Guwahati, Jan. 6: A panel of experts on river valley and hydroelectric projects has called for increased attention to livelihood, cultural and religious issues, which have been brought up by various groups regarding the impact of hydroelectric projects on rivers.
The committee, under the ministry of environment and forests, discussed a number of projects. It said though these aspects are generally considered while carrying out environment impact assessment of hydroelectric projects, a need was felt to accord more prominence to the issues.
“A river gets adversely affected as a result of the construction of hydro-electric projects and therefore, in addition to maintaining ecological integrity of the waterbody, the livelihood, cultural and religious issues are also to be effectively addressed,” it said in its report made public recently.
The report of A. Rahmani, a member of the team for site inspection of the Demwe Lower Hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh, said there appears to be enough reasons to reject a mega hydropower project at the site of the Demwe Lower project close to Parashuram Kund — a religious site.
Dropping the project will also help maintain a degree of connectivity between the plains and uplands, considering the fact that seven large hydroelectric projects proposed on the Lohit will lead to a serious fragmentation of the river.
“Once an area gets devastated, no authority in the world can restore it to provide livelihoods, more so in an agrarian economy. There can be no land mass activity,” Ravindra Nath, director, Rural Volunteer Centre, Dhemaji, told The Telegraph.
Appraising the draft report on the Study of Siang River Basin in Arunachal Pradesh by Central Water Commission and R.S. Technologies Private Ltd, the committee asked the consultants — R.S. Technologies Private Ltd— to study and recommend the effects of silt management.
It called for an in-depth study on silt management as silt is an integral part of Indian rivers.
“Silt transportation by river flow is important for various reasons. It is natural that construction and operation of hydro-electric projects leads to change in silt velocity and impacts aquatic bio-diversity. This is covered in the environment impact assessment studies but it was felt that a more in-depth study may be required,” it said.
The Central Water Commission has undertaken the task of conducting the environment impact assessment study for Siang and Subansiri river sub-basins in the Brahmaputra valley to assess the cumulative impacts of hydropower development in the basin.
The Siang basin has over 18,000MW of power potential, which will be harnessed by setting up nearly 45 hydropower projects spread throughout the basin.
Forty projects, with a capacity of nearly 8,193MW, have been allotted by the state government to a number of developers and two major projects — Siang Upper Stage-I (6,000MW) and Siang Upper Stage-II (3,750MW) — are being investigated by NTPC.
On the Siyom river, which is a tributary of the Siang, there are six planned projects, affecting 90km of the river stretch and seven projects are planned on the Yargyapchhu.
It has asked the consultants to recommend the requirement of free-flowing river between adjacent projects.