China's bid to have big hydel projects along the Indian border in north-east may witness a counter with environment ministry set to approve 1,750 MW Demwe hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh.
China has planned to build at hydel project in Zangmu, 140 km south-east of Tibetan capital city of Lhasa in a bid to tap the hydro potential of Brahmaputra river. The river flows about 1,625 kms in Tibet, 918 kms in India and remaining 363 kms in Bangladesh before submerging into Bay of Bengal.
Arunachal Pradesh government has planned hydel projects on five major rivers in the state, which finally drain in Brahmaputra, to generate over 50,000 MW of power. Many of these projects are stalled because of protest against them in Assam claiming that these projects will dry the river in down stream areas.
But, the environment ministry is likely to approve one of these projects, Demwe Lower hydel project in Lohit district of the state despite it being rejected by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife headed by minister in-charge Jayanti Natarajan.
The committee had rejected the project claiming that it will adversely impact wildlife in Kamleng wildlife sanctuary. Contrary to the committee's view, the ministry officials say there will be no submergence of the sanctuary even when the reservoir is full. The project has already received environment and forest approval, mandatory for making a project operational in a forest area.
Natarajan has reportedly decided to issue an order overruling the standing committee's decision after Arunachal chief minister Naban Tuki met her recently. The CM argued that exploiting hydel potential was an important economic incentive of the state, which is required to protect forest covering 70 % of the state's geographical area. Tuki was also of the view that hydel projects in Arunachal were a key to counter China's plans to develop mega hydel projects in Tibet.
Government sources expect the minister to issue an order regarding Demwe project this month paving a way for clearance of more hydel projects in the state.