#India – Farms robbed of water, farmers livelihood


Thursday, May 30, 2013, 7:49 IST | Agency: DNA
Yogesh Pawar
High-powered committee on water reallocates 1983.43 million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects to coal-fired power plants, finds a study conducted by non-profit organisation Prayas.
A high-powered committee on water seems more interested in diverting water from irrigation to highly water-intensive coal fired power plants. This, despite the stress that this reallocation places on drought-prone regions in the state.
This revelation has been made by an analytical report put out by non-profit organisation, Prayas, on the basis of the minutes of meetings that high-powered committees have held over a decade. Such committees consists of ministers and bureaucrats.
Drying up fields
Terming the committee’s decisions as ‘opaque and undemocratic’, the report states that it had reallocated 1983.43million cubic metres of water from 51 irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes, thus reducing irrigation potential by 3.23lakh hectares.
Analysis of minutes of meetings shows that of the total water reallocated by the panel, 54% was allotted for domestic purpose while 46% was for industrial purpose. Besides demand for drinking water, industrial water demands are equally responsible for reduction of water for irrigation. This debunks the general belief that industry requires less water and water allocated to it shouldn’t cause much of an adverse impact.
Of the total water allocated for domestic use, 96.94% was routed to municipal corporations in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur. Of the rest, 1.75% went to municipal councils with 0.88% to rural pockets and 0.42% diverted to other schemes like water supply to educational institutions. It is apparent that private companies, including power plants and special economic zones, used the committee’s regime most effectively in availing water reservations.
Of the total water reserved by the committee for industries, a maximum share of 64% is allocated to thermal power plants. Of the 15 power plants which demanded and got water reservation from the panel, 13 are privately owned.
Besides power plants, the panel allowed water to be reserved for Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (19%) and special economic zones (14%).
Dodging the law
The report states that the committee did not consider farmers’ interests and even sidetracked the state watchdog – Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
“…this would require adherence to law and the decisions would have to be open, transparent, systematic, and rational with consideration of implications of these decisions on local beneficiaries”, the report mentions.
The report states that involvement of the regulator would make public hearings mandatory, spurring exchanging of ideas on looking at alternative sources of water for industries.
The report notes that thermal power plants, which require cooling, were provided with water-based coolers instead of air-based coolers which would have help scrimp on water.
Here’s how the report explanains this anomaly. “It would not have allowed the functionaries in the committee to make arbitrary decision favouring certain interested parties…
Activists filed two petitions in the high court and the regulatory body, challenging the committee’s decisions to divert water from a couple of irrigation projects for non-irrigation purposes. However, the state government did not await the verdict.
“The illegal decisions were legalised… using a weapon of ordinance… As a result, farmers lost their right to challenge the illegal decisions forever…” says the report. “The water reallocation from irrigation projects to non-irrigation is grabbing of water resources for industries and big cities at the cost of livelihoods of farmers.”
Advantage politics
The report points out how the allocation policy has been captured by dominant political forces emerging from rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. “These forces are capturing the policy space and thereby the vital natural resources like water at the cost of life and livelihoods of the rural farming community. There is an urgent need to close the gaps in the policy framework and evolve strong regulatory mechanisms to create a counter-political force capable of protecting the interests of the disadvantaged sections of the society,” it recommends.

 

What plagues Maharashtra’s irrigation sector ?


Wanted: rule of law

Author(s): Pradeep Purandare, Downtoearth
Issue Date: May 31, 2013

What plagues Maharashtra’s irrigation sector

Pradeep PurandarePradeep PurandareIt is simple, true and bitter. Maharashtra’s irrigation sector is going from bad to worse. First an irrigation scam and now a drought.

The state’s irrigation statistics (see box: ‘Status of canal irrigation in Maharashtra) speak volumes. Maharashtra consciously opted for large scale public sector irrigation projects in a very big way. However, it could not get the desired success. Bad planning and design, substandard construction, poor physical status of canals and distribution network, bandobast or jugad (improvisation) in the name of operation and management (O&M), criminal negligence in maintenance and repairs (M&R), only lip service to participatory irrigation management (PIM), poor recovery of water tariff, inequitable distribution and inefficient use of water, and virtual absence of the rule of law are some of the well known reasons for the dismal performance of Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. This article focuses only on rule of law because its operative details are generally not reported and discussed even if water conflicts of all types (see box: ‘Water conflicts‘) are increasing both in numbers and severity at all levels within the state. Drought has only further worsened the situation.

Status of canal irrigation in Maharashtra (2010-11):

  • Ultimate irrigation potential (surface water): 8.5 million ha
  • Created irrigation potential (state sector): 4.737 million ha
  • Actual irrigated area (canal irrigation/state sector): 1.841 million ha
  • Investment on completed state sector projects: Rs 48,500 crore
  • Balance cost of 749 ongoing state sector projects: Rs 75,500 cr

Processes matter

Maharashtra has enacted several irrigation Acts (see box: ‘Irrigation acts in force’) to provide for various aspects of canal irrigation like construction, O&M, M&R, PIM, water tariff, compensation and, most important of all, control of water theft and unauthorised irrigation. It is needless to emphasize that all these processes are of vital importance to achieve the objectives of successful irrigation. The non-implementation of irrigation Acts means non-implementation of those processes too. That’s what has actually happened in Maharashtra. Failure to scrupulously adhere to the inherent processes has led to ad hoc decisions. Complete anarchy is the end result. It is, in fact, the genesis of the irrigation scam. The scam, in turn, has significantly contributed to virtually inviting the drought. Inordinate delays in completing irrigation projects and cultivation of sugarcane in drought-hit tanker-fed areas perhaps explain the unfortunate phenomenon.

The parent Act

Maharashtra Irrigation Act of 1976 (MIA 76) is a parent Act because it provides for foundation, frame and structure of water management in the State. Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (IDC), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) Act (See box: ‘Irrigation Acts in force’) take it for granted that MIA 76 is in force and refer to the same time and again. It is hence needless to say that the implementation of IDC, MMISF and MWRRA Acts heavily depends upon the implementation of MIA 76. Let us examine some details – first in theory and then in practice.

Water conflicts

  • Irrigation vs non-irrigation
  • Flow vs lift irrigation
  • Upstream vs downstream river basins / projects
  • Head enders vs tail enders
  • Seasonal crops vs perennial crops
  • Water resources department vs water users associations
  • Rural vs urban
  • Watershed works and small projects vs big projects

MIA 76, being a parent Act, amply provides for the following:

  1. Preparation of Rules (Section 114) to provide for the operative part of the Act and give details of day to day implementation of the Act.
  2. Issuance of River (and its tributaries) Notification (Sec 11) to bring river water under the legal jurisdiction of Water Resources Department (WRD).
  3. Issuance of Command Notification (Sec 3) to legally intimate the beneficiaries that Act and Rules of WRD shall be applicable in the notified command area.
  4. Issuance of Notification regarding appointment of canal officers (Sec 8) to specify their jurisdiction
  5. Allotment of Duties to canal officers (Section 10) and their empowerment through delegation of powers to them under Sec 110

A serious and in-depth review of the actual implementation of MIA76, however, would reveal the following failures which are inconsistent with the progressive image of Maharashtra:

  1. Rules of MIA76 have not been prepared in the past 37 years from the time of enactment of the law. The Old Rules, namely Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces and Berar [CPand B] Rules are still being followed. These old rules are based on old Acts, namely Bombay Irrigation Act, 1879 and CP and B Act respectively. Old rules are, of course, not compatible with MIA76 as water management practices have naturally changed tremendously with time. The old Acts have been repealed by MIA76 way back in 1976. Not having the rules of MIA76 is the single most serious crime against water management in the state. It makes irrigation in Maharashtra vulnerable in many respects. An unprecedented legal crisis appears to be in the offing.
  2. Legal procedure regarding issuance of notifications with respect to rivers, commands, appointment of canal officers and delegation of powers is also reportedly not complete in many irrigation projects in the state. The magnitude of incompleteness can only be known if the Water Resources Department releases a white paper on the subject.
  3. The absence of rules and pending notifications has obviously taken its toll. In absence of rule of law, a “free for all” situation exists in the state. Bandobast or Jugad (improvisation) has superseded efficient and equitable water management. Conveyance losses have crossed generally accepted limits. Theft of water has become a rule in itself. Those who somehow get water seldom get it in time and in required quantity. Regular and timely canal maintenance is conspicuous by its absence. Arrears of water tariff are increasing. Diversion of water from irrigation to non-irrigation has increased. The situation is alarming. It is in fact explosive and could probably trigger the proverbial “third world war on issues related to water”.

 

Irrigation Acts in force

  • Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 [MIA76]
  • Irrigation Development Corporation Acts [IDC Act-one each for 5 Irrigation Development Corporations enacted from 1996 to 1998 – total 5 numbers]
  • Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 [MMISF Act]
  • Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act,2005 [MWRRA Act]

PIM and water entitlement

With this background, can Maharashtra hope to implement MMISF Act and MWRRA Act, which provides for PIM, bulk water supply on volumetric basis and water entitlement? Is the state “legally” ready for such a basic change? If the parent Act itself is not implemented, it is only to be expected that all other Acts would also only remain on paper. Following facts substantiate the argument:

  1. Integrated State Water Plan [ISWP] was supposed to be ready within six months from the date of enactment of MWRRA Act. However it is not ready even after eight years. In the meantime, MWRR authority is taking far-reaching decisions which are supposed to be taken within the framework of the ISWP.
  2. The State Water Board (chairperson – chief secretary) and State Water Council (chairperson – chief minister) were constituted way back in 2005 through notifications in the official gazette as per MWRRA Act. But even after eight years, both the board and council have yet to officially begin their “historic” work. Not even a single meeting has been held so far.
  3. The proposed Lift Irrigation Water Users Association has not been formed as per the MMISF Act even after eight years.
  4. Non-profit Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM) and Lokabhimukh Pani Dhoran Sangharsh Manch, a coalition of groups working for water rights in the state, have on several occasions pointed out that water users’ associations (WUA) mostly exists only on paper. They have demanded joint inspection of WUAs. There has been no response from the authorities.
  5. MWRRA is not functioning like an independent regulatory authority. In the context of drought, in general, and release of water for Jayakwadi project from upstream reservoirs, in particular, MWRRA – the so called first independent regulatory authority in India’s water sector—has been a silent spectator for all practical purposes.

Water governance

In view of above facts it is clear that there is hardly any water governance in Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. There is an urgent need to go back to basics. Things need to be streamlined and disciplined on war footing in the larger interests of the water sector. Equitable distribution, efficient use of water and resolution of water conflicts demand rule of law. Vested interests obviously do not want it. Will civil society act and act decisively and fast?

Pradeep Purandare was associate professor, irrigation management, at Water And Land Management Institute in Aurangabad till 2011

 

#India – Why are people opposing Lower Suktel Irrigation project in Odisha ?


