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Arunachal hydropower project that entails felling of 2.7 lakh trees irks lawyer’s body, The New Indian Express

The New Indian Express
05/06/2020

GUWAHATI: Joining environmentalists and wildlife activists, a lawyers’ body, “Indigenous Lawyers Association of India” (AILA) urged the Centre and Arunachal Pradesh government to cancel the Dibang Valley Hydropower Project.

The 3,097 MW project in Arunachal, to be developed by Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Limited, is a joint venture between Jindal Power Limited and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal.

“At a time, the destruction of nature has been blamed for upheavals in the world including pandemic and green energy is being increasingly promoted, the construction of outdated hydroelectric projects by destroying the nature must be abandoned,” AILA coordinator Dilip Chakma said.

The project entails the felling of 2.7 lakh trees in the “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forests” and diversion of 1,150.08 hectares of forest land. The Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary is a habitat of the tigers including snow tigers.

“In 2017, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) had recorded that project location preserves luxuriant forests and plethora of flora and fauna, and about six globally-threatened mammal species out of which three are endangered and three are under the vulnerable category. About 680 bird species were recorded, which is about 56% of total bird species of India. Out of the 680 bird species, 19 are globally threatened, 10 near threatened, four critically endangered, two endangered, 13 vulnerable species and three very rare restricted range endemic bird species,” the AILA said in a statement.

The lawyers’ body said the area is critical for the conservation of the bird species and the entire region falls under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) management categories III and IV, Endemic Bird Area, Global Biodiversity Hotspot, and Key Biodiversity Area indicating its importance at global scale.

“The Forest Advisory Committee had also stated in 2017 that the land in which the project is proposed is in pristine forests with riverine growth that once cut cannot be replaced. There are attempts to re-write the findings of the FAC of 2017 which must be condemned. The Dibang Valley project must be abandoned to save the mother earth,” the statement said.

Recently, a group of former members of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) and conservationists petitioned the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, urging it to reject the FAC’s sub-committee recommendations pertaining to the project.

“We have very carefully studied various aspects pertaining to the Etalin HEP and are deeply concerned about the recommendations…that ‘the project may be allowed subject to the condition that the financial outlay of Wildlife Conservation Plan be deposited to Forest Department by User Agency’ on the basis of a Wildlife Study done by WII which is ‘accepted in toto’…” former NBWL members Praveen Bhargav, Shekar Dattatri, Biswajit Mohanty and Kishor Rithe and conservationist DV Girish had written to the FAC chairperson and members.

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