Run Assam Run, Run from the ‘Run of the River’ Dams!

Run Assam Run! Run People of Assam Run! Run Away from the Run of the River! Learn to Run! Keep Running!

Why do we have to Run?

Run for your lives from the River! Run because the ‘Run of the River (RoR)’ dams of Bhutan are demonstrating their transboundary trance!

No, it is not the ‘Divine Madman’ Drukpa Kunley of Punakha Valley you have to run away from! It is the wrath of a different breed of ‘Hydro Madmen’ who are in a rampant dam building spree of the ‘Run of the River’ type dams in Bhutan, with India’s investments and technical help, under the banner of Indo-Bhutan Friendship! Run, because this friendship is not the sustainable spiritual type which was spread by the teachings and travels by Guru Rinpoche through Assam once!

Run for your lives, you cannot save your precious belongings, your houses from the raging floods! The ‘run of the river’ is faster and far more destructive than your own governments in New Delhi and Dispur, and the ‘hydro madmen’ keep offering false assurances about, all the time! Run, because public hearings are of no value and environmental impact assessments are mere token gestures!

Run, because you can rest no more under the technical assurances of ‘run of the river’ jargons, because this simply means they stop water and release the same amount back to the river! When and how much, gradual or all at once? They will never let you know, maybe give you a few hours notice, Flood Early Warning much, but flood will still be there, and you still will need to learn to run! So Run!

Run, because there is a massive greed of hydropower ‘head’ behind the dams! And the ‘hydro madmen’ have never learnt any reasoning or rationale of downstream impact assessment in their engineering colleges! So Run!

Run, because none of the big dam projects in Bhutan fit into their Gross National Happiness Index, and the ‘hydro madmen’ are busy retrofitting their Gross National Hydropower greed to their Gross National Happiness principles. Run, because the Gross National Happiness is not transboundary in nature in any way!

Run, because the natural barriers of riverbed stones and boulders of the rivers of Bhutan have been unsustainably mined, over-mined, and trucked massively through Assam and Meghalaya to Bangladesh! You must seen those lines of Bhutanese trucks pass by your areas in Assam, crossing the Brahmaputra at Jogighopa and onwards via the Garo Hills to enter Bangladesh at Dalu border crossing!

Bangladesh is building their bridges and other water infrastructure with those mined Bhutanese stones and boulders! Now even the waterways are being used to ferry massive amounts of such mined and trucked riverbed stones and boulders from Bhutan via India to Bangladesh, heralding the new run of sub-regional cooperation!

Some bridges will be washed away by the intensity of floods in Bhutan and India, some protective water infrastructure will try reduce the damage in Bangladesh downstream! The intensity of floods in Assam will keep rising because these very riverbed stones and boulders are increasingly missing in action. Who will save the natural barriers of the upstream rivers? We are missing the point! So Run!

Run because New Delhi has to help Bhutan build more hydropower dams, because they have to strategically signal their strong presence in Bhutan to China, especially after Doklam! The ‘national security’ framing story of mega-hydropower dams is the same in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and the entire band of the Himalayas! So Run!

Learn to Run, because this is going to repeat every monsoon, while the embankment, dredging, riverbed mining and big dam ‘speculative economies’ will only continue to thrive and speculate on your collective miseries, of your own ‘economies on stilts’ and the contractors and politicians and the ‘Hydro Madmen’ will keep calling the shots! So Run!

Learn to Run, because soon most of the ‘hydro madmen’ will either ‘run away with your rivers’, like NEEPCO has already done with the downstream Ranganadi in Arunachal Pradesh, or make you run multiple times in the monsoon flood cycle. Keep Running!

Run because we have started naming our floods after the ‘run of the river’ dam building companies! Run because you already know well the natural fury of the rivers, and also know that the ‘hydro madmen’ have made our rivers even more furious, by inflicting multiple cuts on their bodies! So Run!

Run, because you live under the shadow of the ‘run of the river’ dams! Run because you are a risk society, and to organize against risk, run back and forth multiple time in a single flood season to reconstruct your own perpetual ‘economy on stilts’, only to organize to run again in the next monsoon. So, Learn to Run!

Run because the ‘hydro madmen’ are busy constructing more risk for you! Run because you have seen or heard the wrath of the natural dam break induced flash floods of 2000 on the Siang, the dam collapses in Laos and Brazil. Run because most of you have never seen a big dam in your lives, and still have to live under its shadow of risk! You have to learn to Run!

Learn to run like the golden girl of Assam, Hima Das, because this ‘run of the river’ rampage, and you running away from the river is the new normal! Run, People of Assam, Run! Run Away from the Run of the River!

All images by the author



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Researcher in International Relations and Politics, Development Studies and Borders, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati

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