#Maharashtra – Displaced and damned for a generation


Date: 18 February 2013

Koynanagar (Maharashtra), February 15, 2013, The Hindu

Displaced and damned for a generation

Alok Deshpande

A view of the Koyna dam. File photo
PTI A view of the Koyna dam. File photo

First, a dam, then an earthquake and finally a tiger reserve — families in Satara district’s Koyna have been displaced thrice in one generation. In 1960, the people had to move, paving the way for the Koyna dam; in 1967 following the earthquake and then for the Koyna tiger reserve in 1985, says Jagannath Vibhute, an activist of the Shramik Mukti Dal and one of the many farmers displaced by dam projects.

According to him, the people who did not want to leave the area shifted to higher areas to be safe from the dam waters.

“But later the area was announced as the tiger reserve, so they had to relocate themselves again.” Representatives of around 27,000 displaced families in Satara have been on an indefinite Thiyya Andolan (sit-in agitation) at Koynanagar — the site of the first major dam in Maharashtra post-independence, constructed in 1960. Of the 10,000-odd families displaced by this project, as many as 1,500 are yet to be rehabilitated even as around 1,000 have bought new land on their own rather than rely on a red tape-hit bureaucracy. Incidentally, Satara is the home district of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Daji Shelar of Shirsingi in Ajara taluk was asked to vacate his village in 1985 because it fell within the proposed tiger reserve. He moved to Sangli district, where “we had to build our home at our own expense. We did not get any of the allowances sanctioned by the government. We are yet to get the promised land from the government.”

Some of the project-affected people who were given land in the forest areas of Thane district cannot make the transition due to opposition from tribals there. After the notification of the tiger reserve, the Forest Department slapped restrictions on the locals, who had been living on forest land for generations.

“It has become difficult for our women to even collect fuel wood for daily use. The department has stopped construction of the only road which connects villages inside the forest area,” said Sitaram Jangam of Waghavale village.

“There was no need to evict locals, as they used to stay in the forest area. Rather, they were the ones who protected the forest for so many years even before it was announced as the forest. They could have helped the government save and protect the forest,” said Mr. Vibhute.

The agitation is not limited to Satara district. Similar sit-ins are in progress at eight more places in Maharashtra, including Kolhapur, Sangli and Ratnagiri.

Around one lakh affected people have contributed to the Thiyya Andolan, which began last week under the leadership of the Shramik Mukti Dal.

Tukaram Mohite, 72, from Umarkanchan, which was displaced for the Wang Dam in the Patan tehsil of Satara district, laments that people do not want to marry off their daughters to young men from his village.

“We are the displaced ones. The land which some of us received from the government is in an arid area, unlike the irrigated land we had earlier. Some did not get any land. Would you want your daughter to marry a landless farmer’s son or someone who does not have irrigated land?” he asked narrating his plight to fellow farmers. The dam, built in 1996-97, displaced 1,800 such families from nine villages.

With a command area spread over 8,000 hectares in two districts, the dam has opened the door to prosperity to many, but the displaced are still fighting for rehabilitation.

“From a high rainfall area, we were thrown into dry areas. What was given to some of us was waste land in the place of the fertile land we earlier had. We having been displaced from one village, the other village never welcomes us. The government has accepted our demands two years ago, but there is no action on the ground,” said Mr. Vibhute.

At a meeting on May 15, 2012 with Bharat Patankar, president of the Shramik Mukti Dal, the Chief Minister accepted all demands of the project-affected people and even set a three-month time frame for action.

But none of the promises has been met and the farmers will agitate until a government resolution is published resolving their problems. Ironically, similar promises were made by the government at an earlier meeting too, on May 5, 2011.

Chavan promises action

At the end of a meeting held here on Wednesday, Mr. Chavan promised Mr. Patankar’s group that a resolution would be issued in the next 15 days.

The major demands are equal rights for women on land, independent gram panchayats for all new settlements which have 500 or more population, issue of BPL ration cards to all project-affected families and allotment of grazing land (gairan) for rehabilitation in case no other land is available.

Mr. Patankar said the recommendations of the government-appointed committee, released eight months ago, for improving the Rehabilitation Act must be accepted immediately.

 

Maharashtra Displaced families stage state-wide Dharