The Northeast of India has been identified by the Central Government as the country’s ‘future powerhouse’. As per the 2001 Central Electricity Authority (CEA) ‘Preliminary Ranking Study’ of the nationwide potential of hydroelectric schemes, the Brahmaputra river system has got the ‘highest marks’. This project funds a study by NGO Kalpavriksha that considers 168 proposed large dams in the Northeast that have a cumulative installed capacity of 63, 328 MW.
In 2003 the Ministry of Power launched its 50, 000 MW hydropower initiative. Out of the 162 schemes totaling 50, 560 MW from across the country being taken up for formulation of Preliminary Feasibility Reports (PFRs) under this initiative, 70 are from the Northeast, totalling 32, 107 MW. While PFRs for these 70 projects are in various stages of completion, atleast two dozen large dams are already in an advance stage of planning, clearance and implementation in the Northeast.
Since early 2001 Kalpavriksh members have actively engaged with the issue of ‘Large dams in Northeast India’. This includes:
- field trips to the Northeast (including visits to specific project areas and interactions with local communities, social and environmental groups)
- documenting case studies on specific projects
- collation of information from government institutions and departments, NGOs and academic institutions
- networking with groups in the Northeast and others around the country on the issue
- conducting workshops and training programmes to help individuals and groups to learn about laws and policies governing developmental projects like dams
- writing on the subject and commissioning journalists, researchers and academics to write on the subject.