Panel recommends scrapping of hydropower project in Arunachal

A file photo of a bridge on the Lohit River.

An expert panel of the environment ministry has recommended dropping a 750MW power project in Arunachal Pradesh because of geological concerns and the possibility that it will obstruct the migratory path of two species of fish.

The dropping of Hutong I, planned over Lohit River in Arunachal Pradesh, was recommended by the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for river valley and hydroelectric projects (HEP) in a meeting on 26 August. There are a total of seven projects planned over the Lohit with a total capacity of 7,750MW which the basin report studied.

The EAC was discussing the Cumulative Impact Assessment & Carrying Capacity Study (CIS & CCS) of the Lohit River Basin in Arunachal Pradesh which was started on directions of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change when it gave environmental clearance to the 2,830MW Demwe Lower and Demwe Upper hydroelectric power projects in 2009.

As per documents reviewed by Mint, the basin study report noted that construction of the hydroelectric projects would lead to conversion of free flowing river into a series of reservoirs.

“It is recommended to drop Hutong stage 1 HEP, so that free flowing river stretch increases to 49.9 km. d) Hutong stage 1 HEP was recommended to be dropped as it is at the elevation where both Mahaseer and Snow Trout are observed. The dropping of the project will provide the free stretch of 19.1 km for migration of both these species. The site is also not geologically stable. Hence, it is recommended to drop the Hutong-I HEP,” recommended the Lohit basin report. The EAC also discussed the impact of peaking power operations of three power projects—Dibang, Siang Lower and Damwe Lower HEPs—on the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam.

The study compares the scenarios before construction of the projects and during peaking power operations of all the three HEPs operating simultaneously in peaking mode. The water level was observed to be well below the minimum elevation of Dibru-Saikowa National Park even when the three projects will be working simultaneously in peaking mode,” the EAC said.

According to official estimates, north-east India has a hydropower potential of over 65,645 megawatts, which is more than 50% of the country’s total hydropower potential. Of this, less than 2% has so far been harnessed.

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