Shelved twice as it requires diversion of 1,165 hectares of ‘luxuriant’ forest land, the possibility of setting up the controversial 3097 megawatt (MW) Etalin hydroelectric project (HEP) in Arunanchal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley is being explored again.
Despite bringing to its notice that the Rs 25,296-crore HEP has been proposed in the region enriched with flora and fauna —about 680 bird species have been recorded which is about 56 per cent of total bird species of the country — the Union Environment Ministry’s expert committee on
forest clearances (FAC) has now set up a sub-committee to decide the fate of the project. The FAC had held clearance to the project twice in the past-in 2015 and then in 2017.
As per the minutes of the meeting of the FAC held in October 17, 2019, the sub-committee will visit the site and check if the total land requirement could be further reduced. It would also “look into the concerns highlighted by regional office in its report especially related to tree enumeration process and the aspects highlighted in biodiversity assessments study by the Dehardun-based Wildlife Institute of india (WII).
Report of subcommittee shall be exhaustive with appropriate recommendation so that FAC could take appropriate decision,” said the minutes of the meeting posted on the Ministry’s website.
Incidentally, the FAC in its 2017 meeting in February while putting on hold the clearance, had flagged the lack of studies on the project’s impact on the region’s biodiversity.
The committee had noted that while the Chief Conservator of Forest of the region mentioned only a few mammals and plant species in his report, the region is a biodiversity hotspot. “This area has more biodiversity than any part of the country, “ said the panel referring to various reports that pointed out that the entire region falls under, IUCN management categories III, IV, endemic bird area, global biodiversity hotspot, and key biodiversity area indicating its importance at the global scale.
The committee had said that since independent studies, that used camera traps, recorded 12 tigers and eight clouded leopards in Dibang valley, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), too, should give its view on the issue.
The FAC had recommended conducting multiple seasonal
replicate studies on biodiversity assessment by an internationally credible institute noting that the current study (Environment Impact Assessment) is completely inadequate in this regard.
However, on October 17, 2019, the panel observed that the recommendations of its last meeting (February 2017) has not been complied fully and the replies submitted in compliance of all observations were not satisfactory. “Moreover, FAC could not obtain viewpoints of representatives of user agency or State Government, as no one was present for consultation and
clarification of doubts,” it said.
The sub-committee is comprised of SD Bora and Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, both FAC members, GV Gopi of Dehradun-based Wild Life Institute of India (WII), representative of regional office, Shillong, IG National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of the regional office (Guwahati) among others. However, no time period has been given to the panel to submit the report.