Legal Data by
October 23, 2016
October 23, 2016
October 23, 2016
The Subansiri project, a 2,000megawatt dam, has become a major point of contention between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. Proposed to be built over a tributary of the Brahmaputra river, the project has been opposed by the local people in both the states.
In 1954, a severe flood obliterated entire towns and villages in Upper Assam. Experts and officials believed the Brahmaputra was causing havoc, and a storage reservoir was proposed as a remedy in 1955. However, the Assam government did not have the budget to take over such a project. In 1982, the Brahmaputra Board was formed by the Centre, which was to be the sole authority on the river.
In 1983, a detailed project report for a rockfill dam was prepared. It was, however, opposed by the ruling Congress' own chief minister in Arunachal Pradesh, Gegong Apang, who believed that the dam would submerge most of his important constituencies. In 1995, Apang finally relented and consented to the Brahmaputra Board to come up with an 'alternate plan that was more sustainable and entailed lesser displacement'. The Board decided to replace the dam with six smaller ones, with two each in the upper, lower and middle ranges of the Subansiri and Dibang rivers, respectively. Both are tributaries of the Brahmaputra and originate in Arunachal Pradesh. In 2000, the Centre directed the Brahmaputra Board to hand over the project to National Hydro Project Limited (NHPCL).
When NHPCL began construction in 2005, the local people in Arunachal Pradesh took to the streets to protest the project's shoddy Environmental Impact Assessment report.
In December 2011, NHPCL temporarily halted construction, worn down by persistent protests. In 2013, the Assam government's Public Works (Roads) approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) challenging recommendations for the project, but the court declared that the "only challenge was to safety and downstream impact in the course of operation of the project.
In 2015, the NGT passed an interim order allowing NHPCL to carry out repair and maintenance work for the safety of the local people. An activist claimed that "the case completely weakened the movement" by allowing construction in the name of repair work."
After several committees and expert panels failed to provide definitive answers about the project, in November 2017, the NGT directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to constitute another committee of expert members to examine the issue. However, Assam Public Works and local activists moved the court stating that the committee was ridden with bias and that there was a clear conflict of interest. They reasoned their claim with the fact that one member was a part of one of the previously failed committees and another was previously employed by the Brahmaputra Board. Ultimately, the committee favoured the project, and in July 2019, the NGT dismissed pleas to reconstitute the committee, paving the way for the resumption of construction work. On December 3, 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by Assam Public Works to review the NGT's order.
The original purpose for the construction of the dam seems to have been defeated as, according to the ThatteReddy committee, flood management has been "ignored" by NHPCL and the cascade of smaller now being built cannot control floods to the extent that the original high dam would have. In December 2020, NHPCL stated that after eight years of being stalled due to protests, the project will be commissioned by March 2022.
Opposition against environmental degradation
Total investment involved (in Crores):
Type of investment:
Cost of Project
Year of Estimation
Page Number In Investment Document:
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?
Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict
Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Environmental Laws
Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute
What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?
What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Violation of environmental laws
Status of Case In Court
Whether any adjudicatory body was approached
Name of the adjudicatory body
Name(s) of the Court(s)
Original Application No. 346/2013 (EZ)
Main Reasoning/Decision of court
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Whether criminal law was used against protestors:
Reported Details of the Violation:
Date of Violation
Location of Violation
Nature of Protest
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials
Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)
Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:
Assam Public Works (Roads), Government of Arunachal Pradesh, Brahmaputra Board, Ministry of Power, Minsitry of Water Resources, Central Electricity Authority
PSUs Involved in the Conflict:
National Hydro Power Corporation Limited
Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?
Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
KSK Energy Ventures Limited
Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?
Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:
Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress Party