Moving to fast-track environment clearance for hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh, an expert panel of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has shown the green light to a 1200-MW project on the Lohit river and is set to consider for clearance a 3097-MW hydel project in Dibang Valley later this week. But in giving the go-ahead, the ministry appears to have bent its own guidelines.
On January 28, the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the ministry recommended environment clearance for the 1200-MW Kalai-II hydro electric project of Reliance Power subsidiary Kalai Power Pvt Ltd.
The ministry has listed the 3097-MW Etalin hydro electric project for the next EAC meeting on February 27. The Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Ltd is a joint venture company of Jindal Power Ltd and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd. The project is on the Dri and Tangon, tributaries of the Dibang river which meet near Etalin village.
The clearances go against the ministry’s own guidelines. In May 2013, the ministry issued an order that after the first project in a river basin, all subsequent ones would be considered for clearance based on a cumulative impact assessment. Further, in two orders on August 20 and September 26, 2014, the ministry said that approval of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for projects within 10 km of national parks and sanctuaries would form part of environment clearance.
The cumulative impact assessment of the Lohit basin by IIT-Roorkee is still to be completed and the Kalai-II project has not even come up before the NBWL. But the ministry listed the project for environment clearance in the January 27-28 meeting of its EAC. Clearance for the Etalin project too is subject to the cumulative impact assessment study.
When his comments were sought, B B Barman, Director, MoEF, and Member-Secretary of the EAC, said: “The committee recommended Kalai-II HEP for environment clearance. But there are a number of conditions to be met. The case is the same with Etalin. The ministry’s May 2013 order asked for carrying capacity studies to be initiated for all rivers within three months and completed in two years, after which it would become mandatory for considering every project. That deadline is still a few months away.”
He declined comment on the requirement of a cumulative impact assessment for each project stipulated in the same order and the merit of considering Kalai-II and Etalin HEPs for environment clearance without meeting this condition.