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#SaveArunachalBiodiversity trends against hydropower project in Dibang: Here’s why

ITANAGAR, MAY 11:

Citizens from different towns and cities across the length and breadth of India participated in a nationwide tweet-storm on Saturday demanding the government stop the Etalin hydropower project on Dibang valley, one of the world’s mega biodiversity hotspots and a rich carbon sink for the entire nation.

The Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), India’s Environment Minister, and the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh were tagged in all the tweets with the hashtags #StopEtalinSaveDibang and #SaveArunachalBiodiversity.

The tweetathon was organized by a motley of environmental organizations from across the country under the movement, ‘The Dibang Resistance’. In Arunachal, it is being spearheaded by Fridays for Future-Arunachal Chapter consisting of wildlife experts, research scholars, conservationists, journalists, and locals of the Idu Mishmi Community.

The tweet storm held between 6 and 9 pm trended as high as number 10 in all India trends, number 1 in Mumbai trends, number 13 in Delhi trends and trended in many cities such as Calcutta, Itanagar, Guwahati, Shillong in East India; Jaipur, Lucknow in the North; Bhopal, Indore in Central India; Pune in West India; Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai in South India.

The message of the citizens from every corner of the country to the government at the centre and in Arunachal Pradesh was to – ‘Not destroy our rich carbon sinks and water recharge zones in the name of disastrous hydropower projects which would aggravate climate crisis in India when we are one of the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of the changing climate.’

The organizations claimed that “No afforestation can replace the loss of more than 6 lakh old growth trees and the rich biodiversity they host that will be destroyed as a combined result of the 3097 megawatt Etalin project & the 2880 megawatt Dibang Multipurpose project, 2 of India’s largest hydro power projects being planned on the same limb of the Dibang river. The Factsheet (F. No. 8-20/2014-FC) considered in the Forest Advisory Committee meeting in February 2017 states, ‘Land in which the project is proposed is in pristine forest that once cut cannot be replaced. Research in Dibang Valley shows that this region is a critical habitat for Schedule I endangered species including 52 tigers, more than 50 other mammal species including the Clouded Leopard, Mishmi Takin, Red Goral, Musk Deer and 430+ bird species including rare ones like Rufous-necked Hornbill, Ward’s Trogon, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, Mishmi Wren-Babbler. These hydro power projects will also destroy the traditional way of life of the indigenous Idu Mishmi tribals who have for generations protected and managed these forests.”

Also participating in the tweet-storm an Idu Mishmi youth expressing fear over extinction of their community which is of hardly 13000 population as per 2011 census said “Construction of a colossal structure in exchange for the loss of biodiversity and the wildlife we proudly boast to have preserved for generations, especially the Tigers here whom we have considered as our brothers, does not feel like such a good bargain.”

The bigger issue?

Speaking to Inside Northeast, Prem Taba, a research scholar from Rajiv Gandhi alleges foul-play. He says, “the politicians have been diplomatic and none of them are raising the issue”. Taba further maintains, that such attempts to construct a dam in the area have already been made since 2003. But this time, the locals have been manipulated into pro and anti-dam camps. He also alleges that the companies associated with the project have attempted to neutralise the issue, by granting jobs to the locals in small stations. The lack of attention to the issue is due to the small vulnerable population of Idu Mishmi who is a community of around 13,000.

The Dibang Valley is the ancestral homeland of the tribe.

Etalin is a small village in the Dibang Valley district. The Etalin hydroelectric project is a joint venture of the Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Limited (EHEPCL), Jindal Power Ltd (74%), and the Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd (26%), a state government undertaking.

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