[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, 19 Feb: The Project Affected People’s Forum (PAPF) has written to Chief Minister Pema Khandu and the forest principal secretary, seeking action for early forest clearance for the 3,097 mw Etalin hydroelectric project (HEP).
The PAPF’s request comes after the MoEFC’s assistant inspector general wrote to the state government, seeking a revised proposal for the diversion of 1,165.66 hectares of forest land for construction of the project as per the Forest Advisory Committee recommendation.
During a meeting in December last year, the FAC had said that the proposal had been sent in 2014, and that “the original proposal was sent by the state government way back in 2014.
“It is imperative to review the facts and figures presented by the state government, especially with regard to the number of trees which require to be felled,” it said, adding that Arunachal has a poor record of forest clearance compliance.
In a statement to this daily, Rohit Mele, the general secretary of the forum, said that it is a serious issue concerning the affected beneficiaries, who have given up their lands.
The Arunachal government had offered to provide the actual number of trees to be felled once the project commences. Now, the forum is saying that “repetition of trees enumeration would be sheer wastage of time and money. The enumerations of trees to be felled were conducted in a most reliable way with the help of a survey team comprising official board members along with volunteers from the local community.”
It added that, since it has taken eight years for the FAC to consider the proposal submitted by the GoAP, “it is inevitable that the veracity of the facts and figures will appear hazy and doubtful under the circumstances.”
It further said that, if the forest department’s nodal officer has failed to convince the committee of the FAC of the actual facts on the ground, he must be taken to task.
It further said that the “government must make it very clear to the FAC that any poor compliance with regards to conditions stipulated by the FAC while according the forest clearance cannot be attributed as reasons for not granting clearance to new projects. In other words, non-compliance by other projects cannot be cited as the cause to object to the grant of clearance to EHEP.”
The organisation further said that the GoAP must act proactively in order to obtain on-time forest clearance, “as the PAFs have waited so long and their patience should not be tested any further.”
Referring to various petitions against the project which the FAC had also noted, the forum said that the voices of the project affected people must be heard.
It asked the state government to constitute a high-level empowered committee to look into all the issues as well as conduct a meeting at the affected site with the PAFs in order to obtain firsthand report and resolve the matter at the earliest.
“Whichever method the government opts for, we seek an early resolution,” it said.
As reported earlier, the FAC suggested making a “robust empirical estimate,” and said that “the state government may seek consultation with the FSI in this regard.”
It said also that “concerns regarding the biodiversity and protection of wildlife needs further assessment and safeguards,” adding that “the sub-committee headed by Dr Sanjay Deshmukh had observed that the multi-seasonal replicate biodiversity study may be carried further to include multi-seasonal replicate study as desired by the FAC earlier.”
It also suggested conducting a cumulative impact assessment, considering other hydropower projects in the Dibang valley.