Harish Gupta. New Delhi
In the bitter battle between Environment & Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh and the Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde over the fate of nearly a dozen hydro-power projects in Arunachal Pradesh, the Prime Minister’s Office is reported to have found a new formula after marathon meetings past sometime.
According to the new formula, the work on 600 MW Bichom Hydroelectric Project being developed by the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) will continue, while remaining 10 other-hydro-power projects will have to wait until a new study is completed. The 10 projects in the state of Arunachal Pradesh shall generate a total of 1245 MW of hydropower.
Interestingly, the study will be conducted by WAPCOS Limited which is a government of India undertaking under the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR). Though Jairam Ramesh wanted his ministry to undertake this study, the PMO decided that Water resources ministry under Salman Khursheed be entrusted with the task. The orders for the study were issued yesterday night.
The project affected due to suspension of work include Utung HEP (100 MW), Nazong HEP (60 MW), Dibbin HEP (120 MW), Dimijin HEP (20 MW), Dikhri HEP (15 MW), Dinchang HEP (360 MW), Jameri HEP (50 MW), Dinan HEP (10 MW), Nafra HEP (100 MW), and Gongri HEP (70 MW).
The Ministry of Environment and Forest had argued that most hydroelectric projects lead to submergence of significant land tracts that causes serious ecological imbalances. The study - Bichom Basin Study - will assess impacts within the Bichom river basin up to confluence of river Bichom with river Tenga.
The cost of the study has been shared on pro-rata basis by various project developers who propose to commission hydroelectric projects in the study area. With emphasis on terrestrial and aquatic ecology, the study envisages both primary as well as secondary data collection. The key features of the terms of reference for the basin study are primary data collection of water quality, aquatic ecology, terrestrial Ecology; and secondary data collection for meteorology, water resources, flora, fauna, and aquatic flora and fauna
The key outcomes of the study are to provide sustainable and optimal ways of hydropower development of Lohit river, keeping in view the environmental setting of the basin and assess requirement of environmental flow during lean season with actual flow, depth and velocity at different level.
Some important aspects to be covered in the study are modification in hydrologic regime due to diversion of water for hydropower generation; Depth of water available in river stretches during lean season, and its assessment of its adequacy vis-à-vis various fish species. The study will also cover the impact of discharge in river stretch during monsoon and lean seasons etc.
Jairam Ramesh was not available. But sources in the Ministry of Environment and Forest told the DNA that there was nothing personal on the issue. It was for the government to take a final call and would be decided on the basis of the study.