Arunachal Pradesh Groups Ask MoEF to Cancel Illegal Public Hearing of Lower Siang

22nd January 22, 2014

Dr. V. Rajgopalan

Secretary,

Ministry of Environment and Forests,

New Delhi.

Sub: 2700 MW Lower Siang project – Cancel Illegal Public Hearings proposed for January 31st 2014.

Dear Dr. Rajgopalan,

We write to you on behalf of the Forum for Siang Dialogue (FSD), Siang Peoples’ Forum (SPF) Sirit-Siyom Banggo Dam Affected peoples’ Forum (SSBDAPF), Siang Bachao Andolan (SBF), Nyiko Bachao  Forum (NBF) to seek cancellation of the Three public hearings proposed to be held for the 2700 MW Lower Siang hydroelectric project in the East Siang, West Siang and Upper Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh  on January 31, 2014.

Through a notification dated 30th December 2013 published in the Arunachal Times dated 31st December 2013 the Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board (APSPCB) has announced the conduct of public hearings for the 2700 MW Lower Siang project in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. A scanned copy of the notice is attached for reference (Annexure 1).

There are a number of legal reasons due to which the public hearings need to be cancelled, here are a few of them:

1)      Public hearing on the same day and time in the West Siang, East Siang and Upper Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh 

There are a number of local persons/clans/local communities who have land directly affected by the Lower Siang project cross-cutting the district boundaries. Such persons/clans/local communities will not be able to exercise their legal right to participate in all the public hearings in the districts where their ancestral lands are affected, since they are being held on the same day, at the same time. This is a gross violation of the letter and spirit of the EIA notification 2006 as well as the article 14 of Right to equality and article 19, the freedom of Speech under the Constitution of India.  

It is crucial that the public hearings are held in the three districts with sufficient days in between to enable the affected persons to participate in the public hearings wherever their ancestral lands are affected.

It cannot be argued that they should put their viewpoints in one of the public hearings in one of the districts. It is their legal right to participate in the public hearings wherever their lands are affected. This is a clear ground for cancellation of the public hearings and re-announcement  by keeping sufficient days in between hearings being held in different districts.

2)      Location of public hearing venue more than 100 km. away from 11 villages

The public hearing venue fixed for the East Siang district is Pasighat, the district headquarters, in the downstream-affected area of the project. While the APSPCB is welcome to organise a separate public hearing for the downstream-affected area, this is an extremely inconvenient location for the upstream-affected villagers in the East Siang district who are directly affected. And Pasighat town is nowhere listed as an affected village/area/circle in the EIA,EMP and Social Impact Assessment report of the Project Proponent. (Attached is the list of the affected villages as prepared by WAPCOS for the project.

The Public Hearing for Upper Siang District is also fixed at Katan which is 40 Kms away from Geku villages, which is encompassing the majority of the villages to be affected by the dam and above all there are not even a single Govt/Public or Private transport plying/ operating there. And the only village which is going to be completely submerged happens to be Pongging village under Upper Siang district, and the people have to walk on foot covering a distance of 17 kilometers to reach Katan as there is no Public/Private/Govt Transport system plying there.

Out of the 25 villages directly affected in East Siang district, at least 11 are more than 100 kms. away from the public hearing venue! In fact Riga village, one of the severely affected village under East Siang District is 172 km. away from Pasighat. A further nine villages are 60 – 100 km. away. Please note that 6 (Six) villages have to walk for up to 12 km. even before reaching the motor able road.

It is clear that the public hearing venue in East Siang district has been decided in order to disallow active participation of directly affected villages. This is completely unacceptable as per the letter and spirit of the EIA notification 2006 and various court orders/judgements on the need for proximity of the public hearing venue to the affected area. Public hearings cannot be located as per convenience of government officials who do not want to travel to affected areas and stay in the district headquarters. This another strong ground why the public hearings announced for 31st January 2014 have to be cancelled immediately.

And Chapter II U/s 5 of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparent Land Acquisition Relief and Resettlement Act 2013 also clearly states that Public Hearing should be held in the Affected area and not otherwise.

3)      Siang river basin cumulative impact assessment study is not complete and placed in the public domain at designated places before public hearing

Section 9.4 of Form I of the EIA notification requires that cumulative impacts of a project are examined during the EC process. Further the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has issued an OM dated 28th May 2013 stating that it will consider hydropower projects based on cumulative impact assessment and carrying capacity studies. The OM is attached as Annexure 2.

The OM states that:

“While  the first project in a basin could come up without insisting on cumulative study for all subsequent hydro-power projects in the basin it should be incumbent on the developer’ of the second/other project(s) to incorporate all possible and potential impact of other project(s) in the basin to get a cumulative impact assessment done.”

An important aspect of Appraisal done by EAC/MoEF is detailed scrutiny done of all documents including public consultation proceedings. As per the EIA notification 2006 (section 9.4 of Form I) and the MoEF’s OM dated 28th May 2013 if cumulative impacts studies have to be the basis for decision-making, then such studies have to placed in the public domain at designated places 30 days prior to the public hearing.

However, the Siang river basin cumulative impact assessment is neither complete nor placed in the public domain at the designated places prior to the public hearing. Please note that this study currently underway is looking at all projects in the Siang river basin (Siang and its tributaries).

Although we disagree with the logic that the first project could come up without ‘insisting’ on a cumulative impact assessment study (since that project could be the most ecologically and socially destructive), in this case Lower Siang is NOT even the first project in the river basin for which either a public hearing is being held or being considered for environmental clearance. A number of public hearings have been held for other projects in Siang river basin and projects have also been already considered for Appraisal by EAC/MoEF. In fact 1000 MW Siyom and 700 MW Tato II project in the Siang river basin have already received final environmental clearance from the MoEF.

By no stretch of imagination is the 2700 MW Lower Siang project the first project being considered in the Siang river basin. Therefore as per the MoEF’s own OM dated 28th May 2013, Siang river basin cumulative impact assessment will first have to be completed. Public hearing should only be held after this is completed and these reports are placed in the public domain at least 30 days before the hearing.

Keeping all this in mind we strongly urge the MoEF to direct the APSPCB to cancel the Illegally notified public hearings proposed for the 2700 MW Lower Siang project on 31st January 2014.

Thanking you,

Sincerely,

Vijay Taram  Oyar Gao   Tayek Mize  Tasong Mibang    Takar Komut   Kento Jini  Reken Ingo

Forum for Siang Dialogue, Siang Peoples’ Forum, Sirit Siyom Banggo Dam Affected Peoples’ Forum, Siang Bachao Andolan, Nyiko Bachao Forum

Cc:

1) EAC on River Valley & Hydroelectric projects

2) Chairperson, Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board

3) Member Secretary, Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board

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