International news agency, after independent research, have corroborated what SANDRP has been saying: Mismanagement of dams played big role in worsening Kerala floods.
-“The release could have started earlier so that by Aug. 9 there would have been left-over capacities in the reservoirs to store the water,” said Biswajit Mukhopadhyay, director of water resources at U.S-based engineering firm IEA, who analysed some of the publicly available data at the request of Reuters.
– Still, dozens of flood victims interviewed by Reuters, who live in villages dotting the banks of Kerala’s biggest river, the 244 km Periyar, say they faced no floods despite torrential rain in late July and early August. All of them said waters only rose overnight on Aug. 15. That was when more intense rainfall forced KSEB to rapidly ramp-up releases of water from Idukki and Idamalayar reservoirs, which feed into the Periyar.
– Kerala’s revenue secretary and head of disaster management, P.H. Kurien, told Reuters he has twice written to KSEB requesting EAPs and has yet to receive them. KSEB’s Pillai said EAPs and dam operation manuals were still being prepared. CWC said it was working with Kerala’s government to speed this up. The Kerala Chief Minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment. https://widerimage.reuters.com/story/did-dams-make-indias-once-in-century-floods-worse (11 Oct. 2018)
Above: Broken, Silted Canals of under construction Pawai Project on Ken River in MP (SANDRP photo)
The Ken Yatra while going through the Panna district were told by Project Affected People that the Pawai Medium Irrigation Project (PMP) under construction is displacing the people without just compensation or rehabilitation.
The Ken Yatra observed that the construction work of the PMP is happening in full swing in Madhya Pradesh. The dam is being built at ‘Tendu Ghat’ on Ken River in Panna district to supply irrigation water to 9952 hectares (the board at the project site erroneously says it will irrigate 30 000 ha) of agricultural land falling in Pawai and Gunnor tehsils. The construction work also involves creation of a massive canal, including a few aqua-ducts on Ken river and its tributaries. Continue reading “Pawai Dam Project displacing people without Rehabilitation, allege PAFs”→
ABOVE: A fabulous view of Ken river. Nesting sites of Long-billed vultures are to the right. All will go under water if Ken-Betwa linkup is carried out, Photo by AJT Johnsingh
On Sept 1, 2017, Reuters published a report[i] about Interlinking of Rivers, with focus on Modi flagging off work on Ken Betwa Project. The report was carried VERY widely, including in local, national and international media. [This note was sent as a letter to a number of persons at Reuters and Thomson Reuters on Sept 2, 2017, there has been no response so far as I publish this several hours later.]
Can you imagine a project-not any project, perhaps India’s largest irrigation project till date- going on for years without most statutory clearances? Can you imagine a project on which Rs 7000 Crores have been spent already but its Dam height (FRL – Full Reservoir Level) is yet undecided? Can you imagine a project whose canal works are ongoing in full swing, without having any idea of the submergence? Can you imagine a Public Hearing where the Project Engineer says that the meeting is only about compensation not about environmental impacts or fundamental questions? Can you imagine a state which is set to lose thousands of hectares of rich forests, protected areas, villages for a project of a different state, but is happy to oblige? Can you imagine a Ministry which turns a stony Nelson’s Eye to a project continuing right under its nose without Environmental Clearance, Wildlife Clearance or Forest Clearance?
Guest Blog by: : Karthik Teegalapalli(email@example.com) a researcher with the Nature Conservation Foundation
In April 2014, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) decided to deny clearance to the 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydro-electric Project, the largest capacity hydro project in the country proposed to be developed by the National Hydropower Power Corporation (NHPC) in the biodiversity-rich Arunachal Pradesh State (Saikia 2014). The project was also denied clearance in July 2013. More recently though, the project has been recommended forest clearance by the FAC and Environment Clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee. Therefore it is pertinent to look at the impacts the project may have in some detail.
