Letter to APSPCB – Public Hearing for Kalai-II HEP to be held Violating the Norms

15 January, 2014

To:

Member Secretary,

ArunachalPradeshState Pollution Control Board,

Itanagar.

Sub: Violations in public hearing to be held on Jan 18, 2014 for 1200 MW Kalai – II HEP

Respected Sir,

The Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) has proposed to conduct a public hearing for the 1200 MW Kalai – II project at Hawai on 18–01–2014. Through this communication we urge you to cancel the public hearing which is illegal for the following reasons.

We would also like to point out that EIA and EMP reports prepared by WAPCOS have not fulfilled a very large number of the TOR (Terms of Reference) that the project was to cover in EIA-EMP as per the TOR clearance given for the project on 9.12.2009. Such EIA-EMP will clearly not be acceptable even from statutory and legal point of view and cannot be basis for a public hearing.  A report on the status of compliance with TOR in EIA and EMP is attached along with a detailed critique of the EIA-EMP report. APSPCB and MoEF should immediately cancel the public hearing and ask the EIA-EMP consultants to comply with the TOR first.

1) Project currently has no valid Scoping (ToR) clearance The 1200 MW Kalai II project was granted Scoping (ToR) clearance on 9-12-2009 by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). As per MoEF Office Memorandum (OM) dated 22-3-2010 the validity of Scoping (ToR) clearances granted for carrying out pre-construction activities is four years and therefore the clearance for Kalai II has expired on 8- 12-2013.

Hence the public notice dated 13-12-2013 issued by the APSPCB in the Arunachal Times dated 14 – 12 – 2013 for conduct of public hearing (a pre-construction activity) is illegal as the project did not  have valid Scoping / ToR clearance on those dates. Such a notice can only be issued if there is a valid Scoping clearance for carrying out pre-construction activities which is also placed in the public domain, which is not the case till date.

We have noticed that the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on River Valley & Hydroelectric projects discussed the issue of extension of Scoping clearance for the 1200 MW Kalai II project and recommended extension in its December 10-11 2013 meeting. However, an order granting fresh Scoping clearance for an additional year has not been issued by the MoEF, which is the concerned regulatory authority. A perusal of the MoEF website till today (11-01-2014) shows that the Scoping clearance order available for the 1200 MW Kalai II project is only the original one dated 9-12- 2009 (which has expired on 8–12–2013) and no additional/fresh Scoping clearance is available.

In such a scenario, both the announcement and conduct of the public hearing on January 18th, 2014 is illegal, as no clearance existed on the date of public notice. It is only after the MoEF issues a fresh Scoping clearance for pre-construction activities to the 1200 MW Kalai II project (which is also placed in the public domain) can the APSPCB announce and conduct a public hearing (with no less than 30 days notice).

Hence we urge you to immediately cancel the public hearing announced for the 1200 MW Kalai II project proposed for 18-1-2014. Please note that issue of fresh Scoping clearance for preconstruction activities by MoEF between now and 18-1-2014 will still render the conduct of public hearing on 18–1-2014 illegal. Fresh notice will require to be issued after MoEF issues a fresh Scoping clearance with at least 30 days notice.

2. Law does not provide powers to MoEF to provide back dated extensions There is no provision in the EIA notification of Sept 2006 that could empower MoEF to provide back dated ToR clearances. Hence since MoEF has not issued any extension of the ToR to the Kalai II HEP before 8-12-2013 when the earlier ToR clearance expired, no extension of the ToR clearance can now be issued by MoEF and the project proponent will need to apply afresh for stage I or ToR clearance for the project. This will also be in fitness of things considering that WAPCOS is the consultant for the EIA for Kalai II HEP and we had written to the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh (twice) and to the Union Minister of Environment and Forests that an EIA done by the WAPCOS will not be acceptable. We reiterate that stand and suggest that the fresh EIA should be awarded to a credible independent agency and any study by WAPCOS will not be acceptable, both due to its poor track record and also due to the conflict of interest involved in the governance (WAPCOS is an agency under Union Ministry of Water Resources which is largely functioning as a lobby for large river valley projects) and functioning of WAPCOS (as business model of WAPCOS also involves doing pre-feasibility, feasibility and Detailed Project Reports.

