Activists raise concerns over major dam push in Arunachal Pradesh | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Activists raise concerns over major dam push in Arunachal Pradesh

ByJayashree Nandi
Jul 09, 2024 03:55 AM IST

They expressed concern about the 11,000 MW Upper Siang Multipurpose Storage project in the light of its possible adverse environmental repercussions

The Union power ministry needs to reconsider its stance on pushing for more dams on rivers and boosting hydropower capacity in Arunachal Pradesh, civil society groups such as Siang Indigenous Farmers Forum, Dibang Resistance and North East Human Rights urged on Monday.

Arunachal Pradesh governor KT Parnaik and Union minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Itanagar on Monday.(HT_PRINT)
Arunachal Pradesh governor KT Parnaik and Union minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Itanagar on Monday.(HT_PRINT)

They expressed concern about the 11,000 MW Upper Siang Multipurpose Storage project in the light of its possible adverse environmental repercussions. Anti-dam activist and lawyer Ebo Mili was detained on Monday in view of power minister ML Khattar’s visit to Itanagar, some alleged, declining to be named.

“As locals of Upper Siang, members of the Siang Indigenous Farmer’s Forum (SIFF) and concerned citizens of Arunachal Pradesh, we stand united against this project for several compelling reasons,” the activists said in a letter to Khattar.

Also Read | Cloudburst triggers landslides, flood-like situation in Itanagar

The state police cited “information from reliable sources” to contend Mili was likely to disrupt the public meeting involving chief minister Pema Khandu and Union ministers on Monday. There were also indications that other members of state-based anti-dam organisations, such as the Siang Indigenous Farmers’ Forum, were likely to join him in this endeavour, police said.

“To maintain public order and prevent any untoward incidents, a prayer was submitted to the Executive Magistrate, Itanagar, to bind down the aforementioned individuals (Ebo Mili and Dugge Apang, another activist) under Section 128 of the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS),” the statement said. “The prayer was granted, and the individuals were then bound down. They have been released after the legal formalities. This preventive action was taken to maintain public order.”

The recent Teesta dam breakage in Sikkim on October 4, 2023 serves as a reminder of the potential risks associated with large-scale hydroelectric projects, the activists based in the northeastern state said.

“We cannot afford to ignore these lessons. It also highlights the negligence on part of Developers like NHPC (state-owned National Hydroelectric Power Corporation),” the letter said. “It is important to highlight that the dam-induced floods in Assam has devastated the public downstream. Assam flood relief has become a mere act of damage control instead of implementing real change-oriented solution, which is to stop hydropower exploitation of rivers upstream in Arunachal Pradesh.”

Also Read | Manipur: Over 20,000 people affected, 3500 houses damaged due to heavy rainfall

On the night of October 3, the Lhonak glacial lake burst triggered a flash flood that killed at least 92 people. It is one of the largest and fastest growing proglacial lakes in Sikkim and is among the 11 large glacial lakes monitored by the Central Water Commission.

“Global temperatures are rising, leading to the formation of new glacial lakes. Arunachal Pradesh, with its more than a thousand lakes, is particularly vulnerable,” the letter said. “The Dibang valley, home to the 2,880 MW Dibang Multi-Purpose Dam and the 3,097 MW Etalin Hydro Project, faces increased risks due to climate-induced changes.”

HT has reached out for a comment from the power ministry on the memorandum from the activists.

“Rather than exploiting our rivers further, we advocate for sustainable alternatives such as solar and wind energy. We also insist that the government support small (and) medium social enterprises for rights-based energy partnership with indigenous people,” the activists said. “The Arunachal Pradesh State Hydropower Policy 2008 must be amended to suit the interest of the people of the State rather than Transnational Corporations and exploitative profit only oriented companies.”

“A warm welcome to Hon’ble Union Minister of Power and Housing and Urban Affairs, Shri Manohar Lal Khattar Ji, to Arunachal Pradesh. A significant moment for our state, as we continue to strengthen our collaborative efforts towards development and progress. We look forward to fruitful discussions and innovative initiatives that will benefit the people of Arunachal Pradesh,” Khandu wrote in a post on X.

“As per studies, there has been a 25% increase in GLOF events in the last two decades and empirical data show that extreme and severe flash floods in India increased by almost 40% over last half a decade. With the climate already being changed and extreme events becoming new normal, it is imperative to conduct and integrate hyper-granular carrying capacity assessments across the fragile ecosystems especially when large infrastructure like dams are proposed. Adhering to principles of risk assessments can avert the probable extent of loss and damage to lives, livelihoods, ecosystems and avoid these adaptation strategies from becoming mal adaptation. Any further delay will turn this crisis-in-making into a disaster,” said Abinash Mohanty, Sector Head Climate Change and Sustainability, IPE-Global- an international development organisation.

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