Ecological impacts The project, in its earlier version involved diversion of more than 5000 hectares of relatively undisturbed grassland and tropical forest habitat. These and the adjoining forests harbour endangered species such as tiger, leopard, serow as well as the critically endangered takin, all of which are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (these species are also listed as present in the area in the Environmental Impact Assessment report of the project, undertaken by National Productivity Council, Guwahati). The grasslands in the area harbour the critically endangered Bengal Florican, a grassland habitat specialist (Sinha et al. 2014). Other species recorded from the area include the critically endangered white-rumped vulture, the slender-billed vulture and the white-winged wood duck. The project site lies in an area identified by the Bombay Natural History Society as a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area (Islam & Rahmani 2004). The habitat of six endangered plants (Aconitumferox, Coelogynemossiae, Dendrobiumaurantiacum, Paphiopedilumfairieanum, Paphiopedilumvenustum and Vandacoerulea) will be submerged by the reservoir (Chernaik 2007).
The project will also affect aquatic species; the dam will block the breeding migration of four species of fish: the Vulnerable snow trout Schizothoraxrichardsonii, Endangered golden mahseer Torputitora, Near-Threatened mahseer Tortor, and chaguni Chaguniuschagunio. The recommendation of the Environmental Management Plan of the Project to establish fish hatcheries for these species is impractical and can have further damaging effects on the species due to collection of eggs and spawn from the wild population.
The project will have other collateral damages such as through Compensatory Afforestation (CA) that often involves converting an area with diverse native species into monocultures, as has been shown for other dams such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river (Bhatnagar 2004). The project involves CA of a relatively large area of over 100 sq. km (double the area of forest being affected by the project). The ill-effects of this conversion particularly for the project can be expected to be higher if tree-less natural grassland habitats in Dibang Forest Division, Namsai Forest Division and Anini Social Forestry that harbour grassland habitat specialists are planted with undesired native or non-native tree species. Perhaps the irreversible loss of biodiversity in the forests and grasslands that will be diverted for the project could never be ‘compensated’.
During the construction phase of the project, an estimated 32 lakh truckloads of boulders and 16 lakh truckloads of sand is to be extracted from the Dibang river basin. Unsustainable extraction of sand and boulders has significant negative effects on geomorphology, bank stability, flood character of the river, water quality, river flow, and the biodiversity in the river basin (Padmalal et al. 2008). The project during the construction is to generate 198 lakh cubic meters of muck which will be disposed in the river bank which will cause further loss of 120 ha of river habitat. Construction of new roads (64 km) and widening of existing roads (19.5 km) will also lead to removal of trees and increase the vulnerability of the region to landslides and erosion (Chernaik 2007).
Social impacts The Lower Dibang valley is currently a region of relatively low human population density (~14/km2); the entire population of the Idu-Mishmi tribe is about 12,000. The influx of approximately 6,000 project staff (which is very likely an underestimate) for a period of 8 years or more will affect their way of life, their culture and their tradition as well as open up access to relatively moderately disturbed habitat and biodiversity in the region.
Downstream effects include those on fisheries, agricultural lands and wetlands (beels) and the dam will also increase the vulnerability of the region to flash floods. For instance, in the year 2007, flash floods caused due to sudden release of water from the relatively smaller 405 MW Ranganadi project in the Lower Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh swamped 83 villages and caused huge loss of lives and property in the Assam State. The project will have a considerable impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Assam which has not been studied in detail in the EIA.
On shaky grounds A critical issue with the project is that the site lies close to an active Fault Line in the Mishmi Thrust of the Mayudia Group in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh with a history of several seismic activities including the Great Assam earthquake of 8.6 magnitude in 1950 (Figure 1, Misra 2009). In the event of an earthquake, the project poses a risk of catastrophic submergence of several villages and vast areas of forests downstream. The recommendations of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project are cursory and suggest further research on the natural seismicity of the region as well as reservoir-induced seismicity, which should be the basis for the decision about the project.
Notwithstanding these, in Oct 2014 the project was cleared by the FAC constituted by the new Government, although the committee still had four of the six members who had earlier twice recommended rejection of clearance. Is this decision driven by changes made by NHPC in their project plan? Clearly not. Diversion of forests has now been reduced by a mere 9% to about 4600 hectares; instead of 3.55 lakh trees, the felling has been reduced to 3.24 lakh trees, the power generation capacity has been reduced by 2.3% and the height of the proposed dam reduced by 10 m. In fact, the FAC rejection of April 2014 was for this 10 m rejection proposal!
