MoEF gives forest nod to controversial hydro projects in Arunachal

Guwahati: An expert panel of the environment ministry has recommended forest clearance for three crucial hydro projects located in the Siang river basin, Arunachal Pradesh, that will collectively denude 200 hectares of biodiversity rich forests. The three projects – Pauk, Heo and Tato-I, are all proposed on Yarjep River, a tributary of Siyom River, and have a generating capacity of 571 MW. Earlier, the expert committee appraising projects for forest clearances had deferred clearances as there was no cumulative impact assessment study (CIAS) carried out of the Siang basin.

MoEF

A staggering 44 hydro power projects have been planned in the Siang basin, one of the chief tributaries of the Brahmaputra River. The Central Water Commission (CWC) authorised a CIAS study of the Siang basin, that was carried out by RS Environlinks Technologies Private Limited. The expert panel, in their latest meeting, passed the projects on the basis of the CIAS. But, environmentalists said that the expert panel and the CIAS has overlooked several key issues.

According to the South Asia Network for Dams Rivers and People (SANDRP), there is a conflict of interest issue as RS Environlinks that carried out the Siang CIAS study also did the environment impact assessment studies for the three projects. The NGO had raised this issue in a meeting of the expert appraisal committee of the environment ministry this June. Also, SANDRP pointed out that no comprehensive seismic study was carried out, which is critical in Arunachal Pradesh that falls in seismic zone V More importantly, the CIAS delves little into the impact of the projects in downstream Assam.

“There has also been no participatory process in the affected regions in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh about the study. The study was also not made available to locals too,” said Himanshu Thakkar of the SANDRP. Additionally, the expert panel has given out the clearance even as the state government of Arunachal Pradesh is yet to settle the forest rights of local communities.

Conflict of interest
According to the South Asia Network for Dams Rivers and People (SANDRP), there is a conflict of interest issue as RS Environlinks that carried out the Siang CIAS study also did the environment impact assessment studies for the three projects. The NGO had raised this issue in a meeting of the expert appraisal committee of the environment ministry this June.