On October 4th 2023, a devastating glacial lake outburst struck North Sikkim, sending shockwaves across the northeastern state.
The lake outburst occurred in Lhonak Lake in North Sikkim, resulting in a sudden and alarming rise in the water level of the Teesta River to 30 feet in an instant.
The Chungthang dam washed away due to substandard construction causing widespread devastation.
More than 22,000 people have been affected by the floods. 30 bodies have already been recovered. The floods swept away nearly 41 army nests. The flood sand instantly buried the tall houses. Rescue operations are continuing to find hundreds of people who went missing.
More than 3,000 tourists are still stranded in Sikkim.
Large and unscientifically built dams can be unimaginably horrific. It is located on the Teesta River and has eight small dams. The local ethnic groups have protested against the construction of the dam for a long time, but the government chose to remain adamant.
Meanwhile, the South Subansiri Hydropower Project is moving forward in Assam despite thousands of objections and resistance.
There have been repeated reports of damages to the dam came to light.
The BJP government, which came to power after protesting against the closure of the South Subansiri Hydropower Project, is now busy building dams.
It is worth mentioning that during the reign of King Chukhampha in 1596 AD, a major earthquake occurred in Assam which caused a great loss of wealth and lives. Another major earthquake following this one in Assam also caused heavy damage.
Then in 1950, an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale caused mountains to fall and block the river Subansiri, the heart of northern Assam, for three days. The river has been flooded for three days and the waters of the Subansiri have taken the form of a devastating explosion. There were about 1,000 people killed in that incident.
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Geologists say the area is prone to earthquakes.
Two of the five plates that make up the Earth are the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The Himalayas were formed by the collision of these two plates. These two plates are still in motion and therefore there is a high probability of earthquakes in this region.
The recent devastating earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale in Nepal and landslides in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh caused by heavy rains indicate future danger to the South Subansiri Dam.
WAPCOS, an agency of the Government of India said in a report that the South Subansiri Hydropower Project is located in the ‘V’ zone of the Earth and is prone to landslides due to its soft rock formations.
The agency added that the dam would cause 2,56,402 cubic meters of water per second to flow into the plains and cause flooding of 30 feet in the southern region within 35 minutes, which is likely to lead to the destruction of the river island of Majuli along with the entire north of Assam.
A report titled “Report On Downstream Impact Study Of The Ongoing Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric Power Project At Gerukamukh Of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Limited”, by an expert committee comprising experts from Dibrugarh University, University of Guwahati and Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati have mentioned the same.
On May 27, 2020, after heavy rains, the water level of the Subansiri River rose two feet above the main dam of the project. The main road leading to the project was destroyed and a large part of the guard wall of the project collapsed.
According to the Central Water Commission, the Subansiri River carries about 9,000 tonnes of sediment. This amount of sediment will come and accumulate in the dam. It is learned that no technical measures have been taken to remove the sediment.
18,500 families were evicted due to the construction of the Ukai Dam in Gujarat out of which only 3,500 families were resettled and the remaining 12,000 families were displaced. Only 12 families were relocated when the Kainadhara dam was constructed.
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After that, the families affected by these dams neither received compensation nor were rehabilitated.
Compensation or rehabilitation of millions of families and thousands of hectares of agricultural land caused by the Subansiri dam in Assam will be a topic of concern.
After the construction of the Ronganodi dam, which was way smaller than the Subansiri dam, the water of the Ronganodi dried up for two years and the area became a desert.
On the night of July 14, 2008, 22 people were killed when water from the Ronganodi Project flooded hundreds of villages in Lakhimpur, Bihpuria and Naobaicha.
The people of North Assam have been suffering for years due to the water supply from NEPCO and Dikrang.
In addition, the floods in Goalpara and Dhubri districts in 2004 caused by the release of water from power generation projects in Meghalaya and the damage caused by the water of the Kurisho dam in Bhutan in 2007 in southern Assam are well known.
The accident in Sikkim can be nothing but a warning of how dangerous unscientific and large dams are.
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