NHPC misleadingly and baselessly claimed that they ‘were not in a position to reduce the height of the dam any further, as it would significantly affect the power generation’. The decision to provide clearance to the project seems like a hasty one driven by the blinders of development and the consequences of such projects is evident from the fate of the Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project in the same State, also by NHPC. After 12 years since the LSHP was initiated and after an expenditure of over Rs. 5000 crores, the work has been on a standstill for the last 35 months as a result of India’s biggest anti-dam people’s movement (Dandekar & Thakkar 2014). Considering the economic, ecological, environmental and social costs of the project as well as the geophysical risk it poses, it would be prudent to withdraw the project till a credible, detailed cumulative study covering these aspects is undertaken in a transparent and participatory way. While the rest of the world is recognising the ill-effects of dams, with the largest dam removal project on the Elwha river in the United States completed just three months back, it is paradoxical that we are heading in the other direction; of building the highest dam in the country and largest capacity reservoir of the North East India without even basic studies, credible impact assessment and democratic decision making process.
Bhatnagar, D. (2004) Uprooting Forests, Planting Trees: Success of Compensatory Afforestation Measures Mitigating the Deforestation for the Sardar Sarovar Dam, India. University of California at Berkeley.
Islam, M. Z. & Rahmani, A. R. (2004) Important bird areas in India: priority sites for conservation. Indian Bird Conservation Network, Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife International (UK).
Misra, D. K. (2009) Litho-tectonic sequence and their regional correlation along the Lohit and Dibang Valleys, Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. Journal of the Geological Society of India, 73: 213-219.
Padmalal, D., Maya, K., Sreebha, S. & Sreeja, R. (2008) Environmental effects of river sand mining: a case from the river catchments of Vembanad lake, Southwest coast of India. Environmental Geology, 54(4): 879-889.
Saikia, P. J. (2014). Six years after PM laying the foundation ston: No clearance, no work for 3000 MW Dibang Dam.
Sinha, A., Hoque, J., Pradhan, T., Bakshi, M. K., Pulu, J., Singh, A. K. & Ahmed, F. (2012) Sighting record of Bengal Florican Houbaropsisbengalensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Gruiformes: Otididae) in Lower Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 4(14): 3375-3376.
PROJECT UNABLE TO SUBMIT SATISFACTORY PROPOSAL EVEN SIX YEARS AFTER PM LAID FOUNDATION STONE!
In a remarkable decision, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF has rejected the forest clearance to 3000 MW Dibang multipurpose project for the second time in its meeting held on 29 -30 April 2014. In that meeting FAC considered the Dibang multipurpose project for diversion of massive 4577.84 ha of biodiversity rich forest land which would lead to cutting down of huge 3.24 lac trees.
The project was previously considered in the FAC meeting of 11-12 July, 2013 for diversion for 5056 ha of forest land which would have led to cutting down of 3.55 lac trees. In that meeting too, FAC had rejected forest clearance to the project. It is important to note that the foundation stone of this project was laid way back on 31st January 2008 by the Prime Minister of India (to know more on this, read our earlier blog on Dibang). At that time the project had neither the environment clearance nor the forest clearance even though these two are most essential for a project to legally have foundation stone.
Over six years later, continuous rejection of forest clearance to this project reflects how government gives little importance to environment while planning for mega development projects such as Dibang. This kind of callous environmental governance, disregarding environmental concerns of large number of people was one of the major reasons for decimation of the UPA government, provided NDA government wants to learn anything from it.
Rejecting the forest clearance to this project, the latest FAC meeting proceedings stated, “In view of the above the committee has recommended for rejection of the proposal and felt that the proposed area is very rich in Bio-diversity aqua sensitive ecosystem being at the edge of hills and flood plains and having large number of endemic and endangered flora and fauna. Moreover, such project is most likely to have considerable downstream impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa NP in Assam which is not yet studied.”
SANDRP has been making submissions to the FAC & other authorities on this project at various points of time. Brief timeline regarding Dibang HEP is given in Annexure 1. Excerpts of our last submission dated 28th April 2014 are given in Annexure 2. The project also does not have environment clearance.
