NEW DELHI, Feb 8 – Within days of China announcing its plan to construct three more hydroelectric projects on Brahmaputra River, India has cleared Tawang-II hydro power project paving its implementation.
The 2500 MW hydro projects across various States have been accorded clearance by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of Ministry of Environment and Forest, an official spokesman said.
The projects include 800 MW Tawang-II Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh and 520 MW Teesta-IV Hydroelectric Project in Sikkim. Both the projects are to be executed by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), besides a few other projects in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Interestingly, the clearances of these projects have been pending for a long time and were cleared within days of China clearing the three dams in the Brahmaputra River.
Sources said the MoEF, vide an order dated February 5, has exempted certain linear projects, including transmission lines, from the requirement of obtaining consent of the concerned Gram Sabha, unless recognised rights of primitive tribal groups and pre-agricultural communities are being affected.
However, all other conditions as prescribed in the MoEF’s earlier order of August 3, 2009 would apply. This would help transmission projects obtain clearances faster, sources added.
Separately, the MoEF has recently granted Stage-I forest clearance to eight transmission projects and Stage-II forest clearance to two transmission projects of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd.
A sense of urgency has gripped the Centre after China announced its latest plans. With a number of Chief Ministers of North-east pressing the Centre to act, the Ministry of Power made the first move and took up the case with MoEF Minister of State of Power.
The Tawang hydro project would involve diversion of 116 hectares of forest land and at least 62 families are likely to be affected by it. The NHPC has last year obtained Central Electricity Authority’s concurrence for the 600MW Tawang-I and the 800MW Tawang-II projects in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to the understanding arrived at between the State Government and NHPC, Arunachal Pradesh Government would undertake the basin study through a third party. An MoU in this regard is soon to be signed.
Last year, Tawang witnessed demonstration by Buddhist monks, who launched a movement against construction of dams in the area voicing concern over the adverse impact of the hydroelectric project on the environment.
China’s announcement has caught India on the backfoot because New Delhi still does not have a strong case to establish its right to use the water of Brahmaputra River, according to international law.
As reported by this newspaper, the Committee of Secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary has been studying the issue since 2006 and recommended that dams need to be constructed without delay to establish the country’s stake.