India green lights country’s biggest ever hydro scheme

The government of India has approved construction of what will be the country’ s largest hydropower plant and tallest dam, located in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh on the border with China.

The decision, announced on Wednesday 17 July, also allocated $230m for roads and bridges and site assembly. The total cost of the scheme is expected to come to about $4bn.  

The so-called Dibang Multipurpose Project will generate more than 2.8GW of electricity, and will also moderate the effect of monsoon rain on the lower Dibang Valley, one of the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra.

The project, which will take about nine years to complete, will be carried out by Indian hydro specialist NHPC. IT will build a 278m concrete gravity dam and an underground power station containing a dozen 240MW Francis turbines.

The project was originally begun in January 2008, when former prime minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for the project, after which work was not taken forward.

The project was opposed by local groups in Arunachal Pradesh (International Rivers/CC BY-ND 2.0)

The dam has been opposed by local and international groups on the grounds of its environmental impacts and forced relocations. In 2014, the federal government’s Forest Advisory Committee rejected the scheme on the grounds that it would involve the destruction of 4,577ha of woodland.

Prakash Javdekar, the Indian information minister, said Arunachal Pradesh would be given 12% of the project’s electricity, with 1% to go to a local development fund.

NHPC has more than 7GW of installed capacity and two construction projects under way.

Top image: The Dibang valley (G Krishna63/CC BY-ND 2.0)

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