Panic as NEEPCO moots total Ranganadi shutdown

‘Won’t allow,’ say downstream orgs

[ Tongam Rina ]

ITANAGAR, Jan 23: A circular by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) regarding shutdown of the Ranganadi (Panyor) Hydro Electric Plant (RHEP) in Yazali under Lower Subansiri district, by diverting the water downstream, has created panic in the area.
The shutdown is to be effective from 1 February to 30 April.
Two organisations-the All Kimin Youth Welfare Association (AKYWA) and the Lichi-Cher Ranganadi Project Affected Area Management Committee (LCRPAAMC) said that they would not allow the shutdown as it would mean release of silts into the river.
“In monsoon season, dams overflow resulting in floods of the downstream and silts are released into the river, slowly killing whatever is left of the river ecology,” said Bamang Tare, the president of the LCRPAAMC.
He alleged that the NEEPCO has not made any provision for dumping silts.
Speaking to this daily, Gida Kakum, president of the AKYWA said that his organization will not allow the shutdown to take place unless the RHEP guarantees safety and security of the people and domestic animals downstream.
“The REHP cannot get away with irresponsible behaviour,” he said, alleging that animals and human lives are lost every year because of unannounced release of the dam water.
Kakum further alleged that the district administration was not consulted before the RHEP authorities took the decision.
“The NEEPCO do not talk to us directly. Every time water has to be released, they inform the district administration, who in turn advices precaution,” he said.
Kakum claimed that the RHEP callously circulated a message on Whatsapp regarding the release of water even before they informed the local administration in Kimin or Yupia.
Adding to it, Tare informed that the NEEPCO has not heeded to any of its demand, which includes release of 30 percent original river water of Panyor, job provision, compensation for land and animals, rehabilitation of villages which are vulnerable to flood, free electrification, construction of anti-erosion measures at Lichi, Upper Cher (Hawa Camp), Nyokuring, Bada, Komasiki, Lower Cher and Upper Jumi, implementation of welfare schemes and inclusion of downstream committees under CSR-CD schemes.
“Since 2015, the NEEPCO has started CSR programme in the area. By giving us Rs 10-15 lakhs per year, NEEPCO seems to believe that its responsibility is over and it can release or retain water as it pleases,” Tare said.
The AKYWA and LCRPAAMC have written to the papum Pare deputy commissioner, expressing their concern that release of such huge amount of water with silt will have adverse impact on the river’s ecology downstream.
Deputy Commissioner Dr Joram Beda has called a meeting of the affected downstream people, organisations and the RHEP next week.
Dr Beda said that his office has received a letter stating that the RHEP will be removing the silt by slowly emptying the reservoir and that trucks will remove silt and that it would not be emptied downstream.
The RHEP authorities have been asked to share their standard operating procedure during the meeting.
Meanwhile, the sub divisional office of Kimin has written to the RHEP not to release water during picnic season as it would inundate the amusement park built and electric poles, overhead conductor on the bank of Panyor River.
SDO Likha Tejji further wrote that water should not be released between 15 January and 31 March as it is the picnic season. The letter written on 3 January also mentions that release of water would lead to hue and cry among the public.
According to the NEEPCO circular, the shutdown is to facilitate “repairing works at various locations of the project such as the power house, surge shaft gates, tunnel, intake, dam gates etc for which dewatering of the reservoir and the tunnel is essential.”
During the shutdown, the river inflow of the Ranganadi shall have to be diverted from entering into the tunnel and the same shall be released downstream by opening of the radial gates of the Ranganadi dam, the circular reads.
The dewatering of the reservoir may take up to four days. During the time, 1 cumec of water, in addition to the normal river inflow will be released, after which the normal river flow will continue during the entire shutdown period.
The NEEPCO asked the villagers residing in and around the reservoir area as well as on the bank of Panyor on the downstream of diversion dam and Pare, downstream of Powerhouse not to go near the reservoir or on the banks of the rivers.
It further said that domesticated animals should be kept away from the river and picnicking should be avoided.
The corporation further says that it shall “not take any responsibility for any loss/damage to life and property etc in case of any accident owing to violation of the notice”.
As of now, the 405 MW Ranganadi commissioned in 2001 is the only functional hydro power project here.
The project has been blamed for floods in Papum Pare district and in neighbouring Lakhimpur district in Assam due to the release of excess water from the plant’s reservoir during peak monsoon season.
According to NEEPCO insiders, the hydropower station has not been able to generate enough power due to low river water flow in the lean season.
The Arunachal government and NEEPCO signed the project agreement in August 1990, without carrying out a downstream impact assessment.
This is not the first time the NEEPCO has refused to take responsibility for any untoward incidents downstream. On previous occasions, it had served numerous circulars stating that it is not responsible for any loss of human life or animals.