In an unprecedented first ever Audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which recently conducted Performance Audit on ‘Environmental Clearance and Post Clearance Monitoring’ has unambiguously stated that the existing processes for grant of Environmental Clearance are fraught with serious violations, noncompliance and deficiencies.[i] In fact River Valley and Hydroelectric Projects have been highlighted for poorest quality of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Reports, maximum irregularities during Public Hearings, and non-compliance of Environmental Clearance conditions.
This is a resounding slap on the face of the functioning of the current and past Expert Appraisal Committee’s (EACs on Dams and vindicates and validates what SANDRP and other civil society groups have been saying for long. This is indeed much needed critical feedback when EAC is seeking to make its proceedings less and less transparent and providing false justifications for the same.Continue reading “CAG validates concerns about shoddy environmental appraisal of Dams”→
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.
Kalai II HEP – Status of compliance with TOR in EIA and EMP:
Serious non compliance of EIA-EMP: EIA-EMP must go back to consultants WAPCOS
Public hearing based on such EIA-EMP will not be legally valid
The EIA EMP reports of the proposed 1200 MW Kalai II HEP in Lohit basin in Anjaw district in Arunachal Pradesh has been put up on the Arunachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board in advance of the public hearing slated for January 18, 2014. The EIA-EMP report is supposed to comply with the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIA-EMP given by the EAC and MoEF, this is statutory requirement as per the EIA notification of Sept 2006. We have just checked this compliance and find that the EIA and EMP reports have not fulfilled a very large number of the TOR (Terms of Reference) that the project was to cover in EIA-EMP as per the TOR clearance given for the project on 9.12.2009. Such EIA-EMP will clearly not be acceptable even from statutory and legal point of view and cannot be basis for a public hearing. Hence Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) and MoEF should immediately cancel the public hearing and ask the EIA-EMP consultants to comply first with the TOR.
Invalid extension since EIA-EMP does not comply with the TOR Here it may be added that as per minutes of 70th EAC meeting dated Dec 10-11, 2013, “In the mean while, MOEF issued an Office Memorandum dated 22-Mar-10 which stipulates that the proposals which were granted TORs prior to the issue of this OM, the EIA / EMP reports should be submitted after public consultation no later than four years from the date of the grant of the TORs with primary data not older than three years. Thus the TOR issued to the project on 9th December 2009 is valid up to 8th December 2013”. By this norm, the Kalai II TOR clearance should have lapsed on Dec 8, 2013. However, EAC decided to give an extension to TOR for this project, since the project developer claimed, as noted in EAC minutes, “With the completion of all the studies, the draft EIA/EMP report for 1200MW Kalai-II HEP was prepared and submitted by the developer to Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) vide letter dated 31st July 2013…”. However, this assumes that the EIA-EMP submitted complies with the TOR given by MoEF. But this analysis shows that there is serious non compliance of the EIA-EMP with the TOR and hence submission of such fundamentally inadequate EIA-EMP cannot be a valid reason for providing TOR extension beyong legally stipulated period.
A list of TOR noncompliancein the EIA-EMP is given below.
Noncompliance in EIA Report:
Geological and Geophysical Aspects
Regional Geology and structure of the catchment – some details only about has been mentioned in the EIA, the latter is not available
Seismicity , tectonics and history of past earthquakes in the area – the EIA only mentioned about seismicity, the latter two has been completely ignored
Critical review of the geological features around the project area – not available
Impact of project on geological environment – not available
Justification for location & execution of the project in relation to structural components (Dam height) – not available
Graph of 10 – daily discharge before and after the project at the dam site immediately below the dam should be provided i n the EIA study – Not available
The TOR mentioned “An elementary stream gauging station should be established at a suitable location downstream to the Dam site of the project” and “Installation of two Rainfall Gauge Stations at upstream of dam site” but none of these has been complied with.
Surprisingly the EIA also mentioned “No gauge and discharge (G&D) data is available at the Kalai-II project site or in the neighborhood.”
1) “Cropping and horticulture pattern and practices in the study area” – no mention of this in the EIA
2) Regarding identification of rare and endangered flora and fauna the EIA report mentioned only one “During the study in various seasons in Kalai-II HE project area, following IUCN Red List of threatened plant, Lagerstroemia minuticarpa falls under endangered category. Rest of the species are common in Arunachal Pradesh. However, this species though observed in the study area but not found in the land to be acquired for the project.” (section 8.7 page 8 -22) This is a strange claim that the species is observed in the study area but not found in the land for the project.
3) Fish and Fisheries
a) The 5 location of study of Fish migrations & Breeding grounds was not done
b) Impact of Barrage building on fish migration and habitat degradation was not studied
c) Overall ecological impact upto 10 Km d/ s from the confluence of the TRT with the river or reach of the river in India have not been not studied. The impact of untreated and waste water into the river was not studied and no alternatives explored.
