No clearance for Arunachal hydel projects

Four hydroelectric power projects in Arunachal Pradesh have been denied environmental clearance while the term for one has been extended.

By Ranju Dodum
  • Published 2.07.15
The Siang

Itanagar, July 1: Four hydroelectric power projects in Arunachal Pradesh have been denied environmental clearance while the term for one has been extended.

The developer of the 2,000MW Subansiri Upper Hydroelectric Project in Upper Subansiri district has received an extension for its completion for the third time following a Union ministry of environment and forests meet earlier this month.

The expert appraisal committee met on June 3 in New Delhi to discuss the fate of several projects in the state and recently released the minutes of the meeting.

The project developer, M/s KSK Upper Subansiri Hydro Energy Ltd, had sought an extension of the projects terms citing that surveys on many facets had not been conducted. The terms of reference describe the purpose and structure of any project.

The power company said the land, property and socio-economic survey will be completed by December this year. It said the final drafts of technical reports will be prepared and submitted to the state pollution control board which is expected to conduct public hearing by March next year.

The project charter was first submitted in April 2011 and it was given two years for completion. Its term was extended last year for a second time. On extending the validity for the third time till April 27, 2016, , the appraisal committee said "the request made by the project proponent was reasonable and genuine".

While the firm will welcome the decision, the appraisal committee did not herald good news for other projects in the state that were awaiting a green clearance.

On rejecting three hydroelectric power projects of 96MW each on the Tawang river basin - Mago Chu, Nyukcharong Chu and New Melling hydroelectric projects, the appraisal committee said there were several key issues that needed to be addressed.

Citing its reasons for not giving environmental clearance for the projects, the appraisal committee noted that the "Tawang sub-basin study is yet to be examined and accepted by the ministry". The commmitee also noted that the proposal for grant of environmental clearance needed to be looked into by the ministry.

The committee also noted that public hearings for the projects had not been conducted and asked the power developers to submit response to the various issues raised by the New Delhi-based NGO South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.

There are 13 projects planned for the Tawang basin amounting to 2791.90MW of installed capacity.

Projects in the Tawang basin have been actively opposed by people of the area, led by Buddhist monks. Most notable among them is Lobsang Gyatso, who welcomed the committee decision.

Speaking over phone from Tawang, Gyatso, a monk at Tawang monastery, said they are "not opposing all projects" but that people need to be consulted.

"Democratic process of consultation needs to be done," he said, adding that his opposition arises from the socio-cultural and ecological impact of the projects. Gyatso claimed that swathes of land with religious significance would be washed away by some of the planned projects.

He also claimed that politicians from the area are putting pressure on the people in attempts to forcefully take land away from them.

Another project that failed to get an approval from the committee was the 81MW Pemashelpu hydroelectric project in the Siang basin.

The project is a run-of-the-river scheme planned for construction on the Yargyap Chu, a tributary of the Siang river in West Siang district. While the power developer, M/s Mechuka Hydro Power Pvt Ltd, said the public hearing for the project was conducted last year in August, the committee said "hearing needs to be conducted also to cover the area identified for compensatory forestation programme to assess the environmental impacts".