 

“O government! Open your ear and listen to us ,We do not need Suktel dam.”
                   – writing on a wall in GS Dungripali, one of the villages that will be submerged if the Dam comes up

piccourtesy- down to earth

 

Context / Background

 

 

 

The river ‘Suktel’ originates from Gandhamardan Mountain (situated in between Balangir and Bargarh districts) in Orissa and flows into ‘Tel’ river. As a part of Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, Government of Orissa plans to build a dam on Suktel river which will be located 20kms from Balangir. According to Government of Orissa (GoO) this irrigation project will wipe out all miseries of people in Balangir which is otherwise known for its droughts and poverty. If the project promises such bright future ahead, why is it that people are protesting against the project for more than a decade now? The issue is much more complex than it seems to be and it is understood by the people in the area – at least those who have been with the ‘Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad (LSBASP). In the following section we will explore more about the hidden and not so hidden agenda of this irrigation project and the larger politics behind it, the wrath of devastation, the evolution of a mass struggle and the process so far apart from understanding the organizational structure and systems.

 

 

 

The Project & the Scale of Devastation

 

 

 

The water resources department, GoO describes Lower Suktel irrigation project as a ‘major irrigation project’ where a dam and a spillway will be built. According to the GoO the dam will fully displace people from 16 villages and people of another 10 villages will be partially displaced. The survey that was done in 1996 pitched the figure of displacement at 4160 families which is much less than the real number. The GoO has apparently identified the land in three villages to build the rehabilitation colony. Around 638 hectare land will be affected due to this project. There are plans to hand over non-forest areas to the forest department for afforestation and GoO has a provision of Rs. 159.26lakh for this.

 

 

 

The dam project is stated to be planned with a help from the World bank worth Rs.600 crores.

 

 

 

The compensation package for a displaced family include 20 decimal  homestead land, 2 acre irrigated land or 4 acre non-irrigated land, money to build the house, financial assistance for one year, money for relocating in new place plus Rs.500/ -.

 

 

 

The GoO has obtained the required permissions from Central Water Commission, Forest Department and Pollution Control Board. This project entails an investment of Rs. 217.13 crores and the GoO has already given the permission for the same.

 

 

 

The number of villages to be affected as given by the government seems unrealistic and has not been updated with the changes in plans. The original height of the dam that was cited by the government was at 36 meters which is now slated to be at 56 meters. This essentially means many more villages coming under water. At least 142 villages (86 full & 56 partial) are estimated to be affected due to this dam/irrigation project.

 

 

 

Loisinga block of Balangir, with 48% tribal population, which will be affected by the project is known for its extremely fertile land. The thick forest around the area and through which Suktel river flows is known for rich flora and fauna and is said to be home for wild animals. The fertile land enables people to produce very good quality vegetables such as parwal & brinjal, mahul, mango, jamun, jackfruit etc and crops. People not only in Balangir district but also many other districts in Orissa are benefited by this produce. The area has a massive reserve for Kendu leaf.

 

 

 

There will be a loss of at least Rs.10crores due to the felling of trees which will lead to minimal rains ultimately affecting the eco-system of the area. It is not understood how a dam can be built and effectively used for irrigation on a river which is already not heavy flowing and without rain, it will be a dry river.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ground Swelling and the Process so far

 

 

 

There was enough speculation among the people about the project despite rigorous attempts by the state to create a favorable opinion among the masses about the project. In 1997, the then district collector Bijay Arora organized the first ever public hearing in Chudapali, one of the villages which will be affected due to the project. More than ten thousand people from 26 villages, which were said to be affected, came to the public hearing. The district collector invited 30 representatives from the gathering to present their views on the construction of the dam in the name of irrigation. Everyone except one representative voiced against the dam. The only person who did not cite against the dam had only said that the dam is ok as long as it does not damage the road. The district collector ironically concluded the public hearing saying that people have no objections to the dam. This was unacceptable to people who had gathered there and especially when 29 out of 30 had opposed the dam construction.

 

 

 

It is on that very occasion and at that place, people gathered there decided to organize their energy and fight against this conspiracy. The deceitful act of the government led to the formation of a campaign under the banner of ‘Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad’ (LSBASP). A Parishad was formed in each of the 26 villages that were to be affected, according to the government record, due to the project. An eleven member team was constituted in each village with a President and a vice-President to intensify the campaign and mobilise the affected communities.

 

 

 

Mobilisation on the ground grew as people understood the hidden agenda of the dam project. The politics behind the dam project was becoming clear as people could see a direct connection between the dam project with the mining plans in Gandhamardan. It must be noted here that the mining plans in Gandhamardan, which faced strong opposition in 1980s, is resurfacing now since as many as 200 companies trying to get permission. Strong peoples’ resistance in Gandhamardan in 1980s had forced the company to go back even after investing 32crores. Biju Pattanaik’s government finally scrapped the project in early 1990s. But the agenda of the state to give the mountain for mining remained and it looked for ways and means to get there. The dam project, otherwise portrayed as an irrigation project, was designed to get to Gandhamardan. It is rather ridiculous to even have a dam on a river which usually does not have enough water throughout the year. The reservoir is planned as such that water could be ultimately sourced from it for mining purposes in the Mountain, especially for the proposed refinery in Taankapani, a mere 20kms from the reservoir.

 

 

 

This inter-linkage was not difficult for people in Suktel area to understand and when they realized the actual danger inherent in the irrigation project, the struggle even became much broader. The support and solidarity action became much more vigorous as many other movements and peoples’ organizations joined in this struggle across the state.

 

 

 

Sensing the danger from the government in going ahead with the project, LSABSP adopted the strategy of establishing a shrine to worship ‘Banadurga’ at the entry point in Pardhiapali  village – giving a clear signal about the protest. The project faced a strong opposition from people when the government decided to lay the foundation for the project in 2001. LSBASP mobilized 30 thousand people on that day to stage a massive protest. Deterred by this agitation on the ground, the administration hurriedly located another place away from the village for the chief minister to lay the foundation stone for the project. The administration applied section 144 apart from issuing warrant against few agitators in the new area so as to keep the agitators away.

