Demwe dam awaits nod

Guwahati, Dec. 29 : The ministry of environment and forests has still not given forest clearance to the 1,750MW Demwe Lower Hydro Electric Project close to Parashuram Kund — a pilgrimage site in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh — and has asked the executing company, Athena Demwe Power Private Limited, for more clarifications.

As there will be five dams on the Lohit river, the forest advisory committee of the ministry of environment and forests, which grants forest clearances, said the company should provide information on the hydrological aspect of the number of dams at different heights of the river and its impact on aquatic life and adjoining forestland, ecological impact and the impact on the wildlife of the area.

The Kamlang wildlife sanctuary is within 10km of the project site and necessary clearance has to be obtained from the National Board for Wildlife. It said the project would be examined again after getting this information.

Parasuram Kund is an extremely important pilgrimage site in Arunachal Pradesh, considered sacred by lakhs of people. People from across the country come in large numbers for a pilgrimage to the site in the month of January during Makar Sankranti.

The construction firm had proposed diversion of 1,415.92 hectares of forestland for the construction of the hydroelectric project, which involves felling of over 1.24 lakh trees. About 80,120 of these trees have girth of more than 60cm.

Moreover, compensatory afforestation has been proposed over 2818 hectare double-degraded forestland in Lohit forest division with a total financial outlay of Rs 33.09 crore, with 10 years’ maintenance.

The forest advisory committee said the company should also justify the requirement of the large area for permanent colony, justification of a large area for temporary use and details about the safeguards taken to ensure meeting the needs of the large temporary workforce. There will be no displacement of people because of this project.

The ministry, which gave the environmental clearance in February this year, has made it absolutely clear that receiving environmental clearance does not necessarily mean that forestry and wild-life clearance shall be granted to the project. The proposal for forestry and wildlife clearance would be considered independently, based on its merit, by the respective authorities. No physical work can be started without getting the forest clearance.

NGOs have expressed concern on the project as blasting and tunnelling for the project will take place in the mountains close to the Kund, violating the sanctity and serenity of the site. They said large quantities of muck and debris were also likely to be carried downstream towards the Kund by the Lohit, owing to the massive construction upstream.