FAC Rejected CCI Recommendation to Give Clearance to Dibang Project While considering the forest clearance to Dibang project, the statutory body FAC was under pressure from the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) headed by the Prime Minister of India. In its recommendation to FAC the CCI had stated – “The Committee considered the note dated 25.10.2013 from the Ministry of Power (Vidyut Mantralaya) and in the light of all relevant facts, decided that Ministry of Environment and Forests may grant the requisite clearance for diversion of forest land expeditiously. The Committee further directed that appropriate measures for increasing the environment flow in the 1.2 Km along stretch between the dam and Tail Water Level (TWL) of the dam to Power House be taken and if required, adjustments in the project parameter be made at a later stage keeping in view the report of Water and Power Consultancy Services (India) Ltd.”
The project proponent NHPC Ltd had approached CCI after FAC meeting of 11-12 July, 2013 where the forest clearance to the project was rejected for the first time. It is important to remember here that while rejecting the forest clearance to Dibang the FAC had clearly stated that “ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast track of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the State, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project.” CCI’s intervention in this matter, to push for the forest clearance for the project, was not at all based on merits of the issue. This also reflected a total disregard for the FAC clearance process. The FAC has taken a positive step towards conservation of the rich biodiversity of the Dibang valley, disregarding the CCI suggestion.
Rational for Rejection: FAC’s Observation Regarding Dibang project The FAC has made several significant observations in regard to this project and on the basis of which it has rejected the forest clearance to this project. Some of these observations in order of importance are listed here.
“The revised proposal envisages reduction in dam height by 10 meter which will bring down the submergence of the forest area by only 445 ha, a reduction by less than 9%. The number of affected trees is marginally coming down to 3.24 lakhs from 3.5 lakh. Such a marginal reduction in requirement of the forest land may not be able to reduce the adverse impact of project on such a biodiversity rich mature forest ecosystem to the extent which could make the project environmentally as well as socio-economically viable in forest dependent tribal society of Arunachal Pradesh. The revised proposal, therefore, does not address the concerns raised by the FAC in its last meeting where too the project was rejected.”
The reduction in power generation due to reduction of the Dam height by 10m it is to the tune of 2.3%. The User Agency has not given any convincing justification for their stand of not reducing the Dam height by more than 10 meter. Impact of reduction of the Dam height on the economic feasibility of the project has not been put forth before the committee.
The proposed forest land for Dibang Multipurpose Project is the major habitat of schedule I flora and Fauna. The major Schedule–I species like Elephant, Hollock Gibbon, Mishmi Takin, Clouded Leopard, Tiger, Leopard cat, Fishing cat, Mithun, Slow Loris, Snow Leopard and Himalayan Black Bear etc are found in the area.
As per the SIR (Site Inspection Report) of RO (Range Officer) Shillong, there will be significant effect on removal of trees in the general ecosystem of the area. As the proposed diversion site is having a steep slope with patches of Jhum cultivated area, removal of the trees will affect the micro climate of the area and the Wildlife and Flora endemic in the proposed sub-mergence area. The trees and shrubs all along the submergence are to be removed so that they will not be left submerged thereby causing decomposition and lead to the accumulation of the methane gas causing Green House effect. The construction of the dam itself may lead to the increase in the temperature in the submergence area which may also effect the micro aqua habitat.
Earlier NHPC had submitted three alternatives directly to the ministry reducing dam height by 10, 30 and 40m. However, these proposals have not been mentioned in the revised proposal of the state government.
The FAC also made some observations regarding the revised proposal submitted by the Government of Arunachal Pradesh (vide letter no FOR.10/Cor./2003/VolIV/287) on 13.02.2014. Corresponding details pertaining to the revised proposal such as suitable map (Survey of India topo-sheet, Digital GPS map, forest cover map, etc) have not been submitted by the State Government.
Compliance of Schedule Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 has also not been submitted by the State Government.
No clarification about the non-suitability of the land identified for Compensatory Afforestation, as per observation of the Regional Office Shillong made in the site Inspection Report, has been furnished by the state government.
CAT plan has not been submitted.
Earlier decision of FAC also noted, “Including Dibang HEP, there are several other HEP proposed in the same river valley. However there is no study conducted in to assess the cumulative impact of all these reservoir and it upstream and downstream impacts.”
