Idu SBWL Member Opposes Etalin Project

First published in: Sanctuary Asia, May 2020

On May 2, 2020, Anoko Mega, a member of the Arunachal Pradesh State Board for Wildlife, registered his opposition to the controversial Etalin Hydro Project via an email to India's Forest Advisory Committee. Mega belongs to the Idu Mishmi community and resides in the Dibang Valley. He is also an alumnus of Sanctuary's Mud on Boots Project, and has been working on conservation issues in the valley for the past decade. Mega's letter is reproduced below:

To

The Director-General of Forests,
Chairperson, Forest Advisory Committee,
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change,
Government of India.

2nd May, 2020.

Subject: Stating my concerns as State Wildlife Advisory Board member and Idu resident about the Etalin Hydro-Electric Project (3097 MW)

To the Respected Forest Advisory Committee Members,

I write to you in my capacity as a member of the Arunachal Pradesh State Board for Wildlife and a member of the Idu Mishmi community, and submit to you my opposition to the Etalin Hydro Electric Project in specifc, and other mega dams planned in my home-state in Arunachal Pradesh, as our area of Dibang Valley area will be particularly affected.

1. The Talõ (or Talon) river is sacred to our Idu Mishmi community. In Idu cultural belief, the souls of our dear departed are guided along the river by Igu shamans to reach the heavenly abode. Thus the Talõ is essential to our mythology and beliefs. We do not wish to see our soul river dammed and obstructed as it detrimental to our faith and Idu culture.

2. The population of the Idu Mishmi community is less than 15,000 individuals. We are a minority tribal group and the Dibang Valley is our homeland. We are conscious that the Etalin Project will bring hundreds of migrant workers to the Valley, in one government sub-committee report, the number is as high as 11,000 workers. I fear that this will dilute and threaten the unique cultural integrity of our society.

3. Our community forests, mountains and rivers are home to uncountable living creatures. Since time immemorial our community has managed and protected these lands. We are strongly bonded to nature and are looked after by the Gõlõ king spirit.

4. Despite mass protests from our community, India's biggest dam - Dibang Multipurpose Project - has already been approved on the Dibang river. Our sentiments on this matter were disrespected and the project was approved under the false guise of "development" and "economic boom" and our resistance was crushed. It is unethical for the government to force another mega dam on our rivers. Between both dams it is expected that 6 lakh trees will be cut down. With the destruction of the Dibang Valley, where will my community turn and what will be left for our future generations?

5. We are now aware of the burning issue of climate change and its impacts. Reputable independent experts and scientists have warned against clearing the Etalin Project on the grounds of natural disaster risks of all these hydel projects. We appeal to you to not risk the safety and welfare of our community and land in general. India has already seen the destruction caused when ill-planned development projects, especially along rivers, are faced with extreme weather events. These are becoming more extreme due to climate change.

We are a minority tribe that is closely bonded to our homeland. I appeal to you to spare the natural beauty and cultural integrity of the Dibang Valley for us and for our future generations.

Jai Hind. Jai Bharat Mata. Save Arunachal (land of the rising sun).

Yours respectfully,
Anoko Mega,
State Wildlife Advisory Board Member,
Roing, Arunachal Pradesh.

 

The proposed Etalin Hydro Project is a joint venture between Jindal Power Limited and Arunachal Pradesh's Hydro Power Development Corporation. It is slated to be amongst the  biggest and most expensive hydro projects in India. If approved, the project will cause the devastation of large tracts of the biodiverse Dibang Valley, and have irreversible cultural  impacts.

Learn about the campaign to stop this project, here.   

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