Scientists urge citizens to write to demand rejection of forest clearance in Dibang Valley

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) is considering the clearance of 2.7 lakh trees for a hydroelectric project

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The environment ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) discussed the issue of forest clearance for the Etalin Hydroelectric Project that requires the clearing of 2.7 lakh trees in what is described as a “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forest”, one of the most biodiverse Himalayan zones in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley, reported the Hindustan Times.

Though the decision on granting forest clearance hasn’t been taken yet, a senior member of the FAC, on condition of anonymity, has told the media that most members have a favourable view of the project because it is a large “clean energy project” which can replace dirty energy.

HT reported on April 23 that a sub-committee of FAC which visited the site in February has recommended in its report dated April 21 that Etalin Hydroelectric Project of 3097 MW be allowed with a condition that the developer deposit money that will go towards wildlife conservation in the area. 

According to the sub-committee which visited the site in February, the developer, Etalin Hydro-Electric Power Company, a joint venture of Arunachal Pradesh’s Hydro Power Development Corporation with Jindal Power Limited (JPL), has reduced the forest area needed to be diverted to 1150.08 ha from 1165.66 ha.

Mongabay India reported, “First envisaged in 2008, the Etalin hydropower project is proposed to be developed as a combination of two run-of-the-river schemes and involves the construction of concrete gravity dams on the Tangon and Dri rivers. It seeks diversion of about 1,165.66 hectares of forest area from the environment ministry. However, the area that is sought for diversion is classified as an “inviolate area” as prescribed by the environment ministry which is an area where no developmental project is allowed.”

In light of this, several scientists have written to the six-member FAC, citing a number of peer-reviewed studies that highlighted the ecological and biodiversity richness of the Dibang Valley. They asked the committee to assess the impact of all the hydropower projects in the region writing, “We’d like to kindly request you to direct the necessary agencies to conduct systematic studies on assessing the potential cumulative impacts of a run of the river projects on the riverine habitats and riverine birds before these projects are given clearance and before the river systems are permanently and irreversibly altered.”

In the same vein, they have asked citizens to come forward and sign off an email to the FAC, asking it to reject the forest clearance for the Etalin Project.

Asking citizens to address the below email to the Director General of Forests (, Additional Director General of Forests (, Inspector General of Forests ( and non-official members of the FAC, Dr. Rajesh Kaushal ( ) and Suramya Vora, Ex – Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (, they wish to save the pristine Dibang Valley from a destructive project.

The email reads –

Subject: Reject Forest Clearance for the Etalin Project

Respected Member of the Forest Advisory Committee,

I write to you as a concerned citizen of India and implore you to reject the forest clearance for the Etalin Hydropower Project. The project should not be viewed as a “clean energy” project, as it involves the destruction of a minimum of 270,000 trees in the Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh. The Dibang Valley lies in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot and its old growth forests are irreplaceable. They harbour rich species diversity, including a unique, high altitude population of tigers.

Such forests are also crucial to public health and our fight against the climate crisis. In a letter by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra acknowledges that “there is a consensus among scientists that a rise in zoonotic diseases like Nippa, Avian Influenza, Zika and Coronavirus is linked to loss of biodiversity and forest”.

Once lost, such complex ecosystems are irreplaceable. The Dibang Multipurpose Project has already been approved on the same Dibang River. It would be a tragedy if the Etalin Project is approved too.

I urge you to unanimously reject forest clearance for the Etalin Project.

Yours truly.

According to Mongabay India, the Dibang Valley houses 680 bird species – more than half of India’s total bird species. It is also home to tigers, the national animal of India.


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