Mumbai,Yogesh Pawar: Given how Shiv Sena plays the Marathi card, many wonder why its environment minister in Maharashtra Ramdas Kadam is allowing 14 villages (12 from Gondpimpri taluka, Chandrapur district and two from Chamorshi taluka, Gadachiroli) and an area of 2,485 hectares, including 980 hectares of dense biodiversity-rich forests to be submerged for a dam – the Pranahita Chevella Link Reservoir (PCLR) project – being built just off the Telangana border.
Will alienate people further
That this is being done in the Naxal-affected region in Vidarbha has left many, even in the police administration, bewildered. "This will only alienate people further and make it easier for them to cross over. This will take us back by several decades," said a senior counter-insurgency expert.
Repeated attempts for a reaction from Kadam drew a blank.
No benefit to Maharashtra
"The current design of the dam ensures all benefits to Telangana and none for Maharashtra which'll house one of its biggest barrages," said environmental activist Amruta Pradhan of the South Asia Network for Dams Rivers and People (SANDRP). This organisation has used data available in government revenue records and the ground situation to analyse cost benefits to Maharashtra from the PCLR. "We found none," admitted Pradhan.
People were not taken into confidence
SANDRP has now written to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis asking why the state has not yet taken the people, who will be worst hit, into confidence since there have already been several rounds of discussions between highly placed officials of both states. The organisation has raised an alarm since work on the dam has been progressing rapidly, with first Andhra and now Telangana having already spent Rs7,000 crore on the Rs 40,000 crore dam which will cost Rs 50,000 crore per year to maintain.
"We hope MoEF immediately will look into this matter and order immediate stoppage of work and an enquiry. We also hope that Maharashtra will assume a more responsible role towards its people, land, environment and future. It must insist full impact assessment, public consultation and stoppage of all project work in the meantime," says the letter.
Reason for change in plan
Originally proposed at Tumadi Hatti village in Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana), it was shifted upstream to Shivni as earlier site would have led to a significant portion of Chaprala and Pranhita Wildlife Sanctuary, which spread along the river banks, going under water. Officials from Chandrapur Irrigation Division claim lesser forest will be submerged with the changed alignment.
Villagers fed with lies
Even until two years ago, officials kept telling villagers of Shivni in Maharashtra, which will be worst-hit, that the dam was just a rumour. "Yet it was inaugurated with much fanfare on November 20th 2012 by then Andhra Pradesh CM late YS Rajshekhar Reddy," points out Pradhan. The project proposes to lift 160 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) water from Pranahita River (in 90 days) of which 124 TMC will irrigate a command area of a 16,40,000 acres in Adilabad, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Warangal, Karimnagar and Ranga reddy districts of Telangana. 10 TMC water will be provided to villages en route, 30 TMC
drinking water will be diverted to Hyderabad and Secunderabad and 16 TMC water will be reserved for industrial use.
'History repeating itself'
Activists like Ananda Pawar who was actively involved in the agitation against the Sardar Sarovar (SS) called what is unfolding in Vidarbha as 'history repeating itself.' According to him, "SS too saw maximum benefits going to Gujarat and maximum displacement and submergence in Maharashtra. Why should this state always bear the brunt for others?"
With a full reservoir level of 152 metre, total length of canals transferring this water is 1,055 km with 209 km tunnels, work on which has been started illegally. "No one thought it necessary to get requisite environmental and forest clearance," points out the activist.
How can Maharashtra support a project...
- that is fraught in illegalities?
- at the cost of its own people, even when CAG itself has said that
the entire project may be flawed?
- which will affect its most vulnerable population in Vidarbha, that
too in a Naxal-hit region, with no gains at all?