Forest Advisory Committee asks Arunachal Pradesh to review Etalin hydropower project

The Etalin hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh has been rejected in its present form by the Forest Advisory Committee in the face of overwhelming opposition to its construction

Updated - January 18, 2023 08:50 pm IST

Published - January 18, 2023 01:09 pm IST

Representational image of a dam construction on the Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh

Representational image of a dam construction on the Subansiri river in Arunachal Pradesh | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

The Forest Advisory Committee has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to file a fresh proposal for forest diversion and the construction of the Etalin hydroelectric project (EHEP) due to non-compliance to conditions stipulated by the FAC and the overwhelming pushback against the project in the region.

The FAC made the recommendations during a meeting it held on December 27, 2022, for which the top agenda was the deliberation and discussion of the diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land for construction of the 3,097 MW power plant in Dibang Valley District.

The committee noted that since the original proposal was sent by the State government way back in 2014, it was imperative to review the facts and figures presented,. especially with regard to the number of trees that required to be felled.

Furthermore, the FAC rapped the government for poor compliance in earlier approved projects that have either stalled or not begun due to opposition from different groups. The committee directed the State government to review the status of all approved projects and submit a report to the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

The FAC also suggested the formation of a high-level empowered committee to look into various concerns raised by large representations against the project.

“Considering the above, FAC opined that the instant proposal cannot be considered in the present form and the revised proposal may be submitted for further consideration by the State Government,” read the release.

Why is the Etalin project controversial?

The Etalin project, a joint venture of the Jindal Power Limited and the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited, has attracted much controversy and opposition. In 2020, the National Board of Wildlife wrote that the “FAC appears to be ignoring established tenets of forest conservation and related legal issues while recommending this proposal”. The said that the ‘disastrous’ Etalin project needed to be junked.

The conservationists had also picked holes in the FAC’s site inspection report “bereft of details of locations within the forests visited, number of grids across an altitudinal range inspected, the status of vegetation therein, direct and indirect signs of wild animals listed in the various schedules of the Wildlife Act and overall appreciation of the ecological value of the area.

Underscoring the inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin, the conservationists said observations by wildlife officials were ignored. These include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.

The original project proposal approved by the FAC had mentioned that operations would involve the clearing of 2.7 lakh trees in “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rainforests”.

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