Welcome decision It is indeed amazing that over six years after the Prime Minister laid foundation stone, the project is unable to submit a satisfactory proposal complete in basic details. How can the cabinet ask that such a proposal be cleared? This is also a fitting answer to all those who have been blaming MoEF for not clearing projects. How can projects be cleared if the project authorities are not able to provide even basic details as required under the law?
This categorical rejection of the Dibang HEP by FAC on merits is indeed a remarkable decision of the FAC and we hope the new government at the centre with strengthen this decision and learn lessons for the hydropower projects in North East India.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh lays foundation stone for Dibang HEP
No clearances, not even public consultations or impact assessments.
18 Aug 2011
State government submits proposal to MoEF
MoEF asks Regional office to do site inspection through letter dated Sept 14, 2011. However, the proposal did not have sufficient information. Regional office informed on Aug 1, 2012 that due to lack of sufficient information from state government about the proposal and poor connectivity, site inspection could not happen. Significant part of the project also falls within 10 km radius of the Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary.
11- 12 July 2013
Diversion of 5056.50 ha of forest land in favour of NHPC for Dibang project on Dibang river in Lower Dibang valley of Lower Dibang district of Arunachal Pradesh, after site inspection
The committee noted that the project involves huge forest area, having very good forest cover. Felling of more than 3.5 lakh trees most likely to have adverse impact on general eco-system of the area, recovery of which may be very difficult through any type of mitigative measures. Including Dibang HEP, there are several other HEP proposed in the same river valley. However there is no study conducted in to assess the cumulative impact of all these reservoir and it upstream and downstream impacts. The committee is of the opinion that ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast tract of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the State, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project/ The committee, therefore, recommended that approval for diversion of said land may not be accorded.
13 Aug 2013
Meeting between Secretary, MoEF & Secretary, Ministry of Power
User agency to explore the possibilities of reducing the forest land requirement and send revised proposal to MoEF.
25 Oct 2013
Ministry of Power note to Cabinet Com on Investment
Asks CCI to intervene to reverse the FAC decision
9 Dec 2013
Meeting of Cabinet Committee on Investment
Cabinet secretariat, through OM dated 13 Dec 2013 sends the minutes to MoEF asking MoEF to clear the project expeditiously
13 Feb 2014
State government sends revised proposal to MoEF for FAC
Marginal reduction in forest land required to 4577.84 ha through reduction in dam height by 10m, claiming further reduction is not possible as it will affect power generation of the project.
29 – 30 April 2014
Revised proposal regarding diversion of 4577.84 ha of forest land in favour of NHPC for Dibang project
….the committee has recommended for rejection of the proposal and felt that the proposed area is very rich in Bio-diversity aqua sensitive ecosystem being at the edge of hills and flood plains and having large number of endemic and endangered flora and fauna. Moreover, such project is most likely to have considerable downstream impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa NP in Assam which is not yet studied.
Submission made by SANDRP to the FAC on Dibang Project
SANDRP’s submission of 28th April 2014 which was also endorsed by Keshav Krishna Chatradhara of Peoples’ Movement for Subansiri and Brahmaputra Valley (PMSBV), had mentioned several pressing concerns regarding Dibang project. Some of these mentioned below:
1. Revised Proposal for Dibang HEP is incomplete, FAC cannot Consider on the basis of incomplete proposal – In our submission we had clearly mentioned that the revised proposal which is submitted by Government of Arunachal Pradesh on 13.02.2014 was incomplete which was very clear from the factsheet that was made available on the forest clearance website dated 21st April 2014.
o The revised proposal does not provide the details regarding Compensatory Afforestation (CA). Details such as the non-forest area/degraded forest area identified for CA, its distance from adjoining forest, maps showing the area identified for CA and adjoining forest boundaries, details of CA scheme, total financial outlay for CA have not been provided along with the revised proposal.
o The number of families which needs to be rehabilitated have increased to 115families in the in the revised proposal. In the previous factsheet of July 4th 2013 this was 68 families. The revised proposal also does not have the details of the rehabilitation plan.
o The recommendations from DFO, CCF, Nodal Officer and SG were not available.
o The revised proposal submitted by government of Arunachal Pradesh on 13.02.2014 was clearly incomplete since in the Form A submitted by the state government, the Part-II of the form was not been enclosed.
