Etalin Hydro Power Project | 08 Jun 2022

For Prelims: Etalin hydro power project, Dibang valley, Forest Advisory committee

For Mains: Preference to Growth and development, Growth and development over environment

Why in news?

Wildlife scientists and conservationists in Arunachal Pradesh flagged threats to local biodiversity from the proposed Etalin hydroelectric (3,097 MW) project in Dibang Valley. To raise the issue,they approached the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

What is the Significance of Dibang River?

  • The Project is based on the river Dibang and is proposed to be completed in 7 years.
    • Dibang is a tributary of the Brahmaputra River which flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • It envisages construction of two dams over the tributaries of Dibang: Dir and Tangon.
  • The Project falls under the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and would be located at the junction of major biogeographic zones like Palearctic Zone and Indo-Malayan Zone.
  • It is expected to be one of the biggest hydropower projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

What are the Concerns Raised by the Environmentalists?

  • Conservationists highlighted that the FAC sub-committee ignored established tenets of forest conservation and related legal issues while recommending the proposal.
  • FAC ignored the threat of forest fragmentation.
    • Forest fragmentation results from ill-planned intrusion of developmental projects into contiguous landscapes with natural forests and threatens rare floral and faunal species in a biodiversity hotspot.
  • FAC’s site inspection report was also questioned for leaving out key details like number of grids across an altitudinal range inspected and the status of vegetation there, direct and indirect signs of wild animals listed in the various schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and overall appreciation of the ecological value of the area.
  • The inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin was also highlighted.
    • Wildlife officials ignored observations which include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.
  • The proposed mitigation measures like setting up butterfly and reptile parks are inadequate and insufficient.

What is the Forest Advisory Committee?

  • It is a statutory body which was constituted by the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980.
  • It comes under the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • It considers questions on the diversion of forest land for non-forest uses such as mining, industrial projects, townships and advises the government on the issue of granting forest clearances. However, its role is advisory.

Way Forward

  • Community-led approach: The local population of the region should be consulted and should have participation in the decision making to ensure that the final decision making should reflect their concerns.
  • Demarcation of ecological sensitive areas: The areas which are at risk of loss of biodiversity should be properly delineated to ensure that they remain undisturbed.
  • Environment Impact assessment (EIA): A proper and complete assessment of the impact of the project on the local environment should be studied comprehensively.
  • Extension of Protected Areas: The greater number of national parks and sanctuaries should be established to protect the endangered animals and plants.