“MoU virus” hits Arunachal Pradesh

Non-profits ask for white paper on the upfront payments received

 
By Anupam Chakravartty
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Arunachal Pradesh government is on a dam signing spree. The state has signed seven agreements since May 5 when chief minister Jarbom Gamlin assumed office after the then chief minister Dorjee Khandu was killed in an accident.



This has raised the eyebrows of human rights and environment groups who have asked the state government to come out with a white paper on the upfront payments received after inking memorandum of agreements (MoAs) with various power developers.

“Construction of 67 projects has already started and upfront payments made by power companies to the state-run Department of Hydropower. We do not understand why the state is in such a hurry,” says Bamang Tago, member of Human Rights Law Network, a non profit, consisting of lawyers and human rights activists from India.

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The agreements include one with Kolkata-based Abhyudaya Power Limited on June 6, three with Hyderabad-based Saisudhir Energy Limited on June 9 and two with Hyderabad-based Meenakshi Infrastructures Private Limited on July 20. All the seven MOAs deal with building a series of dams on the Siang river basin in the state.

Siang river basin is considered as a cradle for the indigenous culture of Adi and other tribes. It is also a rich ecological spot. A study by Central Electricity Authority (CEA) between 1978 and 1987 had found the area has a hydropower potential of about 10,730 MW from 16 identified schemes at 60 per cent of a dam’s capacity to generate power. A survey in September 2004 by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation also found similar results. But an Environmental Impact Assessment by Arunachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board said the projects should not be executed as it could lead to “large submergence of land and consequent displacement of inhabitants.”

The groups allege that the private players have made upfront payments to the government, which defeats the purpose of public hearings before beginning the construction of projects. “Upfront payment means the project becomes a fait accompli. The entire process under Environment Protection Act of 1986, then becomes a farce since the government is in debt to the developer. The debt can only be repaid if the project kicks off,” they say.

A Right to Information (RTI) query by non-profit Arunachal Citizens’ Rights headed by Tago, to Department of Hydropower in 2009 revealed that the state has signed 108 MoAs for hydropower projects with a total capacity of 30,000 MW since February 2006. Thirty one of these were signed just five months before the Lok Sabha polls in 2009. In 2011, the state government signed 148 MoAs including the seven recent ones under Gamlin. The Union ministry of environment has given pre-construction clearances to 40 projects, according to a source. Critical of the MoA spree of the state government in 2008 the then Minister of State for Power, Jairam Ramesh, had referred to this phenomenon as a “MoU virus”.

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