GUWAHATI, Sept 29 - Environment activist Bimal Gogoi has demanded reversal of the stand of the National Board for Wildlife Standing Committee (NBWLSC) on the issue of according wildlife clearance to the 1750-MW Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project.
In a letter to the Chairman of NBWL Standing Committee, Gogoi, who has been fighting the issue of granting clearance to the above project for the past several years, alleged that the wildlife clearance to the Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project was accorded on the basis of a faulty report of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
Gogoi was an appellant in this case before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and he had challenged the forest clearance to this project before the NGT. The NGT on October 23, 2017 had suspended the forest clearance accorded to this project and also set aside the wildlife clearance accorded to it.
The 50th meeting of the NBWL SC has accorded wildlife clearance to the project basing on the report of the WII.
Gogoi said that he had earlier made two submissions before NBWL SC on the project on February 24 and September 6, 2018. But the wildlife clearance has been granted to the project without taking into considerations the points he had raised and basing on the WII report, which is a flawed one, he said.
The WII was authorised to prepare the report– “Rapid Ecological Assessment of Impacts of Lower Demwe Hydro-Electric Project on Wildlife Values” (August 2018), Gogoi said, instead of the suggestion of the three-member site visit committee for a comprehensive peer-reviewed study on the hydrology and ecology of three seasons by a reputed and neutral scientific / technical organization(s) before according the clearance.
The NBWLSC has not recorded any reasons for ignoring this suggestion of the three-member site visit committee. A detailed study is critical to take a sound decision on the project and ensure long-term ecological security of our region, he said.
Besides, the NBWLSC has not bothered to abide by the NGT directive to look into all the issues concerned freshly and instead relied upon a 2009 environment impact assessment (EIA) report to justify the upstream submergence being caused by the project.
Further, the standing committee has also been silent on the mandatory requirement of prior permission under Section 35 (6) of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 from the Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam, even though an earlier official report on the project maintaining that water flow variations would take place in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam due to the project.
Significantly, the Government of Assam had also mentioned this fact in its affidavit before the NGT. However, the NBWL SC has ignored this fact, said Gogoi.