4) In the part of impact prediction, impacts on flora and fauna due to changed water quality has not been assessed
Socio Economic aspects In terms of Socio-economic aspects the following should have been included in the EIA report.
· Land details*
· Demographic profile
· Ethnographic Profile
· Economic structure
· Development profile
· Agricultural practices
· Cultural and aesthetics sites
· Infrastructure facilities: education, health and hygiene, communication network, etc.
· Impact on socio- cultural and ethnographic aspects due to Construction of Barrage
But the EIA does not do several of these profiles and limits itself to – Demographic profile, Educational levels, Occupational Profile, Land holding pattern, Assets owned and Livestock and other socio-economic parameters etc.
In page 11- 8 EIA report says “Impacts on cultural, archeological and religious properties Monuments of cultural/ religious/ historical/ archaeological importance are not reported in the project area. Thus, no impacts on such structures is envisaged.” However, the EIA should have looked into the impact of project on places of cultural, religious importance for the local communities.
Impacts related to Land The EIA ignores what has been suggested in terms of impact prediction for land. The EIA completely ignores –
a) Changes in land use and drainage pattern
b) Changes in land quality including effects of waste disposal
c) River bank and their stability
d) Impact due to submergence
However, in page no 10-23 in the section “Impact of Impoundment on Landuse” the EIA mentions: “The construction of the dam would form the reservoir which will submerge about 640 ha of area in upstream. The area witnessed jhum/shift cultivation practiced by local inhabitants. Submergence of the area would not impact much on the prevailing land use pattern.” This is a false and misleading statement since in the hilly areas of Arunachal Pradesh, shifting cultivation is the main process of cultivation and submergence of such a large area is sure to have impacts on land environment.
TOR Noncompliance in Environment Management Plan:
Under Catchment Area Treatment Plan, the TOR letter had asked the project proponent to prepare 5 thematic maps v i z . Slope map, Drainage map, soil map, Land use/ Land cover Map, Aspect map. Basing on these maps an Erosion Intensity map should have been prepared. But the EMP only has two maps Slope map and Land use Map. No Erosion Intensity map was prepared.
Under Compensatory Afforestation Plan it was mentioned that “The choice of species for Afforestation should be suggested and the proper sites for the same should be demarcated on the maps.” There is no map in the EMP report’s chapter on Compensatory Afforestation Plan.
Under Greenbelt Plan the scoping clearance asked for “….suitable plant species should be recommended with physical and financial details. A layout map showing the proposed sites for developing the green belt should be prepared.” But the EMP report chapter on greenbelt does not at all comply with it. It makes no mention of any species and no map had been prepared.
The TOR clearance letter under “Reservoir Rim Treatment Plan” asked for “Layout map showing the landslide/ landslip zones should be prepared.” But the maps provided in chapter 17 of the EMP report are not at all clear and the when zoomed in they get blurred. So the sites, even if they exist in the maps cannot at all the located.
The TOR clearance letter under “Muck Disposal Plan” had asked for “The quantity of muck to be generated and the quantity of muck proposed to be utilized should be calculated.” This was not complied with and EMP report in chapter 6 mentioned only about the muck generated from excavation. Under the same, the scoping clearance also asked for “Layout map showing the dumping sites viz – viz other project components should be prepared.” There is no layout map showing the dumping sites.
The TOR clearance letter under “Restoration Plan For Stone Quarries” asked for “Layout map showing quarry sites vis-à-vis other project components should be prepared.” There is no map prepared for complying with this condition.
For “Landscaping and Restoration Plan” TOR letter asked for proper map showing landscaping and restoration site but this was not complied with in the EIA report.
The TOR letter asked the consultant to include a “Certificate” in EIA/EMP report regarding portion of EIA/EMP prepared by them and data provided by other organization (s)/Laboratories including status of approval of such laboratories. The consultant WAPCOS did not comply with this.
Conclusion These are crucial issues which were specifically mentioned in the TOR letter and EIA-EMP not complying with such crucial issues is unacceptable. The public hearing of the project is schedule to be held on 18.01.2014 but going for public hearing without complying with the condition mentioned in the TOR clearance is against the due process of law. The public hearing of Kalai II project should not be held and the EIA should be sent back to the projects developer. Moreover, as pointed out at the outset, the TOR extension given to the project beyond the stipulated period was based on false claim of submission of EIA-EMP that adheres to the TOR. Thus the extension given is invalid and the project must be asked to apply for TOR clearance afresh as per the MoEF norms. The public hearing if conducted on January 18, 2014 in spite of this, will not stand legal scrutiny.
Parag Jyoti Saikia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)