Guwahati: Opposition from civil society groups has forced the Indian government to temporarily halt the 3097 MW Etalin hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh – the country’s largest hydroelectric project.
The Union Ministry of Environment’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) on Forests and Climate Change, which held a meeting on the project last month, says there are a large number of representations expressing reservations against the project. “To address the issues raised in the various representations, the Arunachal Pradesh government may constitute a high-level empowered committee to examine the various concerns received and come up with a solution,” the FAC said.
In the Dibang Valley district, the project involves felling of 2,78,038 trees over an area of 1,165 hectares, raising concerns among civil society groups. Interestingly, the project is being built on the same river, the Dibang, where the 2,880 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project was launched recently.
The Wildlife Institute of India has identified in its study that the project area is home to 413 species of plants, 159 species of butterflies, 113 species of spiders, 11 species of odonates, 14 species of amphibians. The record is shown. 31 species of reptiles, 230 species of birds, and 21 species of mammals.
In its representation to the FAC, an organization called Idu Mishmi Youth said the projects would have severe, irreversible and potentially catastrophic consequences for the people, rivers and mountains of the twin Dibang Valley districts. He said that decision-making on India’s largest hydroelectric project should not be rushed and should be done in a transparent and comprehensive manner, taking into account local sentiments, safety and scientific evidence. He also emphasized that free, prior and informed consent should be obtained from all affected communities upstream, downstream, and elsewhere where the various project components are located, including mitigation and relief measures.
It said that the feasibility of the project should be reassessed in the light of the rapidly changing river hydrology due to rapidly changing climate change, which would bring the Idu-Mishimi of the Dibang Valley into the water. The safety of the people and millions of people downstream of the project is at serious risk.
The Etalin Hydel project was first proposed by the Arunachal Pradesh government in 2014 and is being constructed by Etalin Hydroelectric Power Company Limited. On the other hand, the Indian government is concerned about the delay in hydropower projects.
The FAC has said that the current proposal cannot be considered in its current form and a revised proposal should be submitted to the state government for further consideration.
“It was highlighted that in previously approved projects where afforestation has been sanctioned, the compliance record with respect to conditions laid down by FAC while sanctioning afforestation is poor. Furthermore, FAC took note of the submission made by the State Nodal Officer that there are many representations regarding the existing proposal and the already approved projects as well.Due to which already approved projects have not started yet and some projects are not yet completed. In view of this, the FAC requested the State Government to review the status of all sanctioned projects (operationalization/implementation of projects, project initiation, and completion, and thereafter, Stage-I and Stage- 2. and submit a status report to this Ministry at the earliest,” the committee said in its report.
The Ministry of Power has recommended the Etalin Hydel project and the Impact Assessment Division of the Ministry has also recommended the project. The Wildlife Institute of India and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, while considering the approval of the project, have suggested taking into account certain safeguards and mitigation measures for better conservation and protection of wildlife in the area.
Meanwhile, the Arunachal Pradesh government has informed the committee that it is ready to go ahead with the project.
The nodal officer of the Arunachal Pradesh government, who was present in the meeting, also highlighted the remoteness of the area in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh near the international border areas where the proposed project is located. He also said that there are many objections to the existing proposal and the already approved projects, which has delayed the initiation and completion of some projects.
The state government has already finalized an action plan to unlock the potential of hydel and has decided to hand over projects with independent power producers to central public sector undertakings for development.
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