3. Non availability of Cumulative Impact Study Non availability of cumulative impact study of all the hydropower projects (including Kalai II) in the Lohit River Basin in the designated places 30 days before pubic hearing is another reason for the lack of legal backing for the public hearing. As per section 9.4 of form I of the EIA notification, it is necessary for the project proponents to provide information about cumulative impacts of the project along with other projects in the river basin. In the case of Kalai II, it would be cumulative impacts for all the hydropower projects in the LohitRiver Basin. However, a cumulative impact study of Lohit basin is available. Hence the public hearing proposed on Jan 18, 2014 is illegal. 

Breathtaking floodplains of the Lohit River, an important tributary of the Brahmaputra, threatened by the 1750 MW Lower Demwe Dam.  Photo: Neeraj Vagholikar

Breathtaking floodplains of the Lohit River, an important tributary of the Brahmaputra, threatened by the 1750 MW Lower Demwe Dam.
Photo: Neeraj Vagholikar

4. ToR of Kalai II not fulfilled As per the scoping Terms of Reference clearance issued to the 1200 MW Kalai II project on Dec 9, 2009, one of the objectives is to “perform a rigorous assessment of the significance of the bio-physical, socio-cultural and cumulative effects of the project.” However, the EIA of the project now available does not fulfill this (and a number of other TORs) and hence public hearing cannot be held without fulfilling the TORs.

5. MoEF OM stands violated Further, the MoEF vide Office Memorandum dated May 28, 2013 has stated that it will assess projects based on cumulative impact assessment studies. A LohitRiver Basin study has been commissioned by EAC/ MoEF to study the cumulative impacts of all the projects in the LohitRiver Basin (including Kalai II HEP). Although the draft report of this study is supposed to have been completed, it has not been approved by the Expert Appraisal Committee and thus and approved study is not available and such an approved study has also not been placed with the individual impact assessment study of the 1200 MW Kalai II project at all the designated places (DC office, etc) 30 days prior to public hearing. Thus public hearing for the project will also be in violation of the MoEF OM of May 28, 2013. This is one more strong ground for rendering the current announcement of the public hearing on 18-1-2014 as illegal.

6. Lessons from Uttarakhand Disaster for June 2013 The Uttarakhand flood disaster of June 2013 and the Supreme Court order of Aug 13, 2013 underscore the need for learning lessons from the disaster and also doing advance and credible cumulative impact assessment of the projects and also assessment of disaster potential and how the large number of projects impact the disaster potential of the area. However, this has not been done as part of the EIA for the project or otherwise and hence conducting a public hearing without such a study will not be prudent or proper.

7. Options Assessment not done Experience has shown that Anjaw district has huge potential of sub MW capacity micro hydro projects and these are sufficient for taking care of the power needs of the district, state and region. However, taking up the public hearing without doing such assessment will be clearly violation of EIA notification as such exercise is necessary part of EIA and this has not been done for Kalai II HEP.

8. Downstream Impacts not assessed, downstream consultations not done Downstream impacts of hydropower projects have proved to be huge and this is a very important and sensitive issue as is evident from the situation with respect of Lower Subansiri HEP in Assam where the project has been stopped for over two years now. In case of Kalai II HEP, comprehensive assessment of downstream impact assessment has not been done, nor has there been public consultations organized in downstream areas, nor has there been any public consultations for the Basin study in Anjaw or downstream areas. Without all these, the project public consultation will neither be useful nor legally valid.

9. Full EIA-EMP not available in local languages The full EIA-EMP or even proper executive summary of the EIA-EMP or the basin study is not available in local languages and also to all the gram sabhas in the affected region a month in advance of the public hearing. Holding public hearing in absence of these will clearly not be valid or proper.

Hoping for the prompt action in this respect from APSPCB to cancel the illegal public hearing for the 1200 MW Kalai II HEP. A failure to take action in this respect will lead to protests and legal action at the appropriate stage.

Yours sincerely,

Himanshu Thakkar and Parag Jyoti Saikia

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), Delhi

Copy to:

1. Deputy Commissioner, Anjaw district, Arunachal Pradesh

2. Shri Alok Perti, Chairman, Shri B B Barman, Member Secretary, and all the members of the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley Projects, MoEF

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