GUWAHATI, May 20 – The Ministry of Environment, Forrest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has accorded environment clearance for construction of the 2,880-MW Dibang Multipurpose Project in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh by the NHPC Ltd. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs 25347 crore. The project is likely to be completed in nine years.
This clearance letter is valid for a period of 10 years from the date of its issuance for commissioning and generation of electricity, said the MoEFCC in its notice. The ministry said in its notice (NO. J-1201112512009-1A.1) on Tuesday that the environment clearance to the project had been accorded in accordance with the recommendation made by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects of the Ministry.
Significantly, the ministry said in its notice, “After 5 years of the commissioning of the project, a study shall be undertaken regarding impact of the project on the environment and downstream ecology. The study shall be undertaken by an independent agency to be decided in consultation with the ministry.”
This is described by environment activist groups as a ploy to hoodwink the people of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, who are agitating for undertaking such studies much ahead of executing the project. The project has been opposed by many leading environment activists’ groups too on the ground that it will have a severe adverse impact on the environment of the downstream areas, particularly in the Assam areas, including the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Remarkably, the MoEFCC has not included Assam as a party in considering the issue of according environment clearance to the project and the things are done in such a hurried manner that it is feared that a powerful lobby is at work to get all the river valley projects of the NE region approved by the ministry, alleged the environment activists’ groups.
This decision of the MoEF obviously goes against the high-pitch proclamation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the last Lok Sabha elections. Then Prime Ministerial candidate of the party Narendra Modi, who has now become the Prime Minister of the country, in his address at an election rally at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh on February 22, 2014, pleaded for honouring the sentiments of the people of the NE region on the issue of big dams. He also called for smaller hydroelectric power projects.
On November 17, 2010, the then president of the BJP Rajnath Singh, who is now the Union Home Minister, had taken part in a demonstration near the Gerukamukh site of the 2000-MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project opposing execution of such projects without a prior downstream impact assessment study, said the environment activist groups.
The project is proposed on the Dibang river near Munli village in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh. The project envisages construction of a 278-metre high concrete gravity dam across the Dibang river about 1.4 km upstream of the confluence of the Ashu Pani river with the Dibang river for generation of 2,880 MW hydropower.