Advisory committee rejects forest clearance for Tipaimukh

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IMPHAL, July 26: The Forest Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (FC Division), Government of India has rejected the forest clearance for the proposed Tipaimukh Dam.

The FAC had during a recent meeting held on July 11-12 resolved that approval for the diversion of the forest land needed for the project in Manipur cannot be accorded.

The Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, CCDD along with the Community on Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur CRNRM today called a press conference in connection with the recent FAC resolution.

The FAC had discussed the Diversion of 22777.50 hectares of forest land in Manipur for the construction of  Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project in Manipur, during its recent meeting held on July 11 and 12.

The FAC, during an earlier meeting held on January 11 and 12, 2012 observed that the project involved diversion of very large area of forest land and had further recommended that a sub-committee of the FAC along with the domain experts in the fields of ecology, wildlife, hydrology etc. may visit the project site to make an on-the-spot assessment of the impacts, the project is likely to have on the flora, fauna and also on the socio-economic conditions of the local residents; and had also resolved that it may also suggest appropriate measures, including reduction in dam height, to minimize requirement of forest land for execution of the project.

Following the recommendations, a committee under the Chairmanship of Dr Mohammad Firoz Ahmed, a non-official member of the FAC was constituted. However, due to the delay in the site inspection by the sub-committee, the FAC decided to re-examine the proposal of the State Government without insisting upon the report of the sub-committee.

The Manipur government had initially submitted a proposal to obtain prior approval of Central Government under the for diversion of 20,464 hectares of forest land which was revised to diversion of 25,822.14 hectares of forest land and later, in consideration of the recommendations made` by the North Eastern Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, the area of forest land proposed for diversion was reduced to 22,777.50 hectares.

The FAC observed, “This project thus requires 24,329 hectares of forest land which is more than one-fifth.of the total 118184 hectares of forest land diverted for execution of 497 hydel project in the entire country after the FC Act came into force” and “The forest land required for the project is more than 100 times the average rate of diversion forest land for the hydel projects for which approval under the Fe Act has been accorded by the MoEF, so far”.

“The per-megawatt requirement of forest land (16 hectares of forest land per megawatt) for the above project of 1500 MW installed capacity is much higher than the average per mega-watt requirement of forest land for the existing hydel projects in the country”, and “The forest land required for the project is almost two-thirds of the average annual rate of diversion `afforest land for non-forest purpose (35,890 hectares per annum) during the 32.50 years of the existence of the Act”, it observed.

The FAC also observed that the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Manipur has observed in his report that “no compensatory measure would help in mitigating the adverse impact caused by loss of such large forest tracts, unless additional Non-Forest areas in the affected districts or adjoining districts or adjoining districts are taken up for compensatory afforestation.

“Forest land proposed to be diverted is a known habitat of several wildlife species such as Jungle fowl, Barking deer, Wild Boar, Assamese macaque, animals such as Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Snow Loris etc, and birds like Great Indian Hornbill, Bamboo Partridge, etc. are also reported to be available in the forest land proposed to be diverted”, it further observed.

Project involves displacement of 12 villages consisting of 557 families having a population of 2,027 Scheduled Tribes in Manipur. Several representations have been also received from` individuals, civil society organizations and environmental groups against this proposal.

The regular employment likely to be generated from the project is only 826 persons, therefore, it appears that employment opportunities likely to be created by the project is not commensurate with the loss of land and natural resources which are generally the main source of livelihood of the tribal population of the state, the FAC had said.

The FAC after detailed deliberations concluded that requirement of forest land for the project is large and is disproportionate to its power generation capacity.

The FAC had recommended that approval for diversion of the said forest land should not be accorded. The FAC further recommended that in case the user agency desires, they may explore feasibility to construct smaller dams involving diversion of smaller forest area commensurate with their power generation capacity.

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