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State level workshop on river dams at Golaghat

The Assam College Teachers Associations’ DR College unit in collaboration with Vox Populi and NEADS, NGOs, organised a state level workshop on River Dams at DR College auditorium yesterday. The open session of the workshop was presided over by Hem Phukan, senior lecturer of the college. In the0 workshop Ravindranath, member of river basin friends and Director of Rural Voluntary Centre, Neeraj Vagholikar, noted columnist on environmental and infrastructural issues and member of Kalpavriksh, a national environmental research group and Girin Chetia, Director of NEADS presented their keynote address. The workshop was organized to spread awareness among people regarding the aftermath of the big dam.

Speaking on the occasion Neeraj Vagholikar said that the Expert Committee constituted by the Govt. of Assam with experts from IIT Guwahati, Dibrugarh University and Gauhati University, to study the downstream impacts of the project, in their Interim recommendations in 2009 asked the government to stop work pending completion of the report. But they were ignored by the power company and both the State and Central governments. In their final report submitted in June 2010 this committee has recommended that: “The selected site for the mega dam of the present dimension was not appropriate in such a geologically and seismologically sensitive location, therefore, it is recommended not to construct the mega dam in the present site. He also said that the drastic daily variation in river flows which will take place after these dams are commissioned, particularly in winter is a matter of grave concern. For example, the average winter flow in the Subansiri river in its natural state is approximately 400 cubic meters per second. But after the commissioning of the 2,000 MW Lower Subansiri project, flows in the Subansiri river in winter will fluctuate drastically on a daily basis from 6 cumecs for around 20 hours(when water is being stored behind the dam) to 2560 cubic meters per second for around 4 hours when the water is released for power generation at the time of peak power demand in the evening hours. Thus the river will be starved for 20 hours and then flooded for 4 hours with flows fluctuating between 2 percent and 600 percent of normal flows on a daily basis. The downstream livelihoods and activities likely to be impacted by this unnatural flow fluctuation include: fishing, flood-recession agriculture (e.g. mustard), river transportation and livestock rearing in grasslands for dairy-based livelihoods. The natural flow pattern of a river is like its ‘heart beat’ and alternate starving and flooding of these major rivers on a daily basis is a threat to the ecological and social security of the Brahmaputra floodplains.

On the issue whether the dam will withstand the earthquake, Girin Chetia of NEADS remarked that the issue of whether the water reservoir itself can induce seismic activity is also an important matter. There is a very crucial risk to the downstream areas even if the dam stands intact. In October 1963, the Vaiont dam in Italy, one of the world’s tallest, set off earthquakes as soon as its reservoir began to fill and about two minutes later, the town of Longarone was leveled and almost all of its 2,000 inhabitants killed.

Ravindranath of RVC opined that a large number of the hydropower projects in the Northeast are now being handed over to the private sector and India’s new Hydropower Policy (2008) allows developers to sell 40% of their saleable electricity on a merchant basis. Merchant sales allow developers to sell power at higher prices in the open market Thus, allowing a private company to sell power in the open market can lead to huge profits. He further said that when government is saying that they can control flood with the help of dams but in the Northeast, even as per official plans, most projects do not have an explicit flood moderation component, thus there being no question of these being able to effectively moderate floods. Out of the 130 plus hydropower agreements signed in Arunachal Pradesh, only one project on the Dibang river is officially a ‘multipurpose’ project. Major hydropower projects in the lower reaches of several rivers such as the Siang, Lohit and Subansiri are not multipurpose projects and have negligible flood moderation components, even as per the admission of project authorities. Ravindranath further commented that NEEPCO AND NHPC are two white elephants and to sustain them the government are undertaking such disastrous steps as construction of big dams even at the stake of risking the lives of its people. The Brahmaputra valley is one of the most prosperous river basin of South-east Asia and construction of big dam will definitely spell a death knell on the valley. Though power is indispensible for development but construction of big dam is not the only remedy for development. The government should consider other alternatives such as coal thermal power plant for power generation.

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Police open fire on protesters affected by floods, minor injured

2 Aug 2007 - 10:55am | editor
Barpeta: Police opened fire and lathi-charged a group of flood-hit people on Wednesday who were blocking a highway near Barpeta town demanding urgent relief. One minor and several other people were injured in this incident. About 1500 people were taking shelter at Bhella High Secondary School since Saturday last, but not getting any kind of Government relief or other support. The angry villagers blocked Barpeta-Doulashal road on Wednesday evening in protest. A police team led by Additional Superintendent of Police reached the spot immediately and tried to clear road forcefully. When people protested, police lathi charged to disperse the mob. People started pelting stones and brick pieces on police provoking them to open fire. They fired 8 rounds and one bullet hit an 11-year minor on his knee.

