Temporary relief as plan for Etalin hydel in Arunachal junked

Arunachal Pradesh government told to submit plan for controversial project again

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 18 January 2023
The contentious 3,097-megawatt Etalin Hydroelectric Project (EHEP) — was proposed to be developed as a joint venture between Jindal Power Ltd and the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd. Photo for representation: iStock__

The proposed Etalin hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh has been scrapped in its present form, reported English daily Hindustan Times (HT). The project was mired in controversy, with wildlife scientists and conservationists flagging environmental threats due to the plant in a biodiversity hotspot. 

The contentious 3,097-megawatt Etalin Hydroelectric Project (EHEP) — was proposed to be developed as a joint venture between Jindal Power Ltd and the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd.

Read more: Etalin hydel: Experts warn of biodiversity loss in Dibang Valley in letter to forest advisory panel

The plan combined two run-of-the-river schemes with limited storage requiring concrete gravity dams on rivers Tangon and Dri. It ran into several controversies since its inception in 2008 over concerns of ecological damage, forest invasion and tribal displacement. 

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to go back to the drawing board on the 3097 MW project in Dibang Valley, a biodiversity hotspot, HT reported.

The hydroelectric project will require the diversion of 1,165.66 hectares of forest land and the felling of more than 280,000 trees in the area. 

The Union power ministry and impact assessment division of MoEF&CC gave the nod for the project, according to the minutes of a FAC meeting released May 28, 2022. 

FAC then formed committees and ordered bodies concerned to submit reports on the impact of forest land diversion required for the project in the northeastern state’s Dibang Valley. Based on these reports, it will consider approving the project. 

The committee, in its own deliberations dated February 28 2017, had highlighted that the land in which the project is proposed covers two pristine forests with riverine growth that, once cut, cannot be replaced, the experts wrote in their letter. 

The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) had written to the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) detailing geological and seismic risks and threats to biodiversity in 2015 — when appraisals to grant environmental clearance (EC) to the project were underway.

The project has not been scrapped entirely, pointed out Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, SANDRP. “The FAC has said that project proponents have to resubmit the form. The current form was submitted in 2014. It is now almost nine years. So the proponents have to resubmit the application for forest clearance,” he said.

Read more: Floods, earthquakes, landslides: Why Arunachal’s Etalin hydel project can be a worry

So the government is not saying that the project developers have to reformulate the plan. It is just that the forest application has to be resent in a new form, he added. 

“It is a temporary respite for the country. I hope it remains that way. But that is not the situation as of now,” Thakkar said. 

FAC said in a December 27, 2022 meeting, the minutes of which were published on January 16, 2023 that the present proposal faces a large number of representations voicing concerns against the project, the HT report added. 

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