Arunachal: SMRF says no to govt’s renewed call for hydropower in Tawang

The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), which is led by the monks from Tawang region, has shot down the government’s renewed plan to construct hydropower projects in the district. In a statement, the SMRF said that it condemns the decision of the Arunachal government to revive the construction of hydropower projects in Tawang district.

“Most of these hydropower projects are proposed to be constructed in the two major river basins in Tawang – the Tawang Chu in the east and the Nyamjang Chu in the west – which will damage the geographically volatile and highly seismic region of Tawang.

Apart from endangering several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region, the hydropower projects also threaten the existence of the endangered black-necked cranes, considered a sacred embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama.

Thirteen projects amounting to 2890.10 mw are proposed in the district, including the 780 mw Nyamjang Chu project in Zemithang valley, the winter home of the threatened black-necked crane. The project is on hold after the SMRF sought the intervention of the National Green Tribunal, following fraudulent studies.

The SMRF in its latest statement reiterated its earlier allegation that the signatures of the gram sabha for the Tawang Chu Stage-II were obtained fraudulently by the NHPC. In the gram sabhas conducted by the people, and recorded by the SMRF, the majority of the participants from 27 villages and the Tawang monastery had said no to these projects.

It further added that the “Arunachal government should learn from the disaster at Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, where the Rishiganga and Tapovan hydroelectric projects were completely destroyed by a glacier avalanche. This event highlights the harsh truth of how little the government of India and various regional Himalayan states are focusing attention on appreciating the fragility of this range,” .

“Development cannot happen at the cost of the environment… The government is willfully blind to such risks and continues to actively promote massive hydropower projects. The people of Arunachal Pradesh have been struggling for years against dams and other forms of extractive development. The SMRF flagged that these projects were a serious threat to the geographically volatile and highly seismic region of Tawang. However, during a demonstration, two people were killed and 19 others were seriously injured by the police. Notwithstanding such popular resistance to destructive development, the government of Arunachal Pradesh is trying to go ahead with the hydropower project,” the SMRF said.

It further said that mini and medium power projects with a potential capacity of 24 mw had already been constructed in Tawang by the government to meet the electricity needs of the local population, but almost all had become non-functional and failed to deliver even 2 mw of electricity, as opposed to the maximum need of only 6 mw in the whole of Tawang during peak season in winter.

The SMRF demanded that these medium hydropower projects be made functional to meet the needs of the local people.