Later Deputy Commissioner and Police Superintendent rushed to the spot ant tackled the situation. District administration arranged medical treatment for all injured, promised to give rations immediately and declared a Judicial Inquiry.

Small scale industries seek Assam government’s sympathy

30 Jun 2009 - 6:56am | Daya Nath Singh

The recent slow down in the global economy has seriously affected the business of micro and small scale industries in Assam. This has coupled with existing road blocks and pushed back this most employment generation sector into dire straits. While the global recession can not be tackled easily, the many existing impediments can easily be removed by the state government intervention,’ said B L Agarwal and J N Baruah, the president and general secretary respectively of the All Assam Small Scale Industries Association. They were addressing the media persons in Guwahati, recently.

Agarwal said that the existing VAT laws in Assam are heavily loaded against the local industries. If major buyers in Assam like the Indian Railways and big public sector industries go in for local products they have to pay Assam VAT @12.5 percent, while if they purchase goods manufactured outside Assam they have to pay CST @2 percent only. Therefore, even if the actual cost of production of an item made in Assam is competitive, the buyer prefers to buy goods produced outside Assam, since they straightaway save 10.5 percent on taxes. As a result of this, the local industries can not meet large local demands of public sector buyers due to no fault of theirs. Immediate action on the part of the government is necessary to remove major hurdle, he said.

The Assam Preferential Stores Purchase Act (APSP Act) was a big help to local industries. Under this Act, the state government departments give price preference to locally produced goods thereby enabling many micro and small industries in Assam to survive because of our state government’s patronage. This Act needs to be strengthened and implemented in right earnest, he demanded.

He further added that there was a scheme by Govt of India, MSME dept to give 15 percent preference to micro enterprises over medium and large industries. But this was not sufficient to support the local industries of Assam, particularly the micro sector and as such he suggested that the APSP Act should be strengthened to support the local micro industries. There should also be a special support by the Govt of Assam in their purchase programme to the local industries, specifically the micro industries.

J N Barua, the general secretary of AASSIA said that the department of industries, Govt of Assam is the parent department for industries and as such the categorization, decision, permission by this department should be applicable to all other government departments. It is found that other departments like Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB), Pollution Control Board, Sales Tax; Labor etc put their own conditions for the industries. Eligibility certificate for availing various incentives is issued by the director of industries. However, in the case of sales tax exemption, the sales tax department wants separate application for the same. This sort of duplication should be avoided for micro and small industries as these sectors are always short of manpower, he said.

Printing presses, steel fabrication units etc; duly registered as industrial units by the industries department are not provided electricity by the ASEB at the tariffs applicable to the small scale industries. The ASEB should therefore be directed to provide power at rates applicable to micro and small industries to any unit registered as a micro or small industry by the industries department, they demanded.

They further said that despite this recessionary time, the state government has approved a very steep hike in the rentals to be charged by the industrial estates. Coercive measures like eviction of functioning micro scale units have also been threatened to realize these exorbitant rentals. This has created a very demoralizing affect on struggling micro scale industries since they do not have their own land and buildings and have to depend on land or sheds provided by the government agencies. Under these circumstance the order approving massive hike in the rentals, far beyond the paying capacity of micro scale industries, may be withdrawn. As soon as the recession is over, their Association can take the initiative of organizing a dialogue with the concerned departments. All aspects of the matter can be discussed in detail and mutually acceptable formulae revolve, they said.

The aim of the AASSIA to work in tandem with the state government with the common objective of acting as facilitators for the healthy growth of the micro and small scale industrial sector in Assam, which would help in creating jobs for the local youths, they said.

Guwahati-Dhakabus service from Saturday

5 Jun 2015 - 6:56pm | Abdul Gani

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who is on a visit to Bangladesh, will flag-off the Kolkata-Agartala-Dhaka Bus Service from Dhaka at 4.00 PM on Saturday. As instructed by Govt. of India, in line with this service, Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) will be starting the Guwahati-Dhaka Bus Service, which will be flagged–off at ISBT, Betkuchi, by Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam, on Saturday at 5.00 PM in presence of VK Pipersenia, Chief Secretary of Assam, VS Bhaskar Addl. Chief Secretary to the Govt. of Assam, Transport, etc. along with other dignitaries. The bus will halt at Shillong on Saturday and will reach Dhaka day after. This was stated by K.N Chetia, Managing Director, ASTC.