Farmers, Activists in Meghalaya Oppose Revival of Hydroelectric Project over Dawki River

Reported by

East Street Journal AsiaLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

May 4, 2021

Location of Conflict

Saida near Siangkhnai Village

,

Jaintia Hills District (Moosakhia, Samanong, Sohmynting villages); East Khasi Hills District (Ksanrngi, Mawdulop, Mawjatap, Mawlang, Mawsir, Syntung, Jatah Nonglyer, Pashang, Siangkhnai and Umsawwar villages)

East Khasi Hills

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Hydroelectric Project

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

391

ha

State

Meghalaya

Sector

Power

Umngot or Dawki river in Meghalaya is distinctly the cleanest river in India, which runs through a deep valley between the eastern part of the East Khasi Hills and the western part of the Jaintia Hills. The 210megawatt Umngot Hydroelectric Project is proposed to be built right over the river. The dam site is planned at Saida near Siangkhnai village, with a Surface Power House (3X70 megawatt) on the right bank of the river near Syntung village. A total of 390 hectares of land will be required. Meghalaya Power Generation Corporation Limited has taken up the project and is determined to complete it in six years from the date of clearance as noted in the Environmental Impact Assessment Draft released in January 2021.  On August 7, 2020, the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government terminated the agreement signed in 2007 with Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited for executing the previously drafted 240megawatt Umngot Hydroelectric Project. The agreement got cancelled because of a long delay in implementation and financial inconsistencies between Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited and Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), the implementing agency. The new draft considers the absence of national park, wildlife sanctuary, defence establishments, notified ecosensitive or protected areas under the Wildlife (Protection) Act within the proposed project area. However, though undesignated, the proposed site is a marine habitat, and the power project will result in biodiversity loss, in addition to submerging agricultural fields. Another red flag is that the area falls in a highly seismic zone, categorised as Zone V. The farmers in the area depend on the Umngot river for agriculture and livelihood and see the project as a threat. They believe it is impossible to fill the void for the loss of land and forest cover and have, therefore, strongly opposed the project. On April 9, 2021, the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board called off a public hearing facing stiff resistance from the residents of Darrang, Shnongpdeng, Dawki and adjoining villages. A day earlier, another public hearing was stalled in the face of public opposition in Siangkhnai village. People lined up the road towards the venue of the public hearing with banners and slogans, and officials had to return due to the blockade. In a public hearing on April 12, farmers, village heads, residents and student bodies neither welcomed nor rejected the proposed project. There were contradictions as the presentation given by officials did not cover all aspects of the project. There were allegations that the village heads were informed before the survey but not everyone had consented to the project, and that in many villages, the economic survey was not even carried out. Back in 2007, MeECL had applied for prior environmental clearance for the 240megawatt Umngot Hydroelectric Project from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The ministry did not grant clearance. Later, the MDA government cancelled two hydroelectric projects within three months. But now, with growing outrage over power shortage across the state, the ruling government has decided to revive the project. 

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

2567.8

Type of investment:

Revised Investment

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

391

ha

Starting Year

2007

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation, Refusal to give up land for the project, Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, Block Development Officer, Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Forests and Environment Department

LCW reached out to B.K. Lyngwa, principal chief conservator of forests, via telephone but did not get a response.

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

EQMS India Private Limited

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
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