Umngot power project: Anti-dam delegation meets Meghalaya Dy CM; warns of protests if project takes off
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) against the Umngot Hydro Electric Project has requested the Meghalaya government to identify other rivers to set up a dam stating that the Umngot River needs to be protected. The JAC has also hinted at waging protests if the government goes ahead with the project.
“We want the government to protect the river and we don’t want any dam over the river,” JAC member and chairman of Darrang Tourism Promotion and Development Society, Reachingson Kongwang made it clear after meeting Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong.
He also informed that the deputy CM has assured him that he would take up the matter for discussion at the Cabinet and will look for an alternate solution. Previously, the JAC had submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Conrad Sangma regarding the issue.
The 210 MW Umngot Hydro-Electric Project, which was formulated by the state government to make Meghalaya self-sufficient in hydroelectricity, has been a subject of debate for several months now. In April, two public hearings on the matter were supposed to take place at Siangkhnai in East Khasi Hills and Moosakhia in West Jaintia Hills but were cancelled after villagers staged protests against the project.
The Umngot River passes through several villages - twelve in Jaintia Hills and seven in East Khasi Hills, and the residents of these villages feel that the construction of a dam would affect agriculture which is their source of livelihood.
Meanwhile, JAC has found an ally in Meghalaya Rural Tourist Forum (MRTF). President of MRTF, Alan West Kharkongor has extended his support to the JAC delegation and maintained that it is too risky “to touch the Umngot as it is one of the rivers that are being protected by the villages” and is a major tourist attraction in the state.
“Today, Meghalaya attracts tourists even during the off-season and one of the reasons is the Umngot River and the activities along it. It is clear that the river has attracted tourists from all over the country as well as from abroad,” he said, adding that the matter is not only the concern of tourism stakeholders of Darrang, Shnongpdeng, Dawki, and Umsyiem but of the tourism sector in the entire state.
“Once again, I would appeal to the CM and Power Minister to consider this issue as Umngot is a vital USP for tourism in the state,” he said.
(Edited by Christopher Gatphoh)
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