<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Environment Ministry’s expert committee on forest clearances, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), has held back clearance for the 3,097MW Etalin hydroelectric project (HEP), Dibang valley, Arunachal Pradesh, after it found major inadequacies on its environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, ministry documents show. The FAC appraised the project during its last meeting in February and its minutes show that the committee flagged the lack of studies on the project’s impact on the region’s biodiversity. The Rs 25,296-crore HEP, one of the biggest among the over 140 planned in Arunachal Pradesh, will require diversion of 1,165 hectares of “luxuriant” forest. As per the minutes, the FAC has now asked for “multi-seasonal replicate studies on biodiversity assessment by an internationally credible institute as the EIA is completely inadequate in this regard.” The FAC also noted that while the Chief Conservator of Forest of the region mentioned only a few mammals and plant species in his report, the region is a biodiversity hotspot. “This area has more biodiversity than any part of the country.” The committee said that since independent studies, that used camera traps, recorded 12 tigers and eight clouded leopards in Dibang valley, the National Tiger Conservation Authority, too, should give their comments on the issue. Besides flagging concerns on biodiversity, the FAC also asked the state government to explore if the huge area required for the construction and dumping of muck can be reduced. The Dibang valley and the region around the project is a mega biodiversity hotspot of the world, the FAC noted. It is home to six globally threatened mammal species, three endangered, and three vulnerable. About 680 bird species have been recorded in this region, which is about 56 per cent of the total bird species in India, the FAC noted. “Among them, 19 are globally threatened and 10 are near-threatened. This entire region is a key biodiversity hotspot, indicating its importance at a global scale,” the FAC said. The HEP involves the construction of two dams, one 101.5-m high on Dir river and the other a 80-m high dam on Tangon river. Both rivers are tributaries of the Dibang river. Across the 1,156 hectares, the project will require felling of 2.8 lakh trees. Arunachal Pradesh has a hydropower potential of more than 50,000 MW and more than 140 projects have been planned, including nine alone on Dibang river.
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