Urgent Appeal: Revoke Clearance of Dibang Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh

In September, the proposed construction of a 3000 MW hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh, India, was cleared. The approval of the mega dam, which will have devastating effects on indigenous communities, is in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Below is the urgent appeal for the revocation of the clearance.


URGENT APPEAL: REVOKE ENVIRONMENT AND FOREST CLEARANCE FOR 3000 MW DIBANG MULTIPURPOSE HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT IN ARUNACHAL PRADESH

INCIDENT: According Environment and Forest Clearance for 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project on 16th and 22nd September 2014          

PERPETRATOR: Expert Appraisal Committee and Forest Advisory Committee of Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation   

DATE OF INCIDENT:  
22 September 2014 – Forest Clearance
16 September 2014 – Environment Clearance 

SOURCE OF INFORMATION:  
Initiative for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples, Arunachal Pradesh
North East Dialogue Forum
Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur
Peoples’ Movement for Subansiri Valley, Assam
NEADS, Assam
Borok Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights, Tripura
Volunteer Rural Development Society, Arunachal Pradesh  
Citizens Concern for Dams and Development  

 EVENT DESCRIPTION:  
The Expert Appraisal Committee and the Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India accorded Environment and Forest clearance for the proposed 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project on 16th and 22nd September 2014 respectively. The project to be build over the Dibang River of Arunachal Pradesh is already classified as India’s highest dam at 288 metres high and also the world’s tallest concrete gravity dam and with one of the highest water reservoir storage capacity of 3.75 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) at Full Reservoir Level (FRL). The total catchment area of Dibang Dam up to the Dam site is 11276 Sq ft which lies entirely in Arunachal Pradesh. The foundation stone of Dibang Project on Dibang River was laid on 31st January 2008 by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Manmohan Singh[1] against the will and consent of affected indigenous peoples and also violated India’s environment and forest clearances processes.  

In 2013, the Ministry of Environment and Forest rejected the project’s application but NHPC limited resubmitted proposal in 2014. The Project was taken over by NHPC from Brahmaputra Board in 2002. The proposed Dibang Dam construction move will submerge 4700 hectares of biodiversity rich forest area with several endemic species in Arunachal Pradesh, and will entail impacts in downstream areas, primarily in Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam.[2] Large areas claimed by the company fall under the Mehau Wildlife Sanctuary. The submergence area of the dam site is home to endangered birds of the State such as Black Parrot Bill, March Babbler, Manipur Bush Quail, white Winged Duck, Large Whistling, Griffin Vulture, Grey Heron. The Community people will lose an area of 10390 ha that will be required for Catchment Area Treatment plan. This area being grazing area of Mithun will be lost.

The Forest Clearance for proposed Dibang project is an undemocratic decision in the absence of free, prior and informed consent and disrespecting the wishes of Idu Mishmi people, who tendered stern objections to flawed public hearings, held on 11 and 12 March 2013 at Roing and New Anaya in Arunachal Pradesh.  

The flawed process of Public hearing on Dibang Project was postponed more than ten (10) times earlier for refusing to take consent of communities. The downstream communities in Assam were also sidelined in the decision-making about a project that will affect them and indeed, there’s no public hearing in Assam.

The affected people stopping the public hearing in 2008. Source: http://www.roingcorrespondent.in/this-circus-should-stop-no-public-hearing/

The affected people stopping the public hearing in 2008.
Source: http://www.roingcorrespondent.in/this-circus-should-stop-no-public-hearing/

The project authority, the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) had undermined the seismic and other ecological concerns like extraction of boulders from ecologically sensitive Important Bird Area. All the documents related to dam design and safety is concealed from public access. Mitigation measures for the proposed dam failed to address issues of demographic impacts, socio-cultural concerns and preservation of traditional land and livelihood.    

The Idu Mishmi people with less than 10,000 populations will easily be overwhelmed manifold by the massive number of workforce from outside, thus permanently affecting their way of life, cultures, tradition, health etc. There has been no cumulative and detailed impact assessment with participation of affected communities.