2.No Details about the Reduction in Land required for the project The proposal stated that the land requirement has been reduced to 4577.84 ha from the 5056.5 ha which implies that 478.56 ha of land has been reduced. But the factsheet mentioned about the reduction of 33.658 ha of area falling under the 10 km radius of Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary. But it has no information about the rest 445 ha of land. The revised proposal should provide detailed breakup of forestland, river bed and non-forest land coming under the revised submergence.
3. FAC concerns remain unresolved While rejecting the forest clearance to Dibang the FAC had clearly stated that “ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast track of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the State, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project.” There is nothing in the fresh proposal to resolve these issues.
4. Huge opposition to the project in Arunachal Pradesh and from downstream Assam: The project faces stiff opposition from Arunachal Pradesh and even more so in downstream Assam and any effort at pushing the project is likely to spark conflicts in this conflict prone region, like we are witnessing in Lower Subansiri HEP. FAC should not go ahead with the project without assessments, studies and participation to save future complications and wastage of resources. A video titled “Dibang Resistance (Arunachal Pradesh)” depicts the protest and blockade by local people against the Dibang dam. The video can be viewed here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8TCUKh2hQY
5. Impacts of Climate Change: North East is one of the 4 most vulnerable regions to Climate Change Impacts as identified by the Climate Change and India 4X4 Assessment Report of the MoEF. Detailed studies about the impact of the loss of 4577.84 hectares of forests needs to be conducted on various aspects, including adaptive capacity of the people, biodiversity and so on. Ironically, the Site Inspection Report only mentions that to decrease Green House Gas Emissions, trees surrounding the reservoir should be cut, which highlights the unscientific, misleading and myopic perspective on climate change and its impacts. There should also be assessment of impact of the loss of carbon sink, green house gas emission from the reservoir and local climate impacts. We are already experiencing the effects and impacts of climate change. It should now be obligatory for the FAC to consider climate change in its functioning.
6. Incomplete and Shoddy Downstream Impact Assessment The downstream impact assessment done for the Dibang multipurpose does not take into account impacts of the dam in Assam and hence it is incomplete and shoddy. The downstream impact assessment study does no assessment except the impact on Dibru-Saikhowa and whatever has been done is also very much inadequate. It is important to note that lack of adequate downstream impacts assessment of the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri HEP of the same developer NHPC Ltd is one of main reasons behind the ongoing anti dam protests in Assam. Due to these protests the work in the said project has been stalled for last 28 months since Dec 2011 after spending over Rs 5000 crores. Dibang multipurpose may also meet the same fate if project is pushed ahead without proper downstream impact assessment, which is also important for the downstream forest and protected areas.
7. No Public Hearing Held in Assam Even though the Dibang multipurpose will have severe impacts in downstream Assam, there was no public hearing held for the project in Assam. This is a clear violation of norms and this should be taken seriously by the FAC.
Similar concerns were resonated in the submission made by Shri Chow Rajib Gogoi, Secretary, All Tai Ahom Student Union, Jorhat on this project to the 68th meeting of Expert Appraisal Committee held on September 23rd-24th, 2013. In that submission it was said “The Dibang project will cause regular havoc in the downstream Assam, not just in terms of forest but also agriculture and livelihood. The EAC / MoEF is also aware of the widespread concerns in Assam about the downstream impact of dams and has respectfully repeatedly received petition on the same. We are disturbed that concerns still remain unaddressed.” But the reply to this by the project proponent reflects lack of seriousness on the part of the proponent. The project proponent stated, “The memorandum has not given the detail as to how Dibang project would cause havoc in the downstream in terms of forest, agriculture and livelihood.” It is surprising to read such a reply since it is the responsibility of the project proponent to get these studies done. But in stead, to cover up, it is asking a local student group to give all these details!
