Environmental Impact Assessment For Etalin Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh: Nikita A. Patel

Environmental Impact Assessment For Etalin Hydroelectric Project in Arunachal Pradesh

Author: Nikita A. Patel

Department of Environmental Studies, School of Human & Environmental Sciences, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya, India

ISSN: 2582-3655

ABSTRACT: The paper is based on the project Etalin Hydroelectric power plant, which is recently approved by the government of India. The aim of these studies is to conserve the environment, which describes here with the findings and siting of the project area which is going to affect different biodiversities of floras and fauna’s. It totally based on the second study which is mainly focused on the various frameworks of environmental impact assessment and many legislation methods and acts to protect the environment.  

KEYWORDS: Hydroelectricity; Etalin; Environmental Impact Assessment.

INTRODUCTION: As we all know that the Hydropower is a primary source for renewable electricity generation and has a significant possibility to be marketed as green power. Hydraulic power is the cheapest and cleanest source of energy and it also gives the ecological benefits at the worldwide position but at the side, there are many environmental and social issues which associates with these big dams and it also leads to the local and regional level.

The states of Arunachal Pradesh having huge potential for hydropower. The river named ‘Dibang’ which is flowing through the regions of Arunachal Pradesh. This river also called ‘Dri’ at its origin and is contributive to river Brahmaputra. River dri meets another river at the side of etalin village which is famous to the name of talo. Meeting of these two rivers of downriver is famous as the river dibang. Hence, I choosed these topics for study because it having much interest in the etalin and it emphasizes the problems of saving and developing nature or our environment, which is arising due to the production of the hydropower projects.

Motivation and Objectives: The motivation behind choosing this field as the study and the aim of this topic to aid in the deciding processes of EIA and the project is naturally sustainable as to assure under the legislative circumstances, These study is chosen to analyze the effects on the environment and try to minimize them. The Environment Management Plan (EMP) provides a plan for implementation and suggests reducing the impacts of the project and as to control environmental degradation. This may be a result of the implementation of a project alternative or project modifications or environmental protection measures which simply reduces the effects of magnitude.

Etalin Hydroelectric Project: Etalin HEP is considered ideal for rivers that can sustain a minimum flow or those regulated by reservoir upstream. These projects are different in design and appearance which are known as run-of-the-river projects. While it having less environmental impacts. These projects will be using the water of dri and talo rivers in dibang valley which is in the district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Description of Project Area: The area of the project placed in Dibang valley in the district of Arunachal Pradesh, which falls under the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and would be located at the junction of Palearctic, Indo-Chinese, and Indo-Malayan biogeographic regions. It is expected to one of the biggest hydraulic power projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

Cross-Examination of Judgments: Since the conception of the project, several alternative layouts were developed and analyzed. The merits and demerits of the selected layout as discussed in DPR of the project have been being been described in the following paragraphs.

Various study patterns are given by governmental authorities: For these project HEP, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) given the data of their studies which includes the construction of two dams over the tributaries of dibang-dir and tangon.

National hydroelectric power corporations gave various patterns of their study which mainly based on the topography and geology of the area. NHPC suggested some changes in the project which is given by CEA to modification.

Legislative Framework & Policy: In the rising scenario of rapid economic growth, the sustainability of existing resources for the present and future generations needs an integrated approach so that, the existing resources are optimally utilized without causing damage to the environment. To maintain this objective, the Government of India and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), has given the guidelines for various purposes and some legislative rules and protection acts to maintain the sustainability of the environment and for their conservations. These things are important to attach to the project to minimize the reduction. The MoEF&CC formed the proposals and given different suggestions for mitigation of adverse impacts while allowing the clearance for implementation of the Project. The important Environmental legislation laid down for conservation of the environment is presented further.

Environmental Acts & Policies in India: India is the first country in the world to have made provisions for the protection and conservation of the environment in its constitution.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972:-It provides the framework to ensure the protection and management of wildlife. By the addition of provision, immunization of livestock within a radius of 5 km from a National park and sanctuary has been made compulsory.

