Buddhist monks oppose fresh push for power plants in Arunachal

Itanagar, Feb 24 (IANS): Buddhist monks in Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang have again strongly opposed the state government's fresh push for hydro power projects in the northeastern border state.

The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), an organisation of Buddhist monks, in a statement, said that the proposed plants would not only affect the nesting grounds of the endangered black-necked crane but also threaten several holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the western region of Arunachal Pradesh.

The statement said that most of the hydro power projects are proposed in the Tawangchu and Nyamjangchu river basins, a habitat of the black-necked crane, which is considered a holy embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama who was from Tawang.

"The power projects would damage the geographically-volatile and highly-seismic Tawang region. The villagers of the 27 villages would also be affected if the dams and reservoirs were constructed for the power projects," the SMRF said.

The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) has proposed to set up two hydro power projects with proposed generation capacity of 600 MW and 800 MW in Tawang district.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu, on a number of occasions, has emphasised that works of under construction and proposed power projects must be stepped up for the betterment of the state and the country.

The Union Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Ministry, in a tweet last week said: "With an aim to ensure infrastructure development in the northeastern region, Govt. of India undertakes a massive project to transform the future of hydroelectric power in Arunachal Pradesh."

Official documents of North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) said that there is a potentiality to generate around 70,000 MW of hydro power in Arunachal Pradesh, which is considered as a "power house of India".

Both power projects have faced stiff resistance since 2011 from the monks of Tawang monastery and local villagers. In May 2016, two people including a Buddhist monk were killed and 10 injured in police firing at an anti-dam gathering in Tawang.

One of the power projects (600 MW capacity) has been on hold following a complaint the SMRF lodged with the National Green Tribunal complaining of fraudulent studies behind preparation of the planning of the project.

The SMRF statement reiterated its earlier allegation that the signatures of the leaders of the "Gram Sabha" for the Tawang Chu Stage-II were obtained fraudulently by the NHPC.

It also said that the Arunachal Pradesh government should learn from the disaster at Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, where the hydroelectric project was completely destroyed by a deadly flash flood triggered by an avalanche on February 7.

"Development cannot happen at the cost of environment... The government is wilfully blind to such risks and continues to actively promote massive hydro power projects. The people of Arunachal Pradesh have been struggling for years against dams and other forms of extractive development," it said.



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