Delhi nod to Demwe
The Centre today cleared the 1750 MW Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project to be built near the cultural site of Parashuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh overruling opposition of National Board for Wildlife.
The ministry of environment and forests said the project can be recommended given its potential of clean energy of the project, thanks to relatively fewer environmental and societal impacts.
" It is clear that the project can be supported along with adequate arrangements of monitoring the ecological dynamics in the region with appropriate interventions as and when required" the ministry .
The ministry, however, has recommended a few additional measures like conducting comprehensive study on the ecological impacts of the environmental changes and mitigation, cumulative impact assessment presuming all the proposed dams are constructed on the Lohit river.
It also wants the state government in consultation with the ministry to commission Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee to conduct the studies related to the ecological impacts and cumulative impacts of the project.
It however has stated that the study by the IIT, Roorkee will not precede
construction of the project, but will continue concurrently, and mitigation measures proposed in the studies will also be complied with concurrently.
Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in 2010 had shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing granting of forest clearance to the project as the project will have serious downstream impacts till Dibrugarh in Assam.
Altogether 43,000 trees will be felled for the project. whose submergence area would be 1.131,09 hectares, including 969.44 hectares of forestland.
In October last year, the National Board for Wildlife constituted a two-member team comprising Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society and Pratap Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests Wildlife, Arunachal Pradesh forest department to assess the project's possible downstream impact.
The committee submitted its report on December last year. The Arunachal Pradesh government representatives supported the dam proposal and gave counter arguments against each -and every point highlighted in Dr Rahmani' s report.
The ministry said many of the chapori island areas in the downstream will not get submerged even in
monsoons. "There are no reports of sighting of Gangetic Dolphins in the vicinity of the proposed dam site." the government report said.
Members of the widlife board said the project has serious ecological impacts which needed to be looked into very carefully and downstream impacts were of serious nature. Divyabhanusinh Chavda member of National Board for Wildlife has not put his signature to the project given the grave ecological and wildlife impacts.
Arunachal Pradesh government however had informed the Centre that downstream impacts can be studied later when the construction of the project starts. It also said there will be no downstream impact on the Dibru Saikhowa national park in Dibrugarh. It has already received Rs. 93 crores as 'upfront premum' in 2007-8 for the project much before before any clearances.
"The ministry of environment and forests asking for impact assessment studies concurrent with construction is unacceptable. It is a slap in the face for good governance and is violative of both the precautionary principle and norms on sustainable development. The claim about 'relatively a fewer environmental and societal impacts' is also false, as downstream impact studies on riverine ecology and
production systems (livelihoods) are yet to be completed." says environmental policy researcher and writer Neeraj Vagholikar.