The NHPC also indulged in misinformation and denial of information. The NHPC, based on their exclusive survey claimed only Five (5) villages, 72 families, 243 persons, 938.8 hectares of agriculture land as affected by Dibang project, when the storage reservoir itself will submerge land belonging to 34 villages of Dibang valley and forest area of nearly 5000 hectares. Other violations includes lack of basin wide cumulative impact assessment, impact of mining of materials for dam construction, lack of downstream and climate change impacts assessments, absence of options assessments of Idu Mishmi People etc. 

The Government's exclusionary move and decision to promote mega dams such as 3000 MW Dibang project without consulting and taking consent of affected indigenous communities is a violation of provisions of UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples, 2007 and the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination specific on mega dams construction in the region to take the respect indigenous peoples rights and to take their free, prior and informed consent before pursuance of such large scale mega dams.

Since, 2007 people in Upper Assam like Tinsukia and All Assam Student Union (AASU) has been vehemently protesting against the Dibang Dam and its potential impact to the People in  downstream. They were not allowed to take part at public hearing at Roing.

Background: Mega Dams in India’s North East: In India’s North East alone, more than 200 mega dams are being pursued with several constructed in Brahmaputra-Barak River Basin, most of them by transnational corporations. These dams have already threatened indigenous farming in the region by submerging vast tract of agriculture land, wetlands and forest[3]In Manipur, on 28 August 2014, four new Memorandum of Agreement with the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation has been signed proposing the construction of four new mega-dams – namely the 60 MW Irang HEP, 51 MW Tuivai HEP, the 67 MW Khongnem Chakha and 190 MW Pabram HEP projects over Rivers of Manipur under the Manipur Hydroelectric Power Policy of 2012.         

The plan to build these dams is fraught with absence of consultation and taking the free, prior and informed consent of affected communities. Development and power generation needs have been defined exclusively to serve the needs and interest of TNCs and corporate bodies in India’ North East. The right to self determined development has been undermined in the case of proposed Dibang HEP project.

The NHPC has long been a controversial transnational corporation (TNCs) in Manipur and across India’s North East. The NHPC continues to remain unaccountable and irresponsible for the multifaceted violations unleashed in Loktak wetlands with its 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project commissioned way back in 1984, especially its dubious role in undermining food sovereignty of Manipur. The Ithai Barrage of Loktak Project already devastated the Loktak Wetlands ecosystem and destroyed the livelihood sources of fisherfolk and small scale farmers of Manipur by submerging more than 80,000 acres of farmland and destroying fisheries of Loktak wetlands by blocking migration of fishes from Chindwin River of Burma.  

Violations of TNCs like NHPC are also confirmed in the persisting anger among communities affected by mega dams across NE region. The NHPC’s 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Project is stalled since December 2011 as affected communities continues to resist the project completion for failing to address technical, environmental and social concerns of affected people of Assam.  Unfortunately, the NHPC is again the TNC mainly entrusted to build the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam under the revised MoU signed in 2010, along with the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited and Government of Manipur.

DEMANDS:  The indigenous organizations in India’s North East would like to urge upon all concerned authorities of the Government of India to urgently address the following demands: 

• The Forest and Environment Clearances for 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Hydroelectric project should be revoked and the Dibang dam project should not proceed without the free, prior and informed consent of all affected along the Dibang River.

• Constitute an independent investigation team to assess the violations and procedural lapses committed by Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of Arunachal Pradesh and the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation.

• Recognize Indigenous Peoples rights over their land and resources and their right to self determined development processes.

• The recommendations of World Commission on Dams, 2000 and UNDRIP should be implemented in all dam building across India’s NE.

• Form clear mechanism to ensure NHPC into accountability for its violation of indigenous peoples’ rights by its 105 MW Loktak HEP Project, 3000 MW Dibang HEP Project etc.

 

PLEASE WRITE TO THE FOLLOWING OFFICIALS:
A) Honorable Prime Minister
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110011
Phone +91-11-23012312/+91-11-23012312 
Fax +91-11-23019545/23016857

B) Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001, India  
Fax: + 91 11 2338 4863
Email: chairnhrc@nic.in

C) The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Indira Paryavaran Bhavan
Jor Bagh Road New Delhi
110 003 INDIA
 +91-11-24362064 

D) The Chief Minister,
CM Bungalow, Niti Vihar,
Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh 791111
Telephone: +91-360-2212456
FAX: +91-360-2212439   
politicalsecretarytohcm@gmail.com