Union Ministry denies forest clearance to mega power project at Dibang and Tipaimukh
After the Uttrakhand disaster which killed thousands of people, the Union of ministry of environment and forests is cautiously approaching in according forest clearance to mega hydro power projects in Northeast India.
The ministry has denied forest clearance to the 1,500MW Tipaimukh hydel project in Manipur and the 3,000MW Dibang multipurpose project in Arunachal Pradesh.
NHPC Limited is the implementing agency for 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project. For Tipaimukh hydel project the joint venture implementing agency include NHPC and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN) and Manipur government.
Both these projects are facing stiff opposition from the NGOs and environmental groups. The forest advisory committee (FAC) which held meeting on July 11 and 12 found that in both projects, the requirement of forest land is large and will have an adverse impact on the general ecosystem of the area.
According to FAC, Tipaimukh project involved diversion of very large area of forest land and feeling of more than 78 lakh trees in Manipur alone. The committee observed that the Tipaimukh dam required 24,329 hectares of forestland – more than one-fifth of the total 1, 18,184 hectares of forest land diverted for execution of 497 hydel projects in the entire country after the Forest Conservation Act came into force.
The FAC added the forestland requirement against every mega watt of proposed electricity generation – 16 hectares per megawatt – was much higher than the national average.
FAC stated in case of Tipaimukh project that the requirement of forestland was large and disproportionate to its power generation capacity. “Very high ecological, environmental and social impact/cost of the diversion of the vast tract of forestland will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project.”
The committee strongly recommended that approval of the said forest land should not be accorded. FAC recommended that in case the user agency desires, they may explore feasibility to construct smaller dams involving diversion of smaller forest area commensurate with their power generation capacity.
For the Dibang project the FAC observed that felling of more than 3.5 lakh trees was most likely to have adverse impact on the general ecosystem of the area, recovery of which may be very difficult through any type of mitigating measures.
According to FAC, “There is no study conducted to assess the cumulative impact of all the reservoirs and the upstream and downstream impacts. The ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of such a vast tract of forestland, which is a major source of livelihood of the tribal population of the state, will far outweigh the benefits likely to accrue from the project”.