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986:-  Its to measure the prevention and control of pollution and with the protecting the quality of the environment. Mostly focused on the improvement of the environment.

National Forest Policy, 1988:- It is to ensure the stability of environment and managing of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium which is for all life forms, humans and animals, and plants.

Biological Diversity Act, 2002:- It is to conserve the biological diversity and its component to use it in a sustainable way.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Additional Forest Dwellers ( Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006:- It provides for the restitution of deprived forest rights across India, including both the rights of cultivated land in forest and community rights over resources. It provides the opportunity of conservation and livelihood rights of the people and it is applicable to Tribal and other traditional forest-dwelling communities.

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974:- To improving the quality of water and minimize the pollution of water.

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981:- To lowering the air pollution and its quality.

Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016:- It provides to maintain the waste and their segregation is mandated to channelize the waste by recovery, reuse, and recycle.

Construction And Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016:- This rule is for everyone who generates wastes. The service providers shall prepare a plan to manage the waste and they have to remove all construction waste in consultation.

As for many developmental activities, the project providing a planned power generation could lead to the various impacts of environments. By proper planning and adding appropriate mitigation measures in the construction, design, and planning of the project, which can be minimized the impacts on a project which leads to the maximization of beneficial impacts. As a result of the construction and operational phase of the project, it assesses the study of EIA and to suggest an Environmental management plan. Second is the Environmental monitoring program which covers the various critical parameters of project operation phases and construction. The present EIA for Etalin HEP has been formed by the study of baseline data which is according to Environment Management Plan prepared for seeking Environment Clearance. The project would need the following clearances before starting construction:

  • Public hearing as per EIA notification 2006 (and addendum thereafter)
  • Prior Environmental Clearance from the MoEF&CC
  • Forest Clearance from MoEF&CC;
  • Consent to Establish from the Arunachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board;

Significance: The project is in accordance with the government’s push to establish prior users right on rivers that originate in china and an effort to fast-track projects in the north-east. It is expected to be one of the biggest hydropower projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

On The Basis of EIA NOTIFICATION, 2006: Etalin (3097 MW) HEP is a Category ‘A project (>50 MW), as per item 1 (c) of Schedule attached to EIA notification of September 2006 and require an environmental appraisal from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India. After 2006 Amendment the EIA cycle comprises four stages:

  • Screening
  • Scoping
  • Public hearing
  • Appraisal

As per MoEF&CC EIA Notification 2006, category A projects requires a mandatory environmental clearance and thus screening process not undertaken. These HEP falls under category A because it’s a river valley project and having the capacity of a generation more than 50MW. These HEP categories a project undergoes a complete EIA process.

Scoping: Scoping is the process of detailing the terms of reference for EIA. It has been done by the consultant in consultation with the Italian project proposal and guidance. MOEF has published various guidelines on the basis of sectors which refer to the EIA studies. Various impacts assessed to the non-quantifiable impacts such as aesthetic or recreational value which determined through socio-economic criteria. After the identification of various impacts on the HEP area, the baseline status will be monitored. And then changes in the construction and operation of the proposed project should be predicted.

Public Consultation: After the completion of the project planning and making of the EIA report, some laws are in favor of residents belongs to the project area. This law requires to be informed to all locals and residents and to consult on a proposed development. After completion of these the photos and videos of every event should be sent to MOEF  and if anyone has affected by the project is entitled to have access to an executive summary of EIA and also they must have the opportunity to make an oral or written suggestion to the state pollution control board.

Appraisal: After completion of the Public Consultation process, the final EIA report has been prepared for submission to MoEF&CC for appraisal and environment clearance.

Environmental Clearance: The final EIA report will make on the basis of data collected to public consultation and monitoring during the construction and operation phase. Thus, after observing the commitments attached to the EIA report and predictions they made its correct or not, then only monitoring will enable the regulatory agency to review the condition of implementations on the basis of the Environmental management plan.

