Idu Mishmi Youth Highlight Rights Violations to FAC
First published on
October 16, 2022
Youth representatives from the indigenous Idu Mishmi community of Dibang valley have expressed their distress about the violation of their rights in regard to the controversial Dibang Multipurpose project (DMP) on their ancestral lands. In a strongly worded letter to India's Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), the youth have asserted that no Gram Sabha consent has been sought from Gram Sabhas whose forest lands and rights will be impacted by ‘compensatory and ameliorative measures' as mandated by the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The letter also highlights their concerns about the 16 other mega-hydro projects proposed in the Dibang basin, including India's biggest dam, the Etalin Hydro Electric Project, and the impact of various other infrastructure projects on their homeland. They pose difficult questions to the FAC, stating "... our land has been taken away from us for DMP, highways, numerous PMJYS roads projects, all of which have violated mandatory environmental safeguards damaging way more land than we were compensated for. How much more of our ancestral land will be taken for development and protection, the benefits of which will not be available to our people?" In light of these facts, the collective has called for "the government of Arunachal Pradesh, the FAC and MoEFCC examine the forest diversion proposal for DMP afresh for its direct and indirect impact on our forest land and rights".
The twin Dibang valley districts in Arunachal Pradesh are the homeland of the Adi and Idu Mishmi communities. Their ancestral nature-culture relationships are responsible for the stunning biodiversity that flourishes in this region. Today, the sanctity of both the Dibang valley districts and the rights of its tribal communities are threatened by a slew of infrastructure projects that have the potential to devastate the ecology and social fabric of this region.
Read the full letter below:
Forest Advisory Committee (FAC)
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC)
October 16, 2022
Subject: Diversion of forest for the Dibang Multipurpose project (DMP) – Idu Mishmi people’s views on the violation of forest and land rights
Dear Chairperson and members of the FAC,
We write on behalf of the local Idu Mishmi community impacted by the proposed Dibang Multipurpose project (DMP) in the twin Dibang Valley districts of Arunachal Pradesh. In particular we are writing to you about the direct and indirect impacts of the project on our forest rights.
It has come to our notice at the last minute that the FAC will be discussing the Dibang Multipurpose project in its meeting on October 17th, 2022. Such a short notice period prevents us from making a detailed submission, however, here is a brief submission given the issue’s urgency.
Based on the committee’s agenda, we understand that the diversion of forest land for DMP was recommended by the FAC in September 2014 with the condition that a certain area covering both Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley districts is declared a national park for future protection of ecological diversity in the river basin. This condition is significant as records show that the diversion of forest land was earlier rejected twice by the FAC. This was followed by a communication by the MoEFCC to the Government of Arunachal Pradesh (dated August 28th, 2014) stating that “the committee has recommended for rejection of the proposal on the ground that the proposed area is very rich in bio-diversity, sensitive ecosystem being at the edge of hills and floodplains and having large number of endemic and endangered flora and fauna etc.” (Attached in Annexure 1)
Despite this categorical decision of the FAC and MoEFCC to reject the forest diversion for DMP, it was subsequently discussed in FAC’s meeting in September 2014 and recommended for diversion on certain conditions including that of the national park. We are also aware that the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has communicated to the MoEFCC eight years after the condition was put by the FAC that: “… the legal status of the land in question is unclassed Forest/community Forests whose the local people are enjoying customary rights since time immemorial and therefore not will to part away with their land by declaration of National Park.”
While we thank the state government for its concern for our rights, we are shocked and deeply saddened that the state government has not sought consent from Gram Sabhas whose rights over forest land are affected due to the DMP and the conditions imposed on it. While some Gram Sabha consultations may have happened for the land being directly acquired for certain project components, no Gram Sabha consent has been sought from Gram Sabhas whose forest lands and rights will be impacted by ‘compensatory and ameliorative measures’ (including the National Park condition). The DMP is required to be in compliance with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) during the forest diversion process under the FCA, 1980, which unambiguously states that Gram Sabha consent is also required for "compensatory and ameliorative measures" associated with the forest diversion (Attached MoEF circular dated August 3rd, 2009, in Annexure 2).
Such consent was mandatory before the project was granted forest clearance. The current communication of the state government eight years after the FAC imposed the condition, that people will not be willing to part with their lands for the national park, is an admission that it has not carried out the legally mandatory consent of Gram Sabhas for compensatory and ameliorative measures. This violates the constitutionally guaranteed rights for tribal people and forest dwellers. Hence, it is critical that the government of Arunachal Pradesh, the FAC and MoEFCC examine the forest diversion proposal for DMP afresh for its direct and indirect impact on our forest land and rights.
Nearly Half of the Dibang Valley district’s area (4149 sq. km out of 9129 sq. km) has already been declared a wildlife sanctuary (the declaration happened in 1998 without our Free Prior and Informed consent). Further, more of our land has been taken away from us for DMP, highways, numerous PMJYS roads projects, all of which have violated mandatory environmental safeguards damaging way more land than we were compensated for. How much more of our ancestral land will be taken for development and protection, the benefits of which will not be available to our people? If the FAC is truly concerned about protecting biodiversity, we urge it to reconsider granting clearance to the country’s largest dam, the Etalin project (3097 MW), which is also located in the Dibang Valley, and the other 15 mega hydropower projects earmarked in the twin districts. Shockingly, most of these development projects are in the Dibang-Dihang biosphere reserve where such large infrastructure is not allowed.
If the FAC encourages such violations of the basic constitutional rights of India’s most marginalised communities by condoning key procedural flaws, it will be difficult for us to keep faith in our governance system. This will be a grave injustice both to the biodiversity and people of the Dibang valley, also compromising the long-term ecological and socio-cultural security of the region.
Idu Mishmi youth,
Lower Dibang Valley and Dibang Valley districts
This is one of two letters sent by local community representatives on the issue of mega dams in the region. Read the other letter here.