The National Green Tribunal (NGT) upholding the environmental clearance given by ministry of environment forest and climate change three years ago has approved the construction of a 278-metre high concrete gravity dam in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The height of the 2,880 MW multi-purpose dam of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation will now be built with a reduced height of 10 metre. In its originally planned height of 288 metre, the dam would have been three metre higher than Grande Dixence dam in Switzerland, the tallest concrete gravity dam in the world. On commission, which NHPC estimates to be nine years after sanction, the dam will be the country’s tallest.
The tribunal dismissed two appeals by two Assam residents—Pradip Kumar Bhuyan, who is an ex-IITian and Pradip Bhuyan, who is a wildlife photographer, that challenged the environmental clearance on several counts, including the seismic sensitivity in the area and its impact on biodiversity.
The foundation stone of the multi-purpose dam was laid on January 31, 2008, by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even before the project was given any environmental clearance.
The Rs 25,658.50-crore (July 2016 price level) is a flood moderation and power generation project and 115 families of five villages are likely to be displaced, while another 744 families of 39 villages are likely to be affected due to the acquisition of land required for the project.
The tribunal bench of judicial members judges Adarsh Kumar Goel, Jawad Rahim and SP Wangdi and technical member Nagin Nanda ruled that while the concerns raised before it are relevant, they have already been taken care of. They observed, “Upon perusal of the minutes of the EAC (Expert Appraisal Committee ) meeting, and the various reports placed before us we find that adequate studies and steps had been undertaken to ensure sustainable implementation of the project” and “Multiple individual experts, expert bodies and institutions have expressed their opinion after undertaking detailed scientific and technical studies which we find difficult to brush aside in the absence of better materials which the Appellant had failed to place.”
The project was earlier rejected by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in July 2013 but the environment and power ministries later pushed the project by overruling earlier rejections and subsequently the environment clearance was obtained two years later.