ITANAGAR, Jan 10: The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) is set to visit the 1750-MW Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project in Lohit district to re-examine the ecological impacts of the hydro power project.
This was decided at the 46th Standing Committee meeting held on 8 December, which was also attended by the Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
The Standing Committee decided that a three-member committee comprising of Prof R Sukumar, member NBWL, one representative of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and one representative of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would visit the site and submit a detailed report to the ministry within a month’s time.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had suspended the Stage-I and Stage-II forest clearances to the project in October last year, stating that former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s decision to overrule the non-official expert members of NBWL to clear the Demwe Lower project was taken in violation of laid down rules.
The former minister in 2012 had overruled the concerns of expert members regarding downstream impacts to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve, as well as the Kamlang Sanctuary, following which conservationist Bimal Gogoi had challenged the forest clearance before the Tribunal.
The NGT ruling read… “In the absence of any reason but only to reject the majority of the non-official members who happened to be experts in the field….we have no hesitation to hold that the decision of the minister as if it is the decision of the Standing Committee of NBWL, which forms the basis of the granting of FC in this case under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, is not sustainable in law”.
The Tribunal had also directed the Standing Committee of NBWL to reconsider the issue and pass appropriate orders within six months. It also said that until then, stages I and II Forest Clearances issued in March 2012 and May 2013 respectively, and the consequential order of the state government allowing diversion of 1415.92 ha forest land for the hydel project, will stand suspended.
The Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project is a joint venture of the Athena Energy Ventures and the Arunachal Pradesh Government, and the environment clearance for the project was granted in 2010.