The opposition to the Umngot River hydroelectricity dam project continues to grow, with another warning today that it would be disastrous downstream and upstream.
Evarist Myrsing, who works with an organisation that helps rural communities, said that those living downstream would see their tourism opportunities shattered by the dam, while those in the catchment area would see their farms become inundated.
Around a dozen villages depend on tourism in the Shnongpdeng and Darrang areas downstream of the proposed dam site.
“The local youth who are engaged in tourist activities, such as boating, snorkeling, cliff jumping, scuba diving and fishing, will all become jobless if the dam is constructed,” Myrsing told Highland Post today. Up to 80 locals act as tourist guides and hosts to visitors, he added.
Upstream, farms where betel nut, betel leaves, pepper and a variety of fruits and vegetables will be swamped by the rising waters.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has already hit the locals in the region since last year. The home stay owners and youth are left with no excuses to go back to their agricultural activities and if the proposed dam project really happens then one-time compensation is not justified to cover the generations to come,” he opined.
Two public hearings were disrupted recently due to the steadfast opposition of local people towards the project as they fear that their pristine river will be ruined by the dam. According to Power Minister James Sangma, however, the project is very important for Meghalaya because it will be able to generate an additional 110 megawatts of additional electricity, thereby addressing the perennial shortage of electricity that the state faces.
“We cannot deny that hydroelectric projects are necessary for the state but if hybrid solar and windmill projects are introduced instead of the dam then the environment will be safe and employment opportunities for the youth in the region will increase,” Myrsing said.
He also voiced fears that upstream, the swamped vegetation will release greenhouse gases, like methane, as it decomposes, while the dam might be at risk of strong earthquakes.