Who Cares About Protests? NHPC To Go Ahead With Tawang Project Regardless
ITANAGAR: Undeterred by people’s opposition, the NHPC is going ahead with plans to pursue construction of the Tawang-II hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh.
Opposition to the Tawang Stage I (600 megawatt) and Stage II (800 megawatt) projects have been on for a few years now, led mostly by Buddhist monks from the area. Earlier this year in February, 27 affected villages rejected the two projects through gram sabha representatives. However, the popular resolution seems to have done little to deter the NHPC.
An official statement from the public sector unit said that it is “keenly pursuing the gram sabha consent from the six balance villages” that will be affected by the Tawang-II project.
Out of 13 affected villages, the NHPC said it has obtained consent from six gram sabhas.
Under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, NHPC needs the consent of the gram sabhas concerned to proceed with the projects.
Speaking to The Citizen, the activist-monk Lobsang Gyatso said that the consent of those villages was obtained before May 2, 2016, when anti-dam protestors in Tawang were fired upon by security personnel, leaving two dead and injuring several others.
The statement of intent by the NHPC comes in the wake of recent developments related to hydropower in the state.
It was announced that the Centre is planning to develop the country’s single largest dam by installed capacity on the Siang river which becomes the Brahmaputra in Assam. The plan was mooted during a recent NITI Aayog meeting with chief minister Pema Khandu.
NITI Aayog officials proposed to build a 10,000 megawatt dam in the site of the proposed Siang Upper Stage-II project which was originally to have an installed capacity of 3,750 megawatts and scrap the Stage-I project which was originally slated to have an installed capacity of 6,000-MW.
The plan however, has been vigorously opposed by indigenous Adi tribal activists.
More recently on October 16, the Kolkata bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a directive to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to constitute a three-member expert committee to conduct a study on the downstream impacts of the Lower Subansiri dam along the Arunachal-Assam boundary. Construction of 2000-megawatt dam has been stalled since December 2011 over protests in downstream Assam.
The NGT has asked the ministry to make it mandatory for the committee to consider all previous expert committee reports and studies on possible adverse downstream impacts.
The committee has to submit its report within three months to the EAC for taking a decision.
(File Cover Photograph of an earlier protest in Arunachal Pradesh against the dam in which two were killed in police firing)