Dibang valley is the largest district in the north east Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. With a population of 8,004 (according to the 2011 census data), it is the least populated district, with the major inhabitants being the indigenous community of Idu Mishmi. The valley is named after the Dibang river, which is a tributary of Brahmaputra. It is considered one of the most biodiversity-rich regions in the world, reported to have 430 bird species- according to a biogeography study conducted by independent researcher Shashank Dalvi, along with endangered mammal species like tigers and clouded leopards  .
In 2008, a 3,097 MW hydropower project was envisaged in this region, known as the Etalin hydroelectric project. It was one of the three hydropower projects that were set up as a joint venture between the Hydropower Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Ltd. And Jindal Power Limited on a build, own, operate and transfer basis (the other two being 680MW Attunli project and 1600MW project at middle Subansiri) .
The project has an estimated cost of $3.3 billion and Jindal Power Limited, which has 74% stake, is seeking investors .
It is proposed to be developed as a combination of two run-of-the-river schemes, involving the construction of concrete gravity dams on the Talon/Talo (often misspelt in official documents are Tangon) and Dri rivers- two tributaries of the Dibang river . This would involve diversion of about 1,165.66 hectares of forest land, out of which 134 hectares are very dense forest and 267 hectares are moderately dense forest and felling of at least 280,000 trees of ´subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forests´ .
In January 2017, the MoEFCC´s Expert Appraisal Committee for River, Valley, and Hydroelectric Power Projects in its meeting recommended the environmental clearance of the project, but the Forest Advisory Committee in February 2017 “had recommended conducting multiple seasonal replicate studies on biodiversity assessment by an internationally credible institute as environmental impact assessment (EIA) is completely inadequate in this regard.” . The study was carried out by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) but has faced many criticisms since then .
Amidst the countrywide lockdown due to the corona crisis, the Forest Advisory Committee debated on granting forest clearance to the project on 23 April 2020, resulting in many scientists and experts writing to the MoEFCC to warn about the consequences that this project will have not only on the biodiversity but also the indigenous community  . Geographer Chintan Sheth has highlighted the risk of creating a mega-dam in a seismically active zone, with the mountains upstream of the dam consisting of 300 glaciers and 350 glacial lakes and what it means in terms of climate change  . Anoko Mega, a member of the Arunachal Pradesh State Board for Wildlife and a member of the Idu Mishmi community registered his protest to save the way of life of the indigenous community including their cultural heritage and traditional ways of conservation of the biodiversity . In 2018, the Idu Mishmi Cultural and Literary Society (IMCLS) had written to the Director of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to suggest a new “cultural model” of conservation that takes into account “a culture so far proven to be effective in saving the tigers”.
However, at the same time, there is also a section of the Project Affected families which support the project in the name of development, stating that the project will allow the state to be ´economically self-reliant, independent and vibrant at parity with other developing states of northeastern region´. Aito Miwu, belonging to the Idu Mishmi community says that this is because some members of the community have been offered large amounts of money as compensation .
On May 4, 2020, 26 scientists from 15 institutions released a peer review of the Wildlife Institute of India´s Etalin Wildlife Conservation Plan . A few of the key points they made were :
WII’s report is a Wildlife Conservation Plan with the final chapter dedicated to mitigation and conservation measures. It is not clear on what basis the FAC’s singular mandate to conduct a ‘biodiversity assessment’ was converted into a Wildlife Conservation Plan.
Despite clear directives to conduct a multi-seasonal study, WII only spent four months in the field, and surveyed a limited number of sites using biased sampling methods. As a result, their report hugely under-assesses the biodiversity of the region.
The Biodiversity Conservation Plan does not account for the damage to the greater landscape by the construction of over 50 km. of new roads and widening of an additional existing roads. The true ‘Zone of Influence’ due to road construction, quarrying and debris dumping is likely to be much larger on account of the extensive slopes on either side of the steep river valley, and their very high susceptibility to landslides.
By suggesting mitigation measures, the WII report presumes the project to be cleared and presents it as a fait accompli. This implies that the report’s finding has no bearing on the FAC’s decision on the project, ultimately making it an exercise in futility.
In the last few weeks, there have been a lot of online mobilizations- letters written to the government, peer reviews of the WII study, twitter storms etc.. A local organization Kera-aa Initiatives for Cultural and Ecological Security (KICES) wrote a letter to the FAC expressing their opposition to the project. A few days ago, a group under the banner Dibang Resistance formed and has since been campaigning quite relentlessly on social media. On May 9, 2020, they helped organise a nationwide tweet-storm demanding that Etalin hydropower project should be stopped, with the hashtags #StopEtalinSaveDibang and #SaveArunachalBiodiversity and managed to bump #StopEtalinSaveDibang to top 10 nationally . They have also begun to produce material in the local Idu language.
On May 11, 2020, the minutes of the meeting of 23 April were made available, according to which forest clearance wasn´t given yet, but rather sought inputs from the ministry of power on the feasibility of the project as well as a detailed cost-benefit ratio analysis  .
However, it is too soon to tell whether the project will be granted forest clearance despite all the efforts, or will the mobilization be successful in preserving the biodiversity and the indigenous culture and heritage of Dibang valley.