‘EIA report fails to address concerns of locals’

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    KATHMANDU, Jan 7 : Locals of the villages to be affected by the proposed Arun III hydropower project have claimed that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project was prepared in a hurry and that it has not addressed issues raised by the locals during public hearing.

    Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali (left) speaks at an interaction on Arun-3 Hydropower project, organized by SJAJ at New Baneswor, Kathamndu, on Wednesday
    Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali (left) speaks at an interaction on Arun-3 Hydropower project, organized by SJAJ at New Baneswor, Kathamndu, on Wednesday

    The EIA report of Arun III is awaiting endorsement by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology.

    Speaking at an interaction on ´Arun III Project: Concerns and Challenges´ organized in Kathmandu on Wednesday, locals, including those who are to be displaced by the project, said they still do not have any idea about the project´s social and environmental issues mitigation plan.

    Indramani Yamphu, who hails from the project site, said the government was only highlighting benefits that the project brings. “It is bypassing people in the affected areas,” he said. “The EIA report, which has been prepared by using the data of 2005, has not made proper assessment of the people´s cultural, environmental and religious aspects, among other”.”

    Though the EIA report includes plan to mitigate impacts in affected areas, it has failed to address specific concerns of the locals, Yamphu claimed.

    “After studying the report, we had registered a 26-point demand at the MoEST. But we don´t know whether or not our concerns have been addressed,” Yamphu said. “We are not against the project. We only want to see our genuine concerns duly addressed.”

    The interaction was organized by Sankhuwasabha Journalists Association. People of six project affected village development committees (VDCs) of Sankhuwasabha participated in the interaction.

    Another local Hom Yamphu also said the EIA report have several errors like wrong census data. “Public hearing was organized without giving locals information about the impacts of project, including the number of households to be displaced,” he added.

    According to Investment Board Nepal (IBN), which signed Project Development Agreement (PDA) with Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) for the development of the export-oriented project, altogether 203 households will be affected by the project.

    Speaking at the interaction, Hare Ram Subedi, SJVNL´s representative, maintained that they had done rigorous discussions with the locals while preparing EIA.

    EIA report determines all social and environmental safeguard measures as well as local development programs.

    Meanwhile, locals have demanded the project developer to connect all six affected VDCs — Pawakhola, Pathibhara, Num, Makalu, Yamphu, Diding — by motorable roads, reconstruct school buildings destroyed by the earthquake of 1988, conduct technical trainings for locals, and build health facilities.

    LOCALS IN DARK ABOUT ARUN III PDA

    The locals of project affected VDCs have demanded that IBN make public PDA signed with SJVNL, saying that they still do not know the details of PDA which, among others, defines the benefits that the locals will get.

    Parshuram Meghi Gurung, CPN-UML leader of from Sankhuwasabha, said people are still in dark about the PDA.

    Presenting a working paper on the project, Bal Bahadur Parajuli said he does not have comprehensive information about the project even though he applied for the PDA document a day after the signing of PDA.

    IBN´s Under Secretary Khagendra Prasad Rijal said a non-disclosure agreement between IBN and SJVNL bars them from making PDA document public. “Also the issue is sub-judice at the Supreme Court,” he said.

    Among others, the PDA document states that the developer will provide 30 units of electricity to every household in the affected VDCs. Similarly, the developer will also float Rs 1.6 billion worth of shares to the people of affected VDCs.

    The project, which is estimated to cost Rs 104 billion, is expected to start generation by 2020.

    Source : Republica