The Kolkata bench of NGT while completing its hearing on a PIL filed by the NGO Assam Public Works (APW), has instructed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to constitute the expert panel to make a thorough study on all aspects, including geology, hydrology, environment, bio-diversity and seismicity, of the Lower Subansiri hydroelectricity project as they are closely associated with the issue of safety of human life as well as aquatic resources and rich bio-diversity of the State. The tribunal has strictly instructed the Centre to include a renowned expert from the Northeast as member of the expert panel.
The NGT has asked the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to make it mandatory for the new committee to consider all previous expert committee reports and studies on possible adverse downstream impacts due to construction of the Lower Subansiri dam. The expert committee, besides submitting its report within 3 months from the date of its constitution, will have to talk to all stakeholders of Lower Subansiri project and common people before making its final report. The committee members will have to conduct spot visits and verifications to know the ground truths about the proposed big dam.
The NGT has asked the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to make it mandatory for the new committee to consider all previous expert committee reports and studies on possible adverse downstream impacts .
The APW had filed its case (346/2013) before the NGT in 2013, citing several manufacturing flaws in the Lower Subansiri dam project. Protests by anti-dam activists against possible environmental impact, including in the downstream areas in Assam have put the hydel power project, situated along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, on hold since December 2011.
Even though the Assam Assembly has unanimously called upon the BJP-led State government to initiate steps for resumption of the stalled 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri hydel project, the latest NGT order on forming an expert committee to study the possible adverse impacts of the project, will surely delay its resumption.
A division bench of the NGO comprising Justice SP Wangri and expert member PC Mishra has also told the Union Ministry to consider the alternative Lower Subansiri big dam model plan submitted by the APW. The tribunal told the Centre to ensure that the expert panel conducts its study and prepare its report considering the seriousness of the issue.
APW chief Abhijeet Sharma while welcoming the NGT order said his organisation is not against construction of dams to generate electricity. He said the APW's prime concern is adverse ecological and seismological impacts due to construction of such dams.