Lohit Basin Peoples’ forum for Project Affected Families
Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh
Press Note January 20, 2014
Kalai II Public hearing was full of violations, must be cancelled
Affected people intimidated, beaten up and not allowed to speak by police & politicians
The statutory Public hearing conducted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at Hawaii in Anjaw district in Arunachal Pradesh about the proposed 1200 MW Kalai II hydropower project in Lohit River Basin was marked by some serious violations that included intimidation of the affected people who wanted to raise questions and speak up, several people getting beaten up by the police and others, people that were not allowed to speak up, taking over of the public hearing by the MLA with his six hour long speech and public hearing stretched beyond midnight, apparently to manipulate the minutes of the public hearing. All these are serious violations of all the accepted norms of public hearing and cannot be acceptable. This is in addition to many procedural violations that were communicated through our written letter to Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, Deputy Commissioner of the Anjaw district and members of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects in Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the letter remains unanswered.
The hearing began at 10 AM with officials of WAPCOS (the EIA consultant agency) briefing the public about the EIA report. When Mr. Bihenso Pul, one of the project affected person stood up to question the officials on their false claim that a consultation was held with the affected land owners in the third stage of EIA, all of a sudden, the local MLA Mr. Kalikho Pul along with his close relatives and workers started threatening him and warning him of dire consequences. Witnessing this, the whole project affected public who had come to take part in the public hearing stood up in support and defense of Mr. Bihenso Pul. Following this, the personnel of Arunachal Pradesh Police started indiscriminately assaulting and lathi charging the public. Mr. Soti Tawsik, a Gram Panchayat Member from Nukung village from INC ticket was also grievously injured due to the lathi charge by police personnel when he tried to raise questions and express his opinion on the project. He was referred to Dibrugarh for further treatment as he was in a critical condition. Others injured include Baah Tawsik and Checheso Tawsik.
During the presentation on EIA by WAPCOS (it is an agency under Union Ministry of Water Resources, which itself functions like a Big Dam lobby and hence there is conflict of interest in WAPCOS doing any impact assessment work since impact assessment is supposed to be done by an unbiased, independent agency. Moreover WAPCOS is also involved in feasibility studies and detailed project reports for justification of projects, its track record is also very poor with both Expert Appraisal Committee and Forest Adivosry Committee of MoEF having crticised their work), even the illiterate villagers started expressing resentment over WAPCOS’s complete lack of knowledge on the topology, flora and fauna of the project affected region which was evident from the multiple factual mistakes made by the during the presentation. They were showing pictures of common fishes found in Parshuram Kund region and telling the villagers that the fishes were photographed from must higher elevation Kalai II project affected region. They did not even recognize the species of common Mynah available in the region and were calling it with different names.
The Public hearing was completely dominated by Shri. Kalikho Pul, the local MLA who spoke for 6 hours at a stretch starting from 6 pm, trying to convince the project affected families with misleading facts, while his workers and the Police personnel were highhandedly suppressing and manhandling every single person who stood to express his opinion or raise a question. Mr. Kalikho Pul also levelled baseless allegation of corruption against Mr. Bihenso Pul who is not even a government servant. Eventually, after being frustrated by the arbitrary, coercive and one sided conduct of the Public hearing, the project affected people started leaving the venue shouting slogans against the MLA and the administration stating they would never succumb to such illegitimate pressure tactics. If the public had not shown restrain and maturity during the mindless repressive act by police the incident could have taken an extremely dangerous turn.
An overwhelming about 60% of the affected people are against the project now being taken up. Even those 30% of affected who may be giving conditional support, have put forward a list of 23 conditions that are yet to be responded to. The rest 10% of the affected are as yet undecided. It is thus clear that the project as it stands do not have public support and with people not allowed to participate in the public hearing, the opposition will only get stronger. It may also be added that the same WAPCOS had done a shoddy EIA of the under construction Lower Subansiri project that remains stall for over 25 months now due to public opposition. The fate of Kalai II, if pushed without proper credible assessment of the project and basin level impacts and credible public hearing, will not be any different.
Finally, all the members of public left the meeting venue. The request to postpone the Public hearing in view of the incident to the next day by Mr. Bihenso Pul too was turned down and the hearing continued past 12 in midnight with only the Deputy Commissioner of Anjaw District, officials of Reliance Power Limited, Officials of WAPCOS & APSPCB and Mr. Kalikho Pul, Local MLA Anjaw district present during the meeting. This was clearly done to ensure finalization of manipulated minutes of public hearing.
This public hearing must be cancelled, an independent, credible enquiry conducted in the way in was sought to be conducted and in any case a fresh public hearing should be ordered after taking care of all the legal violations.
Bihensu Pul Birenso Pul
Chairman, 09402230335/ 08974543363, Affected farmer