Panel says it will harm the grassland ecosystem

Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan has overruled a key wildlife committee to approve the construction of a major hydel power project on the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh.

The State government had reportedly argued that the 1,750 MW Demwe Lower Hydro Electric project was needed to counter Chinese plans to build mega hydel projects across the border in Tibet. The Lohit river originates in China.

Fragmenting habitat

A committee appointed by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to study the case visited the site and said the dam would harm the grassland ecosystem, and the Bengal bustard and wild water buffaloe — both highly endangered species — that live in it, as well as fragmenting the habitat of the Gangetic dolphin downstream, and submerging a nearby conservation area of medicinal plants. However, the State government officials insist that neither the grasslands nor conservation area would be submerged, adding that there are no reports of sighting the Gangetic dolphin near the proposed dam site.

The Minister, who chairs the standing committee of the NBWL, accepted the arguments in favour of the project. “The spirit of the clearance system basically demands evaluation of trade-offs for balancing the developmental needs with environmental sustainability, examination of scope of mitigation and capacity of the ecosystems to withstand the impact. The project, therefore, needs to be considered in the light of this overarching principle,” said the Ministry's order on the NBWL approval.

Keywords: wildlife issues

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