India, Jan. 18 -- The controversial Etalin hydroelectric power project in Arunachal Pradesh has been scrapped in its present form in a temporary respite to local communities and conservationists who were objecting to it.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to go back to the drawing board on the 3097 MW project in Dibang Valley, a biodiversity hotspot. FAC said the proposal cannot be considered in its present form and a revised proposal may be submitted for further consideration.
The proposal, which involved diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land and felling of over 280,000 trees in dense subtropical, evergreen, broadleafed, and subtropical rainforest, according to a fact sheet submitted to FAC (which has to sign off on the project) on April 21, 2020, is mired in controversy mainly because of environmental and biodiversity loss related concerns raised by experts.
FAC said in its December 27 meeting, the minutes of which were published on Monday, that the present proposal faces a large number of representations voicing concerns against the project. The original proposal was sent by Arunachal Pradesh back in 2014 and it is imperative to review the facts and figures presented by the state government especially with regard to the number of trees required to be felled, FAC observed.
"FAC opined that the instant proposal cannot be considered in the present form and the revised proposal may be submitted for further consideration by the state government," the minutes, available on the Parivesh website, stated.
"Our concerns remain the same. We believe this dam, if built, will affect our ecology and culture. Why do we need more dams. Already some construction work related to Dibang Multipurpose Project is causing havoc. We should be very careful," said Anoko Mega, environmentalist and member of Idu Mishmi community.
HT reported on May 5, 2020 that in the 58-page peer review of Wildlife Institute of India's report titled "Wildlife Conservation Plan for Impact Zone of Etalin HEP", 24 scientists from 14 scientific institutions in India said the report doesn't reflect a true picture of biodiversity in Dibang Valley where the Etalin project will come up. The proposed hydropower development is likely to impact the habitat and the survival of several endemic and threatened terrestrial species such as the Snow Leopard, Red Panda, Clouded Leopard, Tiger, Arunachal Macaque, Black-necked crane, and the rare Mishmi Wren Babbler, among many others, the review said.
HT again reported on July 7, 2020 that after the environment ministry asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the controversial project, the government submitted the analysis - done, not by the state or an independent agency but by the developer of the project, Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd.
Several discrepancies have come to light since. For example, HT reported on January 2, 2023 that indigenous communities living downstream of the Dibang Multipurpose Project and proposed Etalin Hydropower Project in Arunachal Pradesh have raised concerns with a 2016 cumulative impacts assessment study of the Dibang sub-basin in the Brahmaputra Valley, saying it has omitted assessment of impacts on areas immediately downstream of these projects. Communities living downstream of the Etalin project pointed out that the study has not assessed the impacts on Lower Dibang Valley district at all. The Cumulative Impact and Carrying Capacity Study, which was published in July 2016 and accepted by the environment ministry, is the basis for the Centre to take a call on the 3,097 MW Etalin Hydropower Project and 16 smaller hydro projects planned in the region. Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from Hindustan Times. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org