Etalin Hydro Power Project

Etalin Hydro Power Project

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).

Concerns Raised by 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.

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 and Climate Change
• It considers questions on 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.

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.

Way Forward:
• While considering projects that are ecologically sensitive to the local tribal people and environment as such it is important to engage local community in the decision making process.
• A complete assessment of the impact of the project on the local environment should be studied comprehensively. Also crucial is to demarcate ecological sensitive areas which are at risk of loss of biodiversity. 

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