Giving Compass' Take:

• Mayank Aggarwal explains that the environmental impacts of the Dibang hydropower project may be harmful, rather than helpful. 

• How can funders help to implement sustainable energy at scale? 

• Read more about the costs and benefits of hydropower


Hydropower projects are back in focus in India, with the government declaring in the past sixth months that large hydropower projects would have renewable energy status. The government has also brought in a dam safety bill.

And now, it's paved the way for the progress of the controversial 2,880-megawatt Dibang hydropower project in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, believed to be the largest hydroelectric project and highest dam to be constructed in India.

On July 17th, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the "expenditure on pre-investment activities and various clearances for Dibang Multipurpose Project (MPP) in Arunachal Pradesh" for an amount of 16 billion rupees ($232 million). The total estimated cost of the project is 280 billion rupees ($4 billion), with a timeline of nine years to completion from the receipt of government approval.

Envisaged as a storage-based hydroelectric project with flood moderation as the key objective, the Dibang MPP will be located on the eponymous river and valley district of Arunachal Pradesh, featuring a 912-foot concrete gravity dam. The construction of the dam, by the state-controlled National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, is expected to prevent flooding in downstream areas.

With the environment, defense, and the first level of forest clearance already in place, the project, as per an official statement, is awaiting final-stage forest clearance for investment approval from the government, which would enable the developers to provide compensation for land acquisition and resettlement of affected families, undertake compensatory afforestation, and other investments.

In addition to the mandated resettlement and rehabilitation plan for affected families, the project proposes to invest 2.41 billion rupees ($35 million) on community and social development and addressing concerns raised by the local community during the public hearings. "It is also proposed to spend an amount of 32.7 million rupees [$475,000] on a plan for the protection of culture and identity of local people," the statement added.

The project has been in the making for more than a decade now, with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying the foundation stone for it in 2008, and has been controversial throughout.

It would involve felling of more than 300,000 trees, which would disrupt the habitat of wildlife such as elephants, hoolock gibbons, clouded leopards, tigers, fishing cats, snow leopards, and Himalayan black bears that have the highest protection under the country's wildlife laws.

Read the full article about the Dibang hydropower project by Mayank Aggarwal at Pacific Standard.