Locals oppose Arunachal Pradesh mega dam unanimously

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GUWAHATI, June 10: The Wildlife Institute of India (WII)’s report on the possible impact of the proposed Nyamjang Chu hydro-electric project on the Black-necked crane habitat in Arunachal Pradesh’s Zemithang Valley said that all the locals interviewed during an assessment at the project site were opposed to construction of the dam.
The field study was conducted between July 2017 and February 2018. The report’s socioeconomic survey section said that all the 46 people who were asked with the several questionnaires on the proposed project were categorically against construction of the dam.
“All of them who were interviewed were aware of the construction of the dam. Not a single person agreed to the construction of the dam. This is because the dam will nearly submerge a large part of the area, including settlements of the people and 13th century stupa, the Gorzam Chorten, which has great cultural and historical significance,” the report released late last month said
Zemithang valley in Tawang district has a population of 2,805 in 12 villages. Buddhist Monpas are the predominant community in the district. The Monpas also in West Kameng district of the state reveres black-necked cranes that breed in Ladakh and China as an embodiment of the sixth Dalai Lama who was born in 1683 in Tawang that borders with China’s Tibet. The locals who call the bird as Trung-Trung Karmo, considers the arrival of blacknecked cranes as norbu (good fortune).
Further, the report said people interviewed were aware of the fact that hunting was not allowed in the Black-necked cranes’ wintering habitat due to the “local religious belief” of the Monpas.
“Only a few of the people had heard about one death, which had been caused by some outsiders,” the report said.
The three kilometer stretch of Nyamjang Chhu (river in Monpa language) between Brojenthang and Zemithang in the valley is one of the two wintering sites of black-necked cranes in India. The other site is Sangti, also in Arunachal Pradesh. The wintering site in Nyamjang Chhu also overlapped with the barrage for the proposed 780 MW hydro-electric project.
WII’s report has categorically said that the construction of the dam would “eventually submerge the entire habitat of vulnerable black-necked crane in Zemithang.” It said that the sample group consisted of young to middle-aged people “who have been observing the cranes only from the recent past.”
“But a few of the elders had answered about their (Black-necked cranes) presence from the early 20th century. This shows that the area has been used by Black-necked cranes as a critical wintering site for a very long period of time,” the report said.
Monks who under the banner of Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF) has been protesting against Nyamjang Chhu and 12 other hydro-electric projects in Tawang took the WII’s report as a “moral victory” of their movement.
The WII report is an outcome of a 2016 order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that suspended the environmental clearance given to the project and asked the environment ministry to conduct a study on the environmental impact of the project. In 2012 SMRF challenged in NGT the environmental clearance granted to Nyamjang Chhu on the ground that the project developer did not reveal the wintering site of black-necked crane in the environment impact assessment (EIA) report commissioned by the project developer. (TNN)