Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki is said to have erupted in anger at a recent meeting to underline how the foundation stone for the 3000 MW Dibang hydro project — touted as the nation’s largest — was laid by no less than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh way back in February 2008 and has yet failed to move an inch.
Reason: red flags raised by just one wing of his government, the environment ministry that’s denied forest clearances to the project being implemented by state-owned NHPC Ltd.
The minutes of the latest hydro task force meeting on September 10 record Tuki asking for “necessary steps to be taken by the GoI (government of India) to re-consider forest clearace to the project”. This comes at a time when the Centre is desperate to try and make up for lost time in setting up hydroelectric projects on the Brahmaputra’s Siang Basin in Arunachal Pradesh, with the China factor looming large.
Officials who attended the sixth meeting of the task force on hydro project development on September 10 here said the outburst by Tuki had taken the attendees, including Power MInister Jyotiraditya Scindia and several chief ministers, by surprise.
The Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Environment Ministry has held back clearances to the Dibang project on the grounds that that felling of over 3.5 lakh trees was likely to have an “adverse impact on the general ecosystem of the area” and that the ecological, environmental and social costs of diversion of forestland will “outweigh” the benefits likely to accrue from the project.
Tuki’s exasperation over the stalling of Dibang — touted as the country’s largest hydro project — is not in vain.
Of the 25 projects totalling over 11,000 MW allotted to developers in Arunachal Pradesh, most of them over the last decade, construction work has not begun on even a single project.
This despite the need for urgency in stepping up the pace of setting up projects in Arunachal Pradesh as India needs to fast-track building dams on the Brahmaputra to establish its “lower riparian right” and create a strong bargaining position to detract China from building mega hydel projects on the upper reaches of the river.
China, on the other hand, is reportedly constructing a 38,000 MW dam at Motuo (Metog in Tibetan) almost on the India border, on the bend of the Yarlung Tsangpo, the Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra.
India’s success rate so far at harnessing hydro