GUWAHATI, Jan 4 � Five environmental organizations -- Aaranyak, ATREE, EcoSystems-India, WWF-India and Dolphin Foundation working in the North-east � have welcomed and appreciated the State Government�s �well-meaning gesture of holding discussions with the groups participating in protest movement against the Subansiri Lower Hydro Electric Project (SLHEP) as well as with experts and civil society as a whole.�
In a joint statement, the organizations suggested that the Government constituted an autonomous Ecological Assessment Group (EAG) and empower it to examine all ecological and related aspects (biodiversity, ecosystems, livelihoods etc.) of all hydroelectric projects with reference to possible downstream impacts in Assam.
�The EAG should comprise ecologists, hydrologists, forestry and wildlife experts, livelihood experts, sociologists and economists from both national and regional levels,� the statement said.
Welcoming the positive attitude of the agitating groups shown in acceptance of the Government�s offer for discussion, the organizations said that as environmental groups promoting conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity as well as promoting traditional sustainable livelihoods and sustainable management of natural resources in the North-east, they had actively engaged in the large-dam debate for the past decade.
�Collectively, we have always strived to facilitate informed discussions on the issue through research and advocacy, with thrust on downstream environmental impacts of large dams,� they said.
The organizations further said that the cumulative impact of the proposed hydropower projects on different tributaries of the Brahmaputra river would be significantly higher on the riverine ecosystems and riparian lives and livelihoods, than perceived by the executing agencies.
The organizations urged all the parties involved in the proposed discussions to seriously consider the ecological consequences of the project, both upstream and downstream with utmost urgency, and ensure mitigation measures against all observed and possible detrimental impacts.
They also called for going �beyond the mandate of SLHEP discussions, and adopt a broader framework to consider the ecological context of all the proposed hydro projects in the Brahmaputra basin during the negotiations.�
�It is recommended that all hydro projects follow this protocol, in addition to obtaining the necessary environmental, forest and techno-economic clearances under existing guidelines. Until the proposed projects are examined by the EAG, construction of new projects should not be initiated and all works on ongoing projects stopped,� the statement said.