NGT upholds DMP environmental clearance

[Tongam Rina]

ITANAGAR, Nov 15: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has upheld the environmental clearance (EC) accorded to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation’s (NHPC) 2,880 mw Dibang multipurpose project (DMP) in Lower Dibang Valley district, paving way for the construction of the world’s tallest concrete gravity dam (at a staggering 288 metres) on the Dibang river.
According to the NHPC, DMP is a hydropower-cum-flood moderation scheme proposed on the Dibang river. The dam site is located about 1.5 kms upstream of the confluence of the Ashu Pani and the Dibang rivers, and about 43 kms from district headquarters Roing.
While disposing of appeals filed by Pradip Kumar Bhuyan versus Union of India and Ors and Pradip Bhuyan & Anr versus Union of India and Ors questioning the grant of environmental clearance by the environment, forests & climate change (EF&CC) ministry in February 2015, an NGT bench comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, Jawad Rahim and SP Wangdi, and technical member Dr Nagin Nanda on 13 November ruled that “adequate studies and steps had been undertaken to ensure sustainable implementation of the project.”
It said expert studies have been undertaken over a period of almost 14 years, starting in 2004.
“Multiple individual experts, expert bodies and institutions have expressed their opinion after undertaking detailed scientific and technical studies which we find difficult to brush aside,” it said.
Taking note of the objection raised by the appellants, the bench said the concerns “would put the project proponent, the state government and the EF&CC ministry on guard to ensure that the recommendations made by the experts are scrupulously followed.”
It further said that “no activities which would ultimately lead to unscientific and unsustainable development and ecological destruction should be allowed at all and must scrupulously try to protect the ecology and environment. Harmonization of… issues of the ecology and developmental project has to be ensured. In the present case, we find adequate steps having been taken towards this direction.”
The bench directed that the conditions laid down in the impugned EC should be scrupulously complied with.
Before the clearance was granted on 19 February, 2015, by the EF&CC ministry, the project had witnessed massive protests by the local people, which had led to multiple postponements of public hearings. The public hearings were postponed several times between 2008 and 2013 due to stiff protests by the Mishmi community. Most of the public hearings cancelled were blamed on bad weather conditions. Finally, two public hearings were held in the first quarter of 2013 for Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley, where the public was reported to have agreed to the project.
According to studies, 115 families of five villages are likely to be displaced, and 744 families of 39 villages are likely o be affected due to acquisition of land.
The total land requirement is about 5349.14 ha, which includes unclassified state forest, community land, and wet rice cultivation. The total submergence area is 3564 ha, which includes 1176 ha of river bed. The total catchment area of the project is 77,276 sq kms.
The project was twice rejected by the ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC). After the controversial public hearings were conducted, the FAC rejected it in July 2013, but ultimately the environmental clearance was granted in February 2015 by the ministry.