PAFs favour early construction of Etalin HEP amidst questions on devious studies

[ Karyir Riba ]
ROING, May 6: Project Affected Families (PAFs) of the 3097 MW Etalin hydro-power project, being developed by the Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (EHEPCL), have extended their full support for the earliest execution of the project, and have written to the union environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), demanding immediate grant of the pending statutory forest clearance in favour of the hydropower project.
The project has been under the scanner because of questionable methods adopted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), FAC, the ministry of environment and forest and climate change and the government of Arunachal Pradesh.
The WII spent only four months on field while compiling a multi-seasonal replicate study on the Jindals’ 3097 MW Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd (EHEPCL) in Dibang Valley in Arunachal, and it relied on earlier studies conducted in the region.
The project is being executed through a joint venture of the EHEPCL, of the Jindal Power Ltd (74%) and the Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd (26%). The latter is a state government undertaking.
The group has claimed that they are against all complaints, social media campaigns and posts against the project, and have called them “unethical, erratic, absurd, anti-development and anti-national”.
In the letter, the PAFs have alleged that “many of the NGOs and other organisations involved in this anti-development movement are suspected to be getting a huge funding from foreign countries to sabotage the development activities and disseminate the anti-developmental movements in India”.
The PAFs presented six points to contradict the concerns of the anti-project people.
They have claimed that “it is unlikely that the land acquired for the project has presence of tigers in and around it as the land is inhabited by human beings and there has been no evidence of any encounter between humans and tigers in the area till date.”
In addition to this, they also mentioned that the claim of hoolock gibbons and 300 bird species found in the area are simply factual errors.
Regarding the 2.70 lakhs trees to be felled to accommodate the project, the group said that no such concerns were made over other such ongoing projects in the region, and claimed that “propagation of the issue against this particular project is totally biased and seems to be a step-motherly treatment”.
The PAFs cited accounts of losing jobs and student scholarships because of the delay in providing the forest clearance, and said that many more jobs will be at stake if it is left pending.
They said the Dibang Valley is a far-flung underdeveloped district with no basic amenities for education, health, and avenues for job opportunities, like industries and developmental projects. Hence, if the project is to be scrapped, the PAFs will remain deprived of these basic facilities.
They claimed that the timely execution of the project will make our state “economically self-reliant, independent and vibrant at parity with other developing states of the northeastern region”.
“Developmental projects should not be hampered at the cost of the conservation plan for flora and fauna,” it said in the letter to the FAC.
Twenty-four Indian scientists, including botanists, entomologists, ornithologists, mammalogists, herpetologists, aquatic fauna specialists, geographers and social scientists, who have multiple years of research experience in the state, have peer-reviewed the wildlife conservation plan prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for Jindal’s Etalin Hydropower Project (HEP) in Dibang Valley district.
“There are considerable deficiencies and scientific biases in the report which have compromised the quality and the veracity of its findings and conclusions,” read the peer review as it tore apart the findings of the WII, exposing how the institute comprised with the quality of the study by ignoring several important environmental as well as social aspects.