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Ramesh for biodiversity study on dams

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Sept 10 � Union Minister of Environment and Forest (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh today announced that no hydroelectric power project would get clearance from the Environment and Forest Ministry without a comprehensive biodiversity study. In cases of the series of projects on an individual river, cumulative impact studies would also be made mandatory for such clearances, said the Minister.

He also assured that he would take up with the Prime Minister and the Union Power Minister the popular feelings for keeping in abeyance the construction of the mega dam projects till the consultations with the expert groups and the studies on their downstream and cumulative impacts are completed.

At the same time, he reminded the gathering of experts, civil society groups and leading citizens that the country needs power. Moreover, the country needs to make its presence felt on the Himalayan rivers. �We cannot look into the issue only from an economic point of view. We must look into these rivers from a strategic point of view as well. We must strengthen our position in relation to China on the use of these rivers,� he said.

He made an appeal to the members of the gathering not to do anything that lead to more schism among the people of the country. He was presiding over a consultation on the ongoing and proposed mega dam hydel projects of the region. The function was organized by the Centre for Environment Education.

The Minister said that on top of the above conditions, comprehensive environmental impact study and comprehensive basin environmental study would also be made mandatory for the hydel projects.

A mechanism for comprehensive cumulative environmental impact assessment study, comprehensive downstream impact assessment study, comprehensive biodiversity impact study, etc., would also be evolved. The best of the experts in the country, including even the experts of the local academic institutions, would be involved in such studies. The Central Government may go for moratorium on the projects

concerned unless such studies are completed, the Minister said.

He said that the country needs to develop its hydel power not in the environmentally insensitive manner as it had done in the past. People�s livelihood issues connected with the projects are also more important for the country.

But on the Lower Subansiri Hydroelectric Power Project, the Minister was non-committal. �I cannot give a categorical answer on Lower Subansiri Project. I don�t want to make any political statement either.�

In a bid to refute the popular allegations that the Central Government had done virtually nothing to address the grievances of the people of the region in respect of the mega dams, he said that it was not true that there was no discussion held at the government level on the projects.

The Brahmaputra Board presented its master plan on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries to the Government of India and the Planning Commission. The Government of India studied the master plan prepared by the Brahmaputra Board and for the past about 25 years, the Government of India is discussing the document albeit partially, said the Minister.

On the issue of violation of the environment norms by the NHPC authorities in Lower Subansiri Project, he invited complains from the people.

He also informed that NHPC chairman would lead a team to NE region next week.

The Minister left for Delhi today. He will decide his Arunachal consultation date on the same issue later on.

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