that its clearance is granted only on the condition that the NHPC will secure statutory clearance from the Brahmaputra Board and the CWC. As such, it is a clear violation of the special clause enshrined in CEA's clearance", he alleged.
As per the clearance from the MoEF, it was stipulated that the ministry's regional office at Shillong would monitor implementation of environmental safeguards at the project area.
"In reply to an RTI filed with the MoEF, I was informed that monitoring was conducted from April 2004 to March 2009...why monitoring of the project was not continued by the MoEF's Shillong office for the last three years could not be explained, which is another serious violation of the conditions of environment clearance", Khataniar asserted.
As per the clearance given by the Assam government, the state chief engineer of the state water resources department was to be included in the project monitoring committee.
"In reply to another RTI application, the government informed that the concerned official has never been invited for such work by the NHPC", he said.
He further added: "The area, situated in the trans-Himalayan region, is active seismologically and is an earthquake prone zone. Such flouting of norms may have serious repercussions on the entire Northeast".