#India – Report on Lower Suktel Project and People’s Protest


April 21, 2013

By Amitabh Patra

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Lower Suktel:
Suktel is a tributary river of Mahanadi in Odisha, flowing in the districts of Bolangir & Sonepur. The state Govt. has been trying to build a dam named “Lower Suktel Irrigation Project (LSIP)” at G.S. Dunguripali. CWC (Central Water Commission) allotted a sum of Rs. 217.13 Crores at 1994 estimate for the same later revised to Rs. 1042 Crores in 2009. State Govt is said to have spent Rs. 300 Crores for land acquisition, of which more than 60 crores has been mis-appropriated as pointed out in the CAG Report and is under recovery process. The project is said to irrigate about 31000 hectares of land, whereas the FRL will submerge more than 4000 hectares of already existing multi-crop agricultural land, forest, best kendu (tendu) leaf production area, vegetable and paddy production area and self-reliant 30 villages of the drought prone dist.

The supporters of the project – mostly the demand coming from the Bolangir town. It is being told by the affected villages of submergence area that many of the powerful people of the town and outsiders to the region, rich man with money and muscle have purchased huge patches of land and have converted that to make profit from the compensation money. A few powerful and influential political leaders of the region have purchased hundreds of acres of land as “Benaami” (anonymous) downstream keeping in view of the future mineral processing of Iron Ore, Thermal Power Plant, Bauxite, Lead and many other valuable minerals, including gem stones.

The question arises here: an irrigation project, why is it being opposed?

Resisting villagers have given the alternate proposals – that instead of the said 30 meters tall dam, small height multiple barrages be done at multiple stages across the river. That will not submerge the fertile agricultural land, productive forest, won’t uproot people and villages, are less expensive and low maintenance in the long run. That will be more effective for irrigation, keeping drought in control of a much larger region than the big dam, and maintain the bio-diversity. Large dams not only cause big displacement, but they also create water deserts. The biggest example is Hirakud Dam in the state, where the loss incurred to the people and environment is enormous. The huge reservoir is a big water desert of the region.

Possible Falsification of Facts by the Construction Company & Govt.:
In a fact finding journey to five villages, it was found that, the figures presented by the officials are misleading and full with lies. Some of the villages which the survey report states as partial submergence, checking on ground at those villages with GPS device, it was found to be under 8 meters of water during FRL, at the highest point at middle of the village. Also as with experience we have seen in Hirakud that the villages where there was never before submergence, flood of 2011 August, they were washed off, on the upper region of Hirakud Dam due to Back-water. So partial submergence is a myth during the monsoon.

Compensation issue:
People in some villages have been paid up compensation for their land, house, trees etc. The maximum amount that has been paid for per acre of agricultural land is Rs. 55,000/- + Rs. 10,000. With this price, it is almost impossible to purchase equivalent land at elsewhere. The burning example is displaced people of Tikhali Dam near Nuapada/ Khariar. Only a handful of the displaced about 10% have been able to settle at a new place. Remaining 90% people have lost their culture, society, rights to common land, cattle grazing land, forest and other common resources of human civilization. The displaced people are looked upon in an inferior manner at the new place where they go. Some pro-displacement people argue that they should move to nearby towns and live happily; but while saying so, they forget that it is impossible to live up without a neighboring society. As said by the uprooted at gunpoint people of the Tikhali (Lower Indra) dam project – “where ever we go, people kick us out. They say that we are detached flying leaves.” In a recent bizarre incident, the villagers did not even let the dead body of a displaced person being burnt at their mortuary. The dead body had to be brought back to a distance of 13 kilometers for the last rites. Many villagers still have not received any compensation whereas the dam construction is over by 70%. Those who were displaced are preferring to even come back, and rebuild their houses at the old place. Since past 5 years over a hundred school going children have been deprived of their basic right to education

Displacement by large scale water logging causes extinction – of culture, people, species, societies, forests, insects, birds, animals, reptiles, civilizations and brings in destruction, oppression, desertification, diseases, and deaths. Smaller is better, bigger is worse.

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Government of Odisha Status Report on Lower Suktel Irrigation Project[PDF]

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: #India – ‘Development at Gunpoint’ in Odisha – Ground Report #Video | kracktivist
  2. Trackback: #India – Dams and the Doomed… min(e)d games of the state | kracktivist
  3. Trackback: Joint Statement Condemn Police Excesses in Lower Suktel Project area in Balangir, Odisha | kracktivist
  4. Trackback: Kalu : The Dam-ning Of A River And Its People | kracktivist

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