Public hearing on Dibang hydropower project this month

Public hearing on Dibang hydropower project this month

New Delhi: A public hearing for the 3,000MW Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh—postponed several times due to local opposition—will be held in March, a top official said.

The foundation stone for the project, to be built by state-run NHPC Ltd, was laid by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January 2008. But the public hearing, required by law before an environmental impact assessment report is prepared, couldn’t be held due to local disturbances.

“The public hearing for the Dibang project will be held in the last week of March," said S.K. Garg, chairman and managing director, NHPC.

He said the project, which is at the centre of India’s efforts to hasten development in the North-East, will be completed in nine years after clearances are obtained.

Hydropower projects take a significant toll on local environment and people, and result in displacement. After an environmental clearance is granted, final clearances are awarded by the Central Electricity Authority, the apex power sector planning body, along with the Public Investment Board, which approves investments by public sector firms.

The hearing has been postponed three times. At a hearing on 29 January 2008, at Roing, the district headquarters of Lower Dibang district, the majority of the residents opposed the project. The state government earlier blamed NHPC for being lax, while NHPC had said the state was not doing enough to maintain law and order in the region.

Mint had reported on 1 February and 11 February 2008 about problems related to public hearings and that the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone although the project was yet to get clearance from the environment and forests ministry.

“R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) is a vexing issue for a majority of big hydel projects in the country. R&R is a question of implementation and some sensitivity on the part of the government can resolve this," said K. Ramanathan, distinguished fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute. “If we do something in a proactive manner initially, the later problems can be avoided."

“The total project cost for the project will be around Rs16,000-17,000 crore, the investment for which will be made through internal accruals, debt funding and an initial public offering. The debt to equity ratio for the project will be 70:30," Garg said.

Officials of the Arunachal Pradesh government couldn’t be contacted. The state has the highest potential for hydropower in India. The hydropower generation potential of north-eastern states and Bhutan is about 58,000MW. Of this, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounts for 50,328MW, and has attracted several private sector hydroelectric project developers such as Reliance Power Ltd, Jaiprakash Associates Ltd and DS Constructions Ltd.