8. Severe Impacts of Migration of Outsider on Local Tribal Community and Fear of Demographic Imbalance Influx of migrant worker for construction of Dibang multipurpose will have severe impacts on the communities living there. The primary inhabitants of Dibang valley are Mishmi (Idu) which is a very small community with a population of 11,023 according to 2001 census. Due to this, they fear that influx of outsiders for dam building will lead to a demographic imbalance in the Dibang valley. According to NHPC estimates a workforce of 5800 people (labour and technical staff) would be needed for the Dibang multipurpose project. But All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU) has contested this figure and opined that a single project would bring about 15,000 people into the region. It is also reported that NHPC claim that the project will cause ‘negligible human displacement’ grossly undermines its harmful impacts on smaller ethnic community such as Idu Mishmis. This is a serious concern regarding Dibang multipurpose project and severe demographic impacts which can be deduced from the figures above cannot be undermined.
Influx of labour at such a massive scale will increase the conflict potential of the region. As it is, the region is scarred with many conflicts and unrest surrounding water. MoEF needs to be sensitive about growing discontent and increasing conflicts in this region.
9. No Cumulative Impacts Assessment study undertaken: 3000 MW Dibang HEP is one of the 17 cascade of hydel projects coming up in the Dibang valley. When this is known, the FAC cannot consider Forest Clearance to 3000 MW Dibang Project in isolation. The FAC should first ask for a cumulative impact assessment study and Basin Study of the Dibang River, to be done by an independent consortium of experts (not agencies with conflict of interest and poor track record like WAPCOS), the study should include carrying capacity assessment and only based on such a study consider individual projects in this region.
The foundation stone of 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Dam was laid on 31st January 2008, by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Six years have passed since then but the project is yet to get the necessary forest and environment clearances. This in a way reflects the state of environment governance in India where the foundation stone of mega dam is laid without getting any necessary clearance.
This project was considered for forest clearance in the FAC meeting held on July 11th and 12th 2013. The FAC meeting minutes noted “Felling of more than 3.5 lakh trees most likely to have adverse impact on general eco-system of the area, recovery of which may be very difficult through any type of mitigate measures”.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River valley and Hydroelectric projects considered Dibang multipurpose project in its 68th meeting on September 23rd 2013 for environment clearance but this was in complete violation of norms. Following the “Lafarge vs Union of India and others” case of 2011, the Supreme Court of India had said that a project without forest clearance cannot be considered for environment clearance. SANDRP had pointed this out in our submission to EAC dated 20/09/2013. But EAC seemed to take no account of that.
Out of the 168 projects proposed for Arunachal Pradesh, this is the only multipurpose project. The minutes of 68th EAC meeting states that this project has dual objectives. The primary objective is flood moderation while electricity generation is its secondary objective. This is highly doubtful though since the project does not have the adequate storage capacity. On the other hand, the installed capacity of the project i.e. 3000 MW is also one of the highest among 168 hydropower projects.
The Dibang multipurpose dam is located 1.5 km upstream of confluence of Ashu Pani with Dibang river at Munli village in Lower Dibang Valley district. Construction of this dam involves two districts of Arunachal Pradesh viz. Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley districts. All the project components e.g. dam, power house will be are located in Lower Dibang Valley District while reservoir which will submerge 43 km length of the river will fall in both districts. The total land requirement for this dam is 5794.142 ha out of the 5022.842 is forest area with very rich bio-diversity. Submergence of such a huge forest is one of the major concerns associated with this dam and that is why the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has refused forest clearance to this project.
The Dibang multipurpose project plans to construct 288 meter high concrete gravity dam with an underground dam toe power house. The reservoir of this project will submerge 40.09 sq km area. The total cost of the project at November 2007 price level was estimated at 15886.39 crores.
It is important to note that the public hearing for the project faced vehement opposition of the local people. The public hearing of the project has been halted for several times. The local people expressed serious concern regarding Dibang multipurpose project and feared that influx of outsiders for dam building will lead to a demographic imbalance in the Dibang valley. This is a serious issue since the primary inhabitants of Dibang valley are Mishmi (Idu) which is a very small community with a population of 11,023 according to 2001 census. According to NHPC estimation a workforce of 5800 people (labour and technical staff) would be needed for the Dibang multipurpose project. But All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU) has contested this figure and opined that a single project would bring about 15,000 people into the region. It is also reported that NHPC claim that the project will cause ‘negligible human displacement’ grossly undermines its harmful impacts on smaller ethnic community such as Idu Mishmis. A video of the protest by local people can be seen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8TCUKh2hQY
No cumulative impact assessment of dams in Dibang valley has been conducted e even though 17 projects have been proposed for this region. The TOR clearance had been given to 86 MW Ithum and 3097MW Etalin HEP in the basin by EAC. Without any cumulative impact assessment study of the basin no project should be given environment clearance. People from Dibang valley has also written to previous EAC on demanding cumulative impact assessment study. A letter to EAC from a local person Raju Mimi, dated January 31st 2013 stated “Since the 3097 MW Etalin project is on agenda again for the 64th EAC meeting to be held on Feb 1st – 2nd 2013, we re-iterate our demand to have prior cumulative impact assessment of multiple hydropower projects by urgently commissioning a Dibang river basin study.”
Other Glaring Issues of Dibang Multipurpose Along with the above mentioned issues SANDRP had made detailed submission to EAC pointing to some of the glaring concerns associated with the project. Some of these issues are –
Incomplete and Shoddy Downstream Impact Assessment: The downstream impact assessment done for the Dibang multipurpose does not take into account impacts of the dam in Assam. The downstream impact assessment study does no assessment beyond Dibru-Saikhowa and whatever has been done is also very much inadequate.
No Public Hearing Held in Assam: Even though the Dibang multipurpose will have severe impacts in downstream Assam, there was no public hearing held for the project in Assam.
Mining for the Dibang Multipurpose will lead to Catastrophes: Mining of boulder, sand and other construction material for the Dibang multipurpose project will have very severe impacts on the river as well as on the local environment. The amount of boulder required for the construction of this project is 193 lakh cubic meter as stated in the project document. This is really astonishing figure and impact of such mining on the river bed and nearby areas will be catastrophic. The fragility of the Himalayan mountain range is not unknown to anyone and mining in such a sensitive hilly area will area will only increase the risk of landslide and disaster. The catastrophe of Uttarakhand floods is a clear example of this.
No Climate Change Assessment Impact of climate change on the project and impact of the project on the local climate. No attempt has been made to assess the impact of green house gas emissions from the reservoir of the dam which extends to 43 km.
No assessment impacts of peaking power operations Impacts Detail assessment of impacts of peaking power operation during non-monsoon months not done. Impacts on the flow characters of the river due to this dam, what will be the changes and how these will impact downstream areas.
No Assessment of Disaster Potential Impact of the project on disaster potential in the project area as well in the downstream including Assam due to construction and also operation at various stages, say on landslides, flash floods, etc.
No Assessment of SiltFlushing Impact of changing silt flows downstream from desilting chamber and from silt flushing in monsoon on the downstream areas not analyzed. A detail account of how the silt from the dam would be flushed out annually and what would be the impact of this in the downstream as well as on the geo morphology, erosion, stability of structures etc was not done.
What did the EAC say in 68th Meeting The EAC in its 68th meeting did not recommend environment clearance to the project and instead pointed out several issues in the EIA – EMP report. Some of the important issue pointed out by EAC are –
1. Attempts may be made to avoid submergence of huge area of rich forest land. It merits mention that due to the very high forest land submergence, forest clearance has not yet been accorded by FAC.
2. Environmental Flow in the diverted portion of about 1.2 km i.e. between dam and TWL of dam toe PH is to be reassessed and a suitable quantity is to be proposed for release as per extant norms. 4% flow as suggested was found to be inadequate.
3. Numbers of Fish species reported was found to be on lower side and NHPC was asked to verify this and report accurately.
4. Number of plant species reported also appeared to be on lower side and to be rechecked by NHPC.
5.At this altitude of the project (about 3000m), snow leopard should have been sighted. It may be erroneous to report that leopard was not found in the study area. Therefore, this may be relooked.
6. Study area in back water/ submergence is also to be extended for proper inventory of both flora, fauna/bio-diversity.
The impacts of the Dibang multipurpose project are going to severe on the river, people and overall ecology of Dibang river basin. But sad part is that no proper assessment of these impacts has been done till now. Looking back at the six years since the laying foundation stone for the project we reiterate what Forest Advisory Committee said about the project “ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast tract of forest land, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the State, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project.”