ITANAGAR: A group of Idu Mishmi people have expressed dissent over the construction of Etalin Hydroelectric project.
In a letter to Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda, the group informed that the 'Wildlife Conservation Plan' prepared by the 'Wildlife Institute of India' (WII) for the Etalin Project is incorrect and scientifically biased.
Quashing the report, the group said, "It cannot be used to inform decision-making on this project as a recent peer review by 29 Indian scientists found that it contained shocking inaccuracies, falsehoods and contradictory claims, in addition to the fact that it conveniently skipped the mandated 'multi-seasonal study' instead conducting a short four-month survey on 'mutually agreeable terms' with the Project Developer (Jindal Power Ltd.)."
"Their unprincipled assessment has essentially given a green signal to the project by falsely stating that there is no evidence of tigers in the region. The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) accepted the report by the WII which obliterated the tigers of Dibang Valley but instead included African bats, not found in India. Such blatant falsehoods by a supposedly 'scientific' institute are shameful," the group pointed out.
On April 23, the FAC of the Environment Ministry accepted the WII Etalin study 'in toto' despite the reported inaccuracies and falsehoods.
Also rejecting the assurance for compensatory afforestation, the group said that no amount of compensation can replace the essential forest ecosystems that will be lost due to the mega dam.
"The disruption of the complex ecological relationships within a natural ecosystem can cause zoonotic diseases like the global tragedy brought on by COVID-19. This project would not only risk future disease outbreaks, it will surely further accelerate climate change," it added.
Stating that the region exhibits high seismicity and lies within the Seismic Zone-V as per IS Code (IS 1893 (Part 1): 2002), the letter also asked whether the Etalin project in Dibang Valley district and the many other projects proposed in the Dibang Basin will be able to withstand seismic events of magnitude greater than 8.6 on the Richter scale.
The group also expressed fear of losing their identity due to the influx of labourers that will be needed to construct the dam.
"Such huge numbers of workers will no doubt outweigh the population of the Idu-Mishmi and neighbouring communities. The loss of market control will marginalize local people in their own lands. And the majority undoubtedly configures the politics of any region. The threat therefore is not just social, economic, political, and cultural, it is existential," the letter read.
"We understand the nuances of developmental projects; but we strongly resist the imposition of 'development' that threatens our very existence, takes away our rightful ownership of our own lands, risks culture and biodiversity, and exposes our future generations to a vulnerable, impoverished and uncertain future," the letter further added.