The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has summoned inspector general of forests AK Shrivastav on July 24 for allegedly withholding information on forest clearance granted to the 1750MW Demwe Lower hydroelectric project.
Forest clearance for the project, to be executed by Athena Demwe Power Pvt Ltd, was given on March 1. The dam is proposed to come up at Parashuramkund, an important cultural heritage site in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The NGT summon followed a petition by two environmentalists – Bimal Gogoi and Rohit Choudhury – who had highlighted the ‘deliberate move’ of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to conceal the forest clearance letter from the public eye so that locals are denied the right to seek timely legal redressal.
Shrivastav will accordingly be asked to explain why MoEF has not uploaded on its website the in-principle (stage 1) forest clearance for Demwe Lower.
Taking cognizance of MoEF’s ‘lack of transparency’ in not putting the forest clearance on the public domain, the NGT in its order last week observed: “In view of the serious nature of the allegations which are sensitive in nature, we call upon the Inspector General of Forests to file an affidavit showing cause with regard to the assertion made.”
On the proposed dam, the appellants said: “The construction and operation of Demwe Lower is likely to have serious impacts on ecologically sensitive areas in both Arunachal Pradesh and downstream Assam. These include protected areas such as Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, important bird areas, potential Ramsar and downstream habitat of Gangetic dolphin, the national aquatic animal.”
Members of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), comprising top wildlife biologists and conservationists, had unanimously opposed the wildlife clearance to the project due to its serious impacts. But the panel’s chairperson Jayanthi Natarajan overruled the objections and granted wildlife clearance on February 11.
Barely a month later, on March 1, MoEF granted the in-principle forest clearance.