Outline of the Report: The Comprehensive EIA for the proposed Etalin hydroelectric project has been presented in two parts – First part presents the findings of the EIA study and the second part includes various mitigation as well as management measures under the Environmental Management Plan.

Scope of the Study: The general scope of this EIA study is as follows:

Assessment of the report includes the existing condition of ecological and socio-economic aspects of the environment, analysis based on the activities of HEP which impacts on the environment, Prediction of significant impacts on major environmental components is a way of mapping the aspects of the project but it can never be predicted with absolute certainty and this is all to take possible precautions for reducing the degree of uncertainty. Also changes the Resettlement & Rehabilitation Plan, Catchment Area Treatment Plan, and Environmental Monitoring Programme which having adverse impacts during construction and operational phases of the proposed project.

Land Requirement: For the development of Etalin Hydroelectric Project, the land would be acquired for construction of project components, submergence area, muck dumping, quarrying, construction camps, and colony, etc. Based on the final project layout, the land requirement has been finalized as 1155.11 ha Land would be required for locating the permanent works as well as for setting up the infrastructural and job facilities necessary for constructing the project in an expeditious and optimal manner.

Methodology and Impact Assessment: Here, for achieving the sustainable goals the definition forest cover is changed. To understand the problems of development and analyses their impact on the life of supportive basic natural systems like land, water, and air which stands for Environmental Impact Assessment. Various new patterns are added to the EIA studies which impact the socio-cultural, socio-economic, and ethnic diversity and it must be included displacement, resettlement, and rehabilitation of human societies where developmental activities are undertaken. These developmental activities defined different components of baseline data which studied during the assessment of environmental impacts.

EIA is the study of various land structures based on the impacts and predictions of the development of natural ecosystems and their species along with concentrating on geophysical features, which mostly cover reversible impacts on the environment. Hence, the process based on the area of the project, their type, and the magnitude of the operations. In HEP its sustenance and continuity largely depend on the quality of the ecosystem in the catchment of the river and reservoir, the biological health of the catchment will control by the life of the reservoir. By maintaining the natural ecosystems in the catchment area, will generate hydropower on a sustainable basis. Natural ecosystems are controlled by biodiversity and it is benefited from the hydropower.

Baseline Status of Data Collection: The baseline data refers to the existing environmental status of identified study area. The data for various environmental baseline parameters like forest types, flora, wildlife, fishes, and also socio-cultural aspects was collected from secondary sources like published reports of Government departments and different educational and research institutions. The secondary data was duly supplemented and detailed as follows about the data:

Construction of Etalian hydroelectric project has many impacts on the Environmental parameters. As it affected on the

Land Environment- Existing land use and topography, Increase in soil erosion, drainage, and hydrology, Identification on the potential utility of treated effluent on land, changes in the riverbank, and their stability.

Biological- deforestation and shrinkage of animal habitat, impacts on flora and fauna including aquatic species due to discharge of effluents and gaseous emission from the project, migration of fish species, increased potential for reservoir fisheries, impacts on rare and endangered species.

 Water Environment- Changes in quality, ingress of saline water, sediment transport, risk of eutrophication, reduced flow impacting downstream users.

Socio-Economic Aspects- Impact on local community including demographic changes, population, loss of land, loss of private properties, increased power generation, increase in employment opportunities, and standard of living.

Public Health- Impacts on human health, an increase in the incidence of communicable disease, and vector-borne disease due to an increase in water spread area, the impact of increased traffic.

Air Environment- changes in quality of air due to construction work, entrainment of fugitive emissions, effects on soils, materials, and vegetation.

Noise Environment- Increased noise level due to the operation of various equipment increased vehicular movement, the effect on fauna, and human health.

The regional project area focused on geology, stratigraphy, and structural features, based on parameters of seismicity which are using published literature on the seismic history and seism-tectonic nature of the regional rock types in the area.

Meteorological factors like precipitation, temperature, and evapotranspiration are important, as they have a profound impact on water availability, cropping pattern, irrigation and drainage practices, soil erosion, public health, etc

Concerns: A total of 18 villages consisting of 285 families are expected to be affected by the proposed project. It would entail felling 2,80,677 trees and threatens the existence of globally-endangered mammal species like Macaque, Jungle cat, Mithun, Himalayan striped squirel and avifaunal species like barbets, hornbills, trogon, swiftlet, treepie, drongo, thrushes, redstart, flycatcher, tits, bulbul, wagtails, forktails, munia, etc. 33 species of bird species belonging to 22 families inhabit these areas. The sighting of Plumbeous Water Redstart, White Capped Water Redstart, and Brown Dipper recorded mostly near the water body like river and nalas while other birds were found in the forest areas. A single sighting of the Great Hornbill, Buceros bicornis was also found near Etalin village in the morning hours.

According to our constitution provisions due to the rapid decline in India’s wild animals and birds, one of the richest and most varied wildlife resources of the country has been a cause of grave concern. Aim of national forest policy, 1988 is to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium which is vital for sustenance of all life forms, humans, animals, and plants. So, here according to WPA (1972) five species fall under Schedule-I viz. Panthera pardus (Leopard), Prionalurus viverrinus (Fishing cat), Aliurus fulgens (Red panda), Budorcas taxicolor (Mishmi takin) and Manis crassicaudata (Indian pangolin). Eight species fall under Schedule-II. Among the rest of the species, 5 are under Schedule-III while 2 are under Schedule-IV.

The proposed Etalin HEP would lead to the generation of a number of environmental impacts owing to the activities undertaken during the construction of various project appurtenances. Additionally, large-scale labour migration to the area, during the construction period, the migration of large scale labours are impacted by the local inhabitants. Thus, the impacts of construction and operation of projects will permanently change the flow regime of the river impacting aquatic life, fish fauna and downstream users.

Mitigation Measures and Impact Assessment: A mitigation plan should be drawn up for the selected option and is supplemented with an Environmental management plan to guide the proponents towards environmental improvements. The environmental impacts predicted are as follows:

  • Forest cover is declining
  • Improvising in land use
  • Changes in the socio-economic scenario
  • Displacement of peoples due to loosing land
  • Quality of water will be changed
  • Due to changes in the quality of water, the water-borne diseases will be affected by locals and it will increase
  • Various species of fishes will migrates
  • The effects on the quality of air will be polluted and the noise level is increased due to project operation and it will affect to surrounding.

Environmental Management Plan: Due to the identification of various effects on the project area will stand up with an Environmental management plan. EMP will include various aspects:

  • Conservation of Biodiversity
  • Planning of project well managed and sustained
  • Delineation of unmitigated impacts
  • Planning and management to conserve the fish species
  • Planning for the varieties of waste and mostly solid waste generated from the operation of the project.
  • Management for peoples onto their health and sanitary system.
  • Planning to maintain the forest cover and minimize the cutting of trees.
  • Managing the structure of dams to lower the decline in forest cover.
  • Planning to controls the parameters of air, water, and noise pollution.
  • Managing the area of biodiversity and specially for rare and endangered species

CONCLUSION: Here, it should be noted that the basin area which impacted by projects has been rising day by day and reached 95%. Further, the elevation at which projects occur has also increased during this period. This probably indicates that hydropower developers, having already occupied the best sites for their projects, are moving higher up the watersheds, thus utilizing smaller streams and so a greater percentage of the catchment area.

SUGGESTION: As we know, there is nothing to develop a perfect project with the conservation of the area, but it is a challenge to maintain the diversity of approaches, but a successful HEP is laterally not only produced by clear project management but it’s a multidisciplinary piece of work which comes from preserving of fauna and flora. The inclusion and integration of knowledge from a variety of different special fields in all phases of planning and accomplishment will increase the probability of taking care of everything.

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