Shillong: The Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the Umngot Hydro Electric Project on Tuesday met Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma to once again reiterate its demand for scrapping of the proposed dam project on the Umngot river.
Speaking with media persons after the meeting with the CM, Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) general secretary Treibor Raul Suchen said: “We submitted a memorandum to the government to scrap the project because it will hamper the livelihood of people, especially in the tourism sector, besides leading to water pollution, if the dam is constructed.”
According to the JAC, the proposed project will affect almost 390 hectares of agricultural land. The committee urged the chief minister to take an alternative solution as it did with the Myntdu Leshka Hydro Electric Project (MLHEP).
The CM assured them that the government will have a discussion with local MLA Lahkmen Rymbui over the issue, said Suchen.
“The Umngot Hydro Electric Project is not something that the government is opting for right now. The CM said that the government will first listen to the requests of the people who may be affected by this project,” said Suchen.
The government so far has convened two public meetings, leaving the committee surprised that the government is looking forward to the construction of the project.
Umngot River, also popularly known as Wah Umngot, is one of Meghalaya’s popular tourist spots due to its crystal-clear waters. Many people in the area near the river are dependent on the tourism that the river Umngot generates.
According to Suchen, nearly 20-25 villages and about 10,000 people, both in East Khasi Hills and West Jaintia Hills districts, are likely to be affected due to the proposed Umngot Hydro Electric Project.
Taking a dig at James Sangma, Suchen said that he is the only power minister who is keen to start the project.
“We have asked the people from the pollution control board, the deputy commissioner’s office and also the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) to arrange a public hearing but I don’t think there is any concern from the local MLAs. The CM himself is not sure what to do about it,” said Suchen.
Earlier, the JAC, comprising several stakeholders including Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU), Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) and Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), among others, had demanded that the project should be scrapped and that they will not entertain any more talks or discussions.
The government’s proposed 210-MW Umngot Hydro Electric Project has been facing a backlash after several stakeholders opposed it fearing its impact on the environment and the famous Umngot River, known for its crystal-clear waters.
The power minister had earlier highlighted that the project is essential since there is an acute shortage of power in the state, Sangma said that there is a need to ramp up power generation. He had also mentioned that it’s up to the government to decide whether it scraps the project or not.
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