Etalin Campaign Tool Kit

First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 40 No. 4, April 2020

Updated on July 6, 2022

The Sanctuary team compiles articles, reports and other resources on the ongoing campaign to protect the biodiverse Dibang valley from the proposed Etalin Hydro Project.

A camera trap image of Mishmi takin, captured in the Dibang valley.

If you’re on this page, it’s probably because you’ve heard that if India’s Forest Advisory Committee grants forest clearance to the proposed Etalin Hydro Project, it will lead to the devastation of close to 2,80,000 trees in the species rich Dibang valley of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Dibang valley’s old growth forests are among the most biodiverse in the world. These are also the community lands of the indigenous Idu Mishmi people, who have sustainably managed this landscape for generations and successfully preserved its astounding wildlife. Local views in Dibang valley on the project are split. While some want to see the dam built, many others oppose it.

The Etalin Hydro Electric Project (HEP), a joint venture between Jindal Power Ltd. and the Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh, is proposed on two tributaries of the Dibang river. It is envisioned as one of India’s biggest and most expensive hydro projects.

Arguments against the project are manifold, and have been articulated by a number of reputed scientists, community leaders and various experts. Alongside the irreplaceable loss of biodiversity, and the potential cultural dilution of Idu Mishmi society from the massive influx of labour to construct the project, there are valid concerns about the viability of such mega dams in a seismically active geological region, and the climate-change induced retreat of the glaciers that are to feed the dams envisioned by the project. To compound these matters, the project has been deemed financially unviable by multiple independent experts. Each of these arguments has been detailed in the links provided below.

In a meeting, held virtually on April 23, 2020, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) deferred their decision on the project, and instead invited input from the Ministry of Power, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Whether this input was received is unclear as there is no documentation of it in the public domain. 

In May 2022, the FAC met once again, and constituted a committee to examine “some apprehensions/representations received from some quarters concerning to wildlife and other issues related to reported endemic flora and fauna of the area.” However, this was preluded with the claim “that almost all issues have been addressed in detail by the Sub Committee and the State”. This prompted a slew of experts and relevant organisations, including eminent institutions such as the BNHS, to once more make strong submissions to the FAC highlighting the irreversible socio-ecological impacts of the project as well as procedural flaws in the approval process. On June 9, 2022, members of the FAC held a public meeting in Roing, Lower Dibang Valley District, to "examine the content of all the representations made against the proposed construction of the Etalin HEP...". The meeting was well attended, and the majority of the participants articulately opposed the project. 

Over the past three years, thousands of citizens from across India have registered their opposition to the project by sending emails, tweets, and letters to the authorities, demanding that they reject this destructive proposal. We invite you to learn about the Dibang valley, marvel at its natural riches, and then add your voice to the nation-wide campaign to reject the forest clearance for the proposed Etalin Hydro Project.

To Read on Sanctuary:

FAQs about the #SaveDibangValley campaign: The Sanctuary team answers the most frequently asked questions about the Dibang valley and the growing movement to protect it!

FAC Faces Opposition to Proposed Etalin Dam at Public Meeting in Dibang Valley: About 75 per cent of the people who participated in a public meeting on June 9, 2022, expressed clear opposition to the Etalin Hydro Electric Project.

Scientists, Civil Society and Locals Write to FAC: The Sanctuary team shares highlights from the dozens of independent, expert submissions made to the FAC following their meeting on May 11, 2022. Several of the submissions can be accessed in their entirety from this page. 

New CCA Declared in Dibang Valley: A press note on the declaration of the Elopa-Etugu Community Eco-Cultural Preserve (EECEP) by the residents of two villages in Dibang valley. This Community Conserved Area measures 65 sq. km.

Tribal Tigers: Dr. Sahil Nijhawan articulates how the shamanic Idu Mishmi community has saved tigers in the Dibang valley of Arunachal Pradesh over centuries.

Writing for Forests in the Dibang Valley: Conservation scientists Nandini Velho and Umesh Srinivasan pen an open letter to India's Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), regarding the proposed Etalin Hydro Project in the Dibang valley.

Conservation Scientists Oppose Etalin Hydro Electric Project: Four reputed scientists write to India’s FAC with strong arguments to reject the forest clearance for the project.

Public Pressure to Scrap Destructive Etalin Project Mounts: Sanctuary’s press note on the snowballing campaign against the Etalin Hydro Project.

Climate Change and Seismic Hazards: Independent researcher and geographer Chintan Sheth explains why building dams in the Dibang valley aren’t worth the risk. This is a summary based on his detailed natural hazard assessment of dams in the valley.

Geographer Warns FAC of Natural Hazard Risks in Dibang Valley:  Chintan Sheth pens a letter to the Forest Advisory Committee, as the campaign against the Etalin Hydro Project continues to grow.

Ornithologist Underscores Bird Diversity in Dibang Valley: Having personally recorded 430 species of birds in the region, Shashank Dalvi reflects on the incredible avian diversity of the Dibang valley.

Dibang-based NGO appeals to FAC to reject Etalin Project: On May 1, 2020, the Kera-aa Initiatives for Cultural and Ecological Security (KICES), an NGO established by members of the Idu Mishmi community, wrote a detailed letter to India's Forest Advisory Committee.

Idu SBWL Member Opposes Etalin Project: On May 2, 2020, Anoko Mega, a member of the Arunachal Pradesh State Board for Wildlife, and Idu Mishmi community member residing in Dibang valley, registered his opposition to the Etalin Hydro Project via an email to India's Forest Advisory Committee.

WII Rebuked in Peer Review of Etalin Report: On May 4, 2020, 26 scientists from 16 institutions released a peer review of the Wildlife Institute of India’s (WII) Etalin Wildlife Conservation Plan.

Highlights from Peer Review of WII Etalin Report: Specific points from the peer review of the WII report which reveal the true species richness of the threatened Dibang valley.

Press Release on Forest and Environmental Clearances During COVID: 291 conservationists express their concerns about the lack of due diligence for environmental and forest clearances during the pandemic-related restrictions.

Former NBWL members urge FAC to reject Etalin Project: Five wildlife experts, including four former members of India's National Board for Wildlife, write a strongly worded letter to the FAC to reject the sub-committee recommendations on the Etalin Hydro Electric Project proposal.

Analysts Say No Economic Rationale For Etalin Project: Independent researcher Ashwini Chitnis and Manthan Adhyayan Kendra make a powerful submission to the Ministry of Power that there is no economic or financial rationale for the Etalin Hydro Project.

Banks Cautioned Against Hydro Power in Northeast: Independent professionals with domain expertise in banking, energy investments, and energy economics have shared an open letter on the financial unviability of hydropower projects in Northeast India.

The Public Health Perils of the Etalin Hydroelectric Project: Sidharth Singh highlights the potential public health repercussions, such as potential outbreaks of malaria and AIDS, of the Etalin Hydro Project in Dibang valley by drawing examples from history.

To Watch:

Voices from the Valley is a one minute film narrated by an Idu Mishmi community member who opposes the multiple hydropower projects proposed in the Dibang valley.

In Dibang Valley, filmmaker Ram Alluri gives us a visual introduction to this landscape.

In this 'Listening Session with the Idu Mishmi' held as part of the Flourishing Diversity Series in London last year, three members of the Idu Mishmi community share stories, songs and concerns for their future in the Dibang valley.

Dibang, Not A Dam Country is a short but poignant video collaboration between an Idu Mishmi singer and an Idu Mishmi film-maker. Together they contemplate why anybody would want to destroy their beautiful homeland.

In Hydro-Electric Project To Cost 2,70,000 Trees, Faye D'Souza speaks about the future of the Dibang valley and the threat posed by the Etalin Project.

In 'How big do you think 11.5 sq. km. is?' Riverbank Studios illustrates the devastation that the proposed Etalin Project will cause.

In 'Voices of the Dibang Resistance' the grassroots collective called Dibang Resistance shares an emotional message with the members of their Idu Mishmi community. 

In the Media:

April 23, 2020: FAC members favourable to hydro project in Dibang valley

April 23, 2020: Read the minutes of the FAC meeting held on April 23, 2020

April 24, 2020: In the midst of COVID-19, forest ministry deliberates on controversial Etalin project in AP

April 27, 2020: Tree loss to be reimbursed with plantations in Dibang valley

April 28, 2020: Another scientist writes to govt., warns about climate change impact in Dibang valley over hydro projects

April 28, 2020: Will 2.7 lakh trees make way for Arunachal’s hydro project?

April 27, 2020: For whom is the unviable Etalin Project being pushed?

April 28, 2020: The curious case of India’s Environment Ministry

April 29, 2020: 2.7 Lakh Trees to be Felled in Dibang valley, Scientists Oppose Hydropower Project

April 29, 2020: Why is saving Dibang valley From The Etalin Hydropower Project Critical?

May 1, 2020: Arunachal’s hydro project puts habitat of 25 globally threatened species, ancient trees at threat: BNHS to Centre

May 1, 2020: 'Etalin Hydro Project threatens our existence': in conversation with an Idu Mishmi

May 24, 2020: North East students' unions, civil society groups seek withdrawal of 'extractive projects' proposed in elephant reserve, national park 
May 25, 2020: 19 student organisations demand "complete reversal of extractive projects" in forests of Assam and Arunachal

To Sign:

Let India Breathe has made our draft letter to the NTCA available for anyone to send with just a few easy clicks. (Petition closed)

Let India Breathe has made our draft letter to the FAC available for anyone to send with just a few easy clicks. (Petition closed)

Our friends at Conservation India also submitted a petition with over 4,000 signatures to the FAC. (Petition closed)

Additional resources will be added to this page as and when they become available.

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