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Forest Act violation in Tawang power project

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 11 - As per a recent RTI response received by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury, the Shillong-based NE regional office of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has found clear violations of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, by M/s NJC Hydro Power Ltd, which is developing the 780-MW Nyamjang Chhu project in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

As per the memorandum of agreement signed with the Arunachal Pradesh Government by the company that is a special purpose vehicle of Bhilwara Energy Ltd (BEL), two small hydropower projects are also being built to provide construction power to the 780-MW Nyamjang Chhu project. As reported on the website of the company, �Work on Khangteng HEP (7.5 MW) and Shyaro HEP (3.0 MW) to be utilised for construction power is in progress.�

However, the site visit report of the MoEFCC officials from its NE regional office has stated that work is being carried out illegally in the middle of dense forest by the company.

The MoEFCC had carried out a site visit based on a complaint by Lobsang Gyatso of the Save Mon Region Federation, a Tawang-based organization led by Buddhist lamas of the Monpa community, regarding serious violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, by NJC Hydro Power Ltd.

In his letter (No.8-104/2011-FC/354-58 dated 11th August 2014) the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), MoEFCC, Shillong, has told the Additional Director General of Forests (FC), MoEFCC, New Delhi: �On the basis of the report submitted by the inspection team of this office (copy enclosed), it has been observed that the 2 (two) HE Projects viz. 7.5 MW Khangteng HEP and 3.0 MW Shyaro HEP construction have been constructed without prior approval for forest clearance, and therefore is a clear violation of FC (Forest Conservation) Act.�

The letter further states: �In view of the above, it is recommended that the proposed diversion of 89.5271 ha of forest land for construction of Nyamjang Chhu HE Project (780 MW) in Tawang district by M/s NJC Hydro Power Limited may not be accorded final approval by MoEF & CC as project authorities have undertaken construction without prior approval from the Central Government. The Ministry may impose any other penalty which may be found appropriate at your level.�

The 780-MW Nyamjang Chhu project has also led to controversies, as the barrage is coming in a short stretch of the river, which, according to environmentalists, is one of the only two wintering sites of the black-necked crane in India. Other than being a Schedule-I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the bird is considered sacred by the local Monpas, the community to which the sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso (March 1, 1683 � November 15, 1706) belonged.

The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF) has also challenged the environmental clearance granted to the project before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF) has been represented in this matter in the NGT by Advocate Ritwick Dutta.

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