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Meet on Demwe fate in Delhi tomorrow

Guwahati, Oct. 12: The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife will decide on Friday whether to give the nod for the construction of the 1,750MW Demwe Lower Hydro Electric Project in Arunachal Pradesh, as the project falls within a 10km radius from the boundary of Kamlang wildlife sanctuary.

According to rules, any project that is proposed within a distance of 10km of a national park or wildlife sanctuary must obtain clearance from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife.

Sources said this was one of the many projects on the agenda of the 23rd standing committee of the wildlife board.

The board is scheduled to meet on Friday in New Delhi.

Fifteen local organisations and individuals have petitioned the chairman of the committee, Jayanthi Natarajan, not to give clearance to the project unless a comprehensive study by a “credible” consortium of scientists (both local and national) is done on the downstream impact of the hydro electric project and other upstream projects on the Siang and Dibang on Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.

“We hope the standing committee will not sideline this important concern. Dibru-Saikhowa is unique in many ways. Of the 1,200 species of birds in the country, over 500 are found in this park. The park is also home to 25 per cent of the country’s endangered species. It is also one of the 15 biosphere reserves in the country,” the organisations said in their letter.

The downstream study done by the Water and Power Consultancy Services, a ministry of water resources undertaking, is extremely poor on the wildlife aspect, the organisations said.

The project, being executed by Athena Demwe Power Limited, involves felling of 43,000 trees outside the 783 square km Kamlang wildlife sanctuary.

The joint letter said the application for clearance mentioned that the project was within 8.5km aerial distance from Kamlang sanctuary.

“But this is the distance from the dam and not the closest component in the project to the sanctuary, the reservoir. The application fails to mention that the closest distance of sanctuary from reservoir is only 50metres(0.05km). This information which is crucial for assessing the fragmentation of the larger landscape around Kamlang sanctuary (both terrestrial and aquatic) and it is a serious matter that this fact seems to have been deliberately withheld from members of the standing committee,” it said.

The letter from the organisations also quoted former environment minister Jairam Ramesh’s letter dated September 16, 2010, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, conveying the concerns of the people of Assam.

“The 1,750MW Lower Demwe Hydro Electric Project on the Lohit river will have serious downstream impacts till Dibrugarh in Assam and should not be given forest clearance, although environmental clearance has already been given for the project,” the letter said.

The Arunachal Pradesh forest department has recommended the proposal with seven conditions.

One of the conditions is to keep Kamlang wildlife sanctuary outside the submergence area and all possible measures should be adopted for compliance of the same.

Mridu Paban Phukan coordinator of wildlife conservation and study centre, Naharkatiya, said the project would impact the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in the downstream, which needs to be studied thoroughly.

“One does not know what will happen later but we want to draw the attention of the concerned authorities that downstream impact study has to done seriously” he said.” There are several important sites of cultural and spiritual significance along the banks of the Lohit in the downstream in Assam, which will be negatively impacted because of drastically altered flow patterns,” Rajib Rudra Tariang assistant professor of department of zoology, Digboi College, said.

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