“The Lower Subansiri scheme illustrates the problems of the dams in Northeast India. The 2000 MW project is being developed by NHPC, an Indian state enterprise, at a cost of approximately $2 billion. The 116 meter-high dam will submerge a 47 kilometer stretch of the Subansiri River, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. Its electricity would be exported from the impoverished mountain region to mainland India. The French export credit agency Coface provided $100 million in funding for the project’s turbine contract. According to official data, only 38 families will be displaced if the dam is completed. Yet the project will wreak havoc with the agriculture and rich ecosystems of the Subansiri and Brahmaputra floodplains.
As Neeraj Vagholikar describes in his excellent report, Damming Northeast India, the water level in the Subansiri will fluctuate 400-fold every day once the project is in operation. In winter, the dam will release a trickle of only 6 cubic meters per second for most of the day, but will gush 2,560 cubic meters per second when electricity demand is highest during the evening hours. “The project will starve and flood the dam on a daily basis,” comments Vagholikar. This will greatly affect agriculture and wildlife in the floodplains and wetlands of Assam, including the Kaziranga National Park, a World Heritage Site. The high concentration of dams on the tributaries of the Brahmaputra will also create great safety risks. Yet the cumulative impacts of the dams in Northeast India have never been assessed.”
Read more: International Rivers