 

 

 

Defying the repressive measures of the administration broke the police barricade and entered the area cordoned off for the programme. Shouting slogans against the project, the youths waived black flags to the chief minister. Interestingly, the Pashim Orissa Krushaka Parishad, a government outfit in an act to appease the chief minister intentionally interpreted it wrongly and communicated to him that the group is happy about the project. Unfortunately, the state of Orissa has a chief minister who does not understand Oriya and also such protest measures. Police arrested around 70 protesters in addition to the warrants it had already issued. This was vehemently protested and demanded their release by 30 thousand people who had gathered there to oppose the project.

 

 

 

LSBASP continued to contact people in all the villages and build collective strength through various mediums such as cycle rally, mashal yatra, village meetings and so on. The village-wise Parishad unit was effective in building one voice of resistance. On the human rights day in December 2001, the Parishad mobilised around 10-12 thousand people and submitted a demand letter to the collector and also sent it to the President of India. Interestingly, the President’s office responded and asked for papers (20 sets) on their struggle and suggests ways of irrigation without constructing a dam. Being a mass organization, the Parishad has always given primacy to the needs of the campaign on the ground and thus the requirement cited by the President’s office was beyond their bound. The Parishad communicated to the President’s office about the their inability to accommodate the request and urged him to visit the area to understand the situation first hand.

 

 

 

LSBASP asked the administration on 18 November 2001 about the reasons for not consulting people before going ahead with the project.

 

 

 

As the Parishad intensified its campaign, the state tried to mobilize people with lucrative offers. In 2002, people of 6 villages decided to withdraw themselves from the Parishad as they fell into the state tricks of compensations and benefits. The administration continued to motivate people through various ways such as taking the village Sarpanch into their fold. The roles of the land acquisition officer (LAO) and the bank officials have been extremely destructive as they have decided to play to the tunes of the state agenda and have continued to mis-guide people. This has led to people saying yes to compensation and rehabilitation deals and another 4 villages have got added up who have dissociated themselves from LSBASP by now.

 

 

 

The usual trick played by the LAO is to motivate the panchayat sarpanch and getting the entire village say yes to the offers. There are several instances where he alongwith the loan officer in the bank have told people to take compensation and build houses in the same area so as to get more compensation later. In the area, there are absolutely new houses coming up rapidly. This goes alongwith the line maintained by the Rural Development Commissioner (RDC)of the state who recently said that ‘there will be only compensation and no rehabilitation.’

 

 

 

Despite public outcry and massive demonstrations by LSBASP, the administration went ahead and distributed compensation in Khutpali village in 2003. A massive demonstation was organized in front of the police station by LSBASP and the administration assured that no more compensation will be distributed without consulting the organization. Apprehensive about the motive of the administration, LSBASP continued to strengthen its struggle on the ground. It ahs been demanding the admistration to make the ‘detailed project report’ public which the administration has been evading. The rift between Khutpali and GS Dungripali is growing as it is fuelled by the administration.

 

 

 

Compensation was distributed in Parjhapali on 11 January 2004 with heavy police presence. In fact the police did flag march in the entire area to keep off the people from resisting the process.

 

 

 

LSBASP has always communicated its displeasure about the manner in which the administration has motivated people to take the compensation. The leadership has always maintained that they are against the dam construction and thus no question arises about discussing compensation package. They find it very unfortunate to see the RDC engaging in mobilizing the people as Gagan Dhal, the RDC once said that compensation will help people to buy vehicles which they could use during the construction of the dam and earn a living. Ever since the villages have fallen into the clutches of the administration and accepted the compensation, there is an increase in the number of egg and liquor shops, vehicles and new houses in the area. The happiness of those who have taken money is short-lived

 

 

 

For LSBASP 11 May 2005 was the day when the administration and the local representative made the biggest blunder so far. The day was slated for bhumi pujan by the administration and as usual there was a heavy deployment of police. The local MLA Narsingh Mishra, whom people used to have a lot of faith, had assured people that there would be no such activity in the area till the administration makes the documents public and till people agrees to go ahead with the project. On this day he duped people and got the police to raid GS Dungripali village. People in the village recount that day with horror and anguish as they stood mute spectator to the dastardly act of the police. Police picked up 70 people including minor children. Each house in that village was ransacked by the police and women were abused severely. There were 15 platoons of police deployed for this task.

 

 

 

People also retaliated and it can be left to imagination to think what would have happened to the local MLA if he was there. It was kind of a ceasefire that continued for quite sometime. It took more than a month for LSBASP to mobilize support and get the people released.

 

 

 

This gruesome act of the administration has left the people in other villages completely baffled and scared. According to a villager in Kaindapali, “we saw what happened to people in GS Dungripali as police beat people mercilessly. It was cruel and we do not want to face the same situation. Police can do that to us also and we do not want that. That’s why we said yes to taking compensation when the administration came to us.” Kaindapali is one of those villages where the people have taken compensation but now refuse to move if they are not given equally fertile land and appropriate house to stay. This is the village where a man has got Rs. 6/- as compensation in lieu of his big house. So, one can imagine the skewed way of calculations as far as compensation is concerned.

 

 

 

Earlier this year, 2008, the present collector said that the collectorate will engage in any kind of discussion with LSBASP only if it agrees for dam construction. This put off the leaders and they decided to meet the RDC who showed sympathy but expressed his inability to do anything. The helplessness of the state government is vividly seen all over the state. In fact, the state government is in this kind of a situation not by chance but by choice where all the decisions are made in serious consultation with the corporate and international financial institutions.

 

 

 

The main slogan of the movement is “Maribu pache chati pati, nai chadu; Maribu pache Daribu Nai.”

 

 

 

Demands

 

 

 

 

 

The stated objective of the dam is to irrigate Balangir and flood management. But the fact remains that ground will be prepared for mining companies to take over Gandhamardan Mountain which has a rich bauxite reserve in the name of community development by way of compensation during the irrigation project. This will essentially destroy the age-old practice of lift irrigation in the area. As mentioned earlier, this area produces maximum variety of vegetable in large numbers and the production here caters to at least 6 big towns in Orissa.

 

 

 

IN last more than a decade LSBASP has seen people coming together, drifting away under pressure, state repression and so on. But the resolve of the organization is far from shying away from the struggle. The organization has the following demands:

 

 

 

–       No dam for irrigation – promote lift irrigation

 

–       no displacement

 

–       the rich bio-diversity can not be compensated

 

–       government must make the DPR public

 

–       stop state repression in the area

 

–       withdraw the false cased filed against people in 2005

 

 

 

The organization functions as a mass organization and draws strength and solidarity support from like-minded groups and individuals. Each village where the organization is active has a Parishad which amalgamates with the collective. LSBASP is led by a President and vice-President who are also office bearers in the Parishads in their respective villages. Women have continued to play major role in demonstration, rallies, mobilizing people in their villages. The organization recognizes the contribution of women in the struggle but does not have a policy to have them at the decision making body. The common notion, as shared by a number of Parishad office bearers, the office bearers have to do a lot of running around and women are not in a position to do so. This is the reason, according to them, why women do not figure in the list of office bearers in any of the villages actively involved in the struggle.

 

Written by — Mamata Dash

 

 

#India – Work on Suktel irrigation project begins at gun point #oppression


Author(s):
Sudeep Kumar Guru
Issue Date:
2013-4-11

Balangir district authorities use police force to allow construction work as anti-dam stir continues

imagePhoto credit: Sudeep Kumar Guru Work on the Lower Suktel irrigation project in Odisha was started this week amid public protests and heavy security. Police arrested 70 members of the people’s front fighting the project as they forcibly entered the project site to try and stop the work at Pardhiapali, about 25 km from Balangir town, on Tuesday. The dam authorities had began work on the project on the Suktel river, a tributary of the Tel, on Monday. Apprehending more trouble, extra police force was deployed at the project site next day. The Odisha Construction Company officials continued with the lay out work of the spillway of the project.

At least 1,200 people of the Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad (LSBASP), including women and school children, thronged the project site and protested construction of the dam spillway which they say is illegal. Those arrested included president and vice president of LSBASP, Ghunu Sahu and Udaya Singh Thakur. Superintendent of police (SP) of Balangir, R Prakash, said the arrests were made to ensure that the work of the project continues. “We neither applied any force nor did we arrest any women or children. We will see that work of the project goes on smoothly,” Prakash said.

The Rs 1,041 crore project had been hanging fire for the past 12 years due to the ongoing conflict between the pro-dam and anti-dam activists. The project, when completed, will irrigate 29,146 ha of land in Balangir and 2,684 ha in Sonepur district, covering 189 villages. Despite the arrests, people of the area said that they will continue their fight. “Let police arrest us. Still, we will come here everyday and will oppose the project work. Under no circumstances will we allow the project,” said Pabitra Gadtia, an anti-dam activist. General secretary of LSBASP, Satya Banchhor, said the government had not kept its promise. “It is unfortunate that despite assurance by the state chief secretary during the bilateral talk that LSBASP would be informed about the project status, the government had resorted to secrecy about date of commencement of the project. Moreover, the government decided to start the project at gun point,” he alleged.

LSBASP says there is no necessity of a dam. “Instead smaller traditional water harvesting structures can be made to address the irrigation problem of the farmers. The government never delivers when it comes to rehabilitation and compensation to the displaced villagers. The Rengali project and Hirakud dam projects in Sambalpur district are glaring  examples. We don’t need the dam”, said Thakur, vice president of LSBASP.

As per the project plan, the project includes an earthen dam 1,410 metre long and 36 metres high. The scheme contemplates two main canals, one taking off from right bank with a length of 25.2 km and another taking off from left bank having a length of 27 km. The net catchment area of the project is 1,130 sq km. The are that will be submerged by the project includes forestland (583 ha), private land (3,847 ha) and government land (786 ha). The reservoir will submerge 16 villages fully and 10 villages partly. The dam will be constructed at Magurbeda village about 25 km from Balangir town.

Call for fresh project evaluation, clearances
Convener of Water Initiative Odisha, Ranjan Panda, condemned the use of police force to undertake construction work. “The irrigation project’s design was approved almost a decade and half ago. In all these years, even though the government could not proceed with the project, it did not do anything either to solve the drinking water and irrigation problems of the area. The current anger and agitations are, therefore, creation of government’s apathy. The government should not delay further on this and talk to all the people, both the villagers who fear submergence and the people who are proposed beneficiaries,” he said. He added that that the long delay has rendered all approvals and clearances, including environmental clearance, invalid. The government, therefore, has got no right to continue with this project without looking at the designs and social and ecological impacts afresh, he said.

These studies should be tabled before the people, he said. The government should also work on alternative proposals and place it before the people. It is only after that any further decision on the Lower Suktel Irrigation project should be taken, said Panda.

 


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/work-suktel-irrigation-project-begins-gun-point

 

#India- Desperate for a dam, ready to displace 100,000 people


Author(s):
Sugandh Juneja
Issue Date:
2013-1-15

Government skews facts to plan a project in Rajasthan that will displace 100,000 people

Government says<br /><br />
the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while<br /><br />
residents say the project falls inside it

Government says the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while residents say the project falls inside it (Photo: Sugandh Juneja)

“We will die but not give our land.” This is the cry of residents of 50 villages in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar and Baran districts. They are at risk of being displaced by a dam planned in the area for irrigation and drinking purposes. The dam will be built 120 km from Kota town in Akawad village of Jhalawar on river Parwan. At an estimated cost of Rs 1,114 crore, the dam’s capacity is 490 million cubic metre (MCM). Of this, 300 MCM is reserved for irrigation and 50 MCM for drinking (for 862 villages). The dam also has provision for supplying 100 MCM to thermal power plants.

The dam is likely to submerge 10,000 hectares (ha), including more than 1,600 ha of forestland. The state government says the dam will completely submerge 17 villages and partially inundate 30 villages. Residents allege that the government’s definition of complete submergence is skewed. “The planned dam will submerge almost 50 villages, but the government does not recognise this,” says Hari Ballabh of Manpura village in Jhalawar.

Most of the residential areas in the two districts are on a hillock, while the agricultural land is at a lower altitude. “What is the point of declaring villages at a higher altitude partially submerged if their fields and roads are going to be fully inundated?” asks a resident of Bilendi village in Baran. As a result of the categorisation, the government has served a notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, only in the villages termed completely submerged. The Section 4 notice identifies the area that is to be acquired for public purpose or a company. Any person interested in the identified land can file an objection against the notice with the Collector within 30 days. Akawad village has not been served the notice. Residents of the villages that received the notice have filed their objections under the name of Parwan Doob Kshetra Hitkari evam Jungle Bachao Samiti (PDKHJBS). A people’s organisation, PDKHJBS is headed by Lokendra Singh, resident of Sarthal village in Baran. “Most people have small land holdings or are landless and till someone else’s land. Where will they all go?” he asks.

A resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar points to another problem. “Nobody is interested in marrying the youngsters of our villages because they believe we will lose our land,” he says.

Is the dam really needed?

The land in the submergence area is extremely fertile with “black cotton soil”. The common crops grown are garlic, coriander and soy. “People in the region have government-licensed pattas (land titles) for the cultivation of opium and it is well known that opium grows in fertile soil,” says Chhattrasal Singh, member of PDKHJBS. But the residents say the government has categorised their land as barren or a single-crop land so that compensation amount decreases. “The government authorities have not yet informed us about the rehabilitation and resettlement package,” informs Bhanu Pratap of Maloni village in Baran district.

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple<br /><br />
will get submerged if the dam is built

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple will get submerged if the dam is built

As per the dam proposal, of the total area of 0.6 million ha in Jhalawar district, 0.3 million ha is under cultivation. Of this, 0.2 million ha is irrigated. About 80 per cent of this area is irrigated using groundwater or existing anicuts, while for the rest supply comes from reservoirs and canals. “Villages in the command area of the dam use groundwater for irrigation,” says Govind Singh of Maloni. “They will want this dam so that they can save money on the electricity spent on extracting water,” he adds. Narendar Singh of Aamli village, which falls in the command area, agrees, “We are using tubewells for irrigation, so a dam is important.”

The tubewells go 90 metres deep in the area and no rainwater harvesting is practised. His son says the decision of having a dam or not cannot be based on the present situation. “We will need it in the future since the water level is going to fall if we keep using groundwater,” he says, adding, “but people should be adequately compensated otherwise it will be injustice.” Durga Daan Singh of another village in the command area is unsure. “I do not know if it is fine to have development at the cost of others. We sometimes get water from the Shergarh weir (barrier across a river) but it is causing problems since the government is not maintaining it,” he says. The weir is 10 km downstream of the proposed dam. There is another issue that is bothering residents: the dam’s water allocation provision for thermal power plants. “Adani is setting up a plant in Kawai. If water is given to power plants, the purpose of the dam will be defeated,” says Narendar Singh. Similar concerns are voiced by those in the submergence area. “More than half the water from this dam will be given to power plants. Government would not give water for irrigation,” says a Bilendi resident.

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not<br /><br />
to scale

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not to scale

According to Shambhu Singh of Aamli, only villages under total submergence zone are at a loss. “In villages that are on the outskirts of the submergence area, like Sarthal, water will retreat for some time but it will make the land fertile and irrigated without any external help. People can at least grown one crop in these villages,” he says. But people in the submergence area are not convinced. “Why can’t the government build small anicuts instead of a dam?” they ask. “If the project comes up, there will be blood, not water, in the river,” says Ganim Boh of Bilendi.

What’s at stake?

Besides submerging villages, the project will affect religious places of heritage value. For example, Kakoni, the eighth century temple in Baran, which was declared protected by the state archaeological department in 1970. The temple priest says every time the department digs up some area around the temple, it discovers new statues. “A new page of our history unfolds here almost every day,” he says. Chhattrasal Singh of PDKHJBS informs the temple is on a hill. “It won’t be submerged but all access to it will go under water,” he says. Religious sentiments will be hurt along with loss of architectural heritage, says a resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar. The Kalla Maharaj temple near Akawad village is under threat of submergence. People offer wall clocks in the temple when their wishes get fulfilled. Umrao Singh, superintendent for Kota from the Rajasthan archaeological department, explains the importance of the temples. “These are old temples. If they are lost, we will lose our history. I hope the government has a plan in mind about giving an approach road to the Kakoni temple,” he says.

When the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was contacted to check whether the project has been granted environment and forest clearances, it seemed confused. “We are carrying out a preliminary enquiry and it appears that ‘probably’ the expert appraisal committee considered the project and granted environment clearance in September last year,” says a senior MoEF official. When Down To Earth checked MoEF online records no information on the project was found.

The planned dam, which is yet to receive forest clearance, is likely to submerge some protected forest patches.

In September this year, the Forest Advisory Committee discussed the dam project and its requirement of diverting 1,835 ha of forestland. Pointing out that the project site is just 150 metres from the Shergarh wildlife sanctuary, home to crocodiles, panthers and nilgai, the committee formed a sub-committee to visit the site. T C Todaria, an independent member of the sub-committee, says the planned visit is yet to happen.

The dam actually falls inside the sanctuary (see map). It is in Niharia block which is next to the Bilendi block. The line that demarcates Niharia from Bilendi is also the boundary of the sanctuary. People in the area and the government are at loggerheads over the dam location; while people say it is in Niharia block, the latter claims it is in Bilendi block. To resolve the issue, in June, the forest department called for a joint survey, involving the revenue and forest departments and the local community. PDKHJBS head, who participated in the survey, says the study started from Mokhampura village, walking on the Bilendi block boundary from east to west. After walking some distance, the boundary overlapped with the common line between Bilendi and Niharia blocks. The boundary of the sanctuary and the blocks was marked using the block files and pillars.

The land in<br /><br /><br /><br />
the submergence area of the dam is extremely fertile, but the government says<br /><br /><br /><br />
it is barrenThe land in the submergence area of the dam is extremely fertile, but the government says it is barren

On the next survey date, instead of starting from the place where they had left, the government officials started studying from Maloni village toward the north along the Parwan river. In their inspection report, the officials concluded that the dam site is 150 metres upstream of the boundary of the sanctuary. “The officials had a fair idea by the end of the second day that if they go according to the block file, the dam site would fall in the sanctuary in Niharia block,” says PDKHJBS head.

Residents produce a letter dated June 12 from the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) in Jaipur to the chief conservator of forests (CCF) at Kota. In the letter, the PCCF has asked the CCF to produce a report stating “the Parwan scheme does not fall in the Shergarh Sanctuary”. The CCF Kota passed similar orders to the district forest officer (DFO) at Baran on June 13. This was followed by the joint survey.

DFO Baran, P D Gupta, says the dam was initially designed to be at the boundary of the sanctuary. “At my intervention, it was shifted 150 metres away. According to their feasibility report, this was the maximum they could shift.” Mohan Lal Meena, chief conservator of forests (CCF), says the sanctuary boundary is the same as the boundary between Niharia and Bilendi blocks. He confirms:“The dam is 150 m away from the sanctuary.” Meena adds that he knows why people are against the dam. “The dam will submerge forests that have been encroached upon by people for residing or agriculture. These encroachers will not get any compensation if the project comes up,” he explains.

Chhattrasal of PDKHJBS, who was also a part of the joint survey team, says even if the project is 150 metres upstream of the sanctuary, it falls in an eco-sensitive area and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Asad Rehmani, a member of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), says there is a ruling by the Supreme Court that a 10-km buffer zone has to be maintained around all eco-sensitive areas, including sanctuaries and national parks. “No projects can be allowed within the zone,” he says, adding, “once NBWL receives the proposal, I will assess the impact and convey my opinion to the board which will take the final call.”


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/desperate-dam

 

Irrigation scam 2.0 ? Threat to forest land in Maharashtra


 More than 150 hectares of pristine forest in Sawantwadi, 500km south of Mumbai on the MaharashtraGoa border, could be submerged along with homes, temples and sacred groves for an irrigation project that its opponents say is actually aimed at supplying water to proposed mines and an industrial zone in the eco-sensitive region, which is also a wildlife corridor.

In this season of irrigation scams in Maharashtra, locals and non-government organisations question the rationale behind spending tax-payers’ money on building the Saram-bala medium irrigation project on river Dabhil in a region with an average annual rainfall of 4,000mm. Besides, documents with HT reveal that nine of the 15 villages that are to get water from it are also beneficiaries of the Tillari and Talamba dams, two large projects in the final stages of construction.

Moreover, the Konkan Irrig-ation Development Corporation’s (KIDC) willingness to supply double the sanctioned amount of 5.820 million cubic metres of water to a proposed industrial area (according to the project report) as well as the proposed Zolambe mines owned by the Sindhudurg Mining Corp. Pvt. Ltd. (HT has a copy of the letter) has angered villagers and they are refusing to part with their land.

“With heavy rainfall in the district and perennial water streams flowing through all the villages, the government can build small check dams and mini reservoirs that can supply water to the remaining villages. Why does the government want to submerge forest land for an irrigation project,” asks Balkrishna Gavas, resident of Dabhil whose ancestral home and agricultural land are in the submergence area.

“With five irrigation projects proposed in the region, the Sarambala project is ill-conceived. With the project agreeing to supply water to a proposed mine and with more mines planned in more than ten villages below Dabhil, it seems like the project has been undertaken to facilitate mining operations in the eco-sensitive region,” said environmentalist Stalin D of Vanashakti, a non-government organisation. In fact, there are about proposals for 32 mines in the Sawantadi-Dodamarg region.

Environmentalists also question claims by the KIDC in its project report that Sarambala will have negligible impact on wildlife. According to them, the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg region is an important part of the Sahyadri-Konkan wildlife corridor, which connects the Koyna and Radhanagari wildlife sanctuaries and the Chandoli national park in the state with wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in Goa and Karnataka.

“The project site also has ancient sacred groves and temples contrary to the forest department’s claims that there are no religious, cultural or archaeological  sites on the land,” said Stalin.

The Sarambala project was envisaged in 1994 at a cost of Rs. 56.15 crore, which was raised to Rs. 184.3 crore in 2004. Till March 2012, Rs. 54.67 crore was spent on construction, acquisition and administrative work. So work on it can continue under the norms set by the state government’s recent white paper on irrigation:  more than 25% of the proposed budget has been exhausted and 35% of the work has been completed.

The total area under the project is 753.55 hectares. Of the 295.62 hectares across three villages that will go under water, 152.79 hectares is forest land. Till now, 110 hectares of forest land has been transferred to the irrigation department, while the remaining 42.79 hectares has been identified.

Though the irrigation department received approval in principle from the union environment and forest ministry in 2009, the state government has to pay Rs. 30.43 crore as net present value to the forest department for final clearance.

 

Maharashtra sits on multiple irrigation acts, doesn’t bother to frame rules


 

 

Published: Saturday, Sep 1, 2012, 9:45 IST
By Sandeep Pai | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Farmer suicides in Maharashtra are more a routine than an exception. Everyone knows drought is to blame, but the state government, too, cannot shirk its responsibility.

While successive governments have created several irrigation acts, none bothered to frame rules. Absence of proper framework and foundation for water management precipitates drought conditions as irrigation projects suffer.

“If act is the soul, rules are the body,” Rajan Ksirsagar, a Communist Party of India (CPI) trade union leader, said. “It is impossible to implement an Act without rules. Strangely, governments have ignored this problem.”

The major irrigation acts are: Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 (MIA), five Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (one each for five Irrigation Development Corporations, enacted between 1996 and 1998), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, 2005 (MWRRA).

Except MMISF, none of the others has any rules. MIA is the parent act because it is supposed to provide the state with a water management structure. “And implementing the other acts, IDC, MMISF, and MWRRA, depends on how MIA is implemented,” Pradeep Purandare, former associate professor, faculty of engineering, Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, said.

Thirty-six years have passed since MIA was passed. None of the governments to date has formed rules pertaining to the act.If there are no rules for any of the acts, what does the government follow? Ancient rules framed in the British era, mainly Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces & Berar [CP&B.]Rules are followed even today. These old rules are, expectedly, based on old acts like the Bombay Irrigation Act of 1879.

These old rules are incompatible with MIA since ground reality and water management practices have changed with time. In some cases, MIA has even repealed certain rules. l Turn to p3

An act is the intention of law describing the applicability, defining governing provisions, explaining fines and penalties and how it should be applied.

And rules are the prescribed methods and procedures in relation to any provision contained in the act. “Without any legally prescribed method, water management has become a big headache,” Purandare said.

It is well known that extensive areas in the Vidarbha belt and other areas are prone to drought. Since MIA has no rules, there is rampant water theft. Anybody can get away by stealing water because there is nothing “prescribed as per rules made under this act”. So, if someone is caught stealing, he/she cannot be prosecuted while farmers do not get any water.

What this means is MIA, a parent act, cannot be implemented. And this has a cascading effect on the other acts — IDC, MMISF & MWRRA. None can be implemented. “An unprecedented legal crisis would crop up if someone were to move court,” Purandare said.

The MWRRA Act has provisions to resolve disputes. But it is not in force because there are no rules pertaining to the act. “With no rules in place, guidelines to classify crime and punishment or how appeals should be processed are unclear,” Mandar V Sathe of the Resources and Livelihoods Group, Prayas,said.

Also, compensation to farmers in case of water scarcity is arbitrarily fixed because there isn’t any prescribed procedure for day to day functioning.

Ideally, if rules were in place then the quantity of water based on what crop is cultivated would be fixed. “Several instances have come to the fore, where farmers have lost out on compensation because there is no proper,” said CPI trade union leader Ksirsagar.

The absence of proper rules leads to confusion over responsibility and accountability. Canals maintenance is irregular because the powers and duties of a canal officer are not fixed. The MIA says a canal officer’s duties must be specified once rules are framed.

 

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam #Indiashining


, TNN | Aug 6, 2012, 04.52AM IST

Rs 20,000 crore swindled in Maharashtra irrigation scam
In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC).
MUMBAI: Maharashtra‘s mega irrigation scam, which strained relations between Congress and its alliance partner, Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP), is getting murkier.In another explosive revelation, TOI has learned that costs of 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha were increased from Rs 6,672 crore to Rs 26,722 crore by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC). More shockingly, this mind-numbing 300% cost escalation of over Rs 20,000 crore was approved in a short span of three months between June and August 2009. (TOI, in recent months, has carried a series of reports exposing the contractor-minister-bureaucrat nexus that has led to criminal cost escalations in minor and big irrigation projects in the state.)The VIDC reasoned that the costs were revised because of the change in price levels, higher quotes by contractors, increase in the cost of land acquisition, engineering changes and other reasons. But the rush to revise costs and give bulk approvals to 38 projects in just three months has raised eyebrows in government circles.

In one unusual case, revised administrative approval for the Lower Wardha project was granted on Independence Day (August 15), a national holiday. The project cost was revised by VIDC’s then executive director from Rs 950 crore to Rs 2,356 crore on that day. Sources point out another case of the Upper Wardha project in Amravati, where the cost was revised from Rs 661 crore to Rs 1,376 crore in July.

Another case is that of the Bembala river project in Yavatmals district of Vidarbha. Official documents show that its cost was revised from Rs 1,278 crore to Rs 2,176 crore on August 14, 2009. Bembala was one of the 10 projects given revised administrative approvals hurriedly on that day.

On another day (June 24, 2009), VIDC issued 10 revised administrative approvals for Vaisawali, Lonwadi, Dagadparwa and Dava minor irrigation schemes, and larger projects such as Human Nadi, Kharbadi K T Weir, Jigaon, Khadak Purna, Pentakali and Chandrabhaga. Once these revised administrative approvals were granted, the VIDC hurriedly invited tenders for all the 38 projects.

These approvals were given by then executive director Devendra Shirke.

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