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�False assertion made by Environment Ministry�

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, June 10 - Environment activists resent the wrong assertion made by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) ascribing irrigation as one of the components of the 2,800-MW Dibang Multipurpose Project, besides flood moderation and hydropower generation. This hydel project is proposed to be set up in Arunachal Pradesh.

The statement made by the MoEFCC in its report �State-wise Compilation of Public Utility Approvals by MoEFCC (May 2014-April 2016)�, uploaded on its website on the occasion of completion of two years of the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the Centre, is nothing but a travesty of truth, said the environment activists. For, there is no mention in any of the project documents, which are in public domain, that it has an irrigation component, the environment activists said.

Though the project is proposed as a multipurpose one, its components comprise only hydropower generation and flood moderation. Irrigation has not been envisaged as one of its components, said Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Rabindranath of the River Basin Friends, Partha Jyoti Das of the Aaranyak and Bimal Gogoi.

The MoEFCC said in the same report: �This (Dibang Project) will generate 2,800 MW of power and provide irrigation to agricultural land and help in flood control.� The MoEFCC document added further that the project will bring in an investment of Rs 25,347 crore and provide 250 jobs.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had promised steps to take care of the downstream concerns of Assam prior to arriving at any decisions on the upstream dam projects. However, despite the Dibang Multipurpose Project directly impacting the Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Assam, including the famous Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve, and flood-plain farming and fisheries, no comprehensive downstream impact

assessment and public consultation were carried out in Assam before the project was cleared by the MoEFCC. Lakhs of people in the downstream areas of Assam are dependent on the Dibang river for their livelihood.

A large number of student and peasant groups, citizens of Upper Assam had written to the Central Government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a comprehensive downstream impact assessment and broad-based public consultations prior to clearing the project. But despite the project having the flood moderation component �to benefit� the people of Assam, the NDA Government at the Centre did not direct conduct of any public hearing in Assam.

Other than environmental clearance, the project was also given in-principle forest clearance by the Centre ignoring the dissenting opinion of Dr Firoz Ahmed, the only expert from the Northeast in the Forest Advisory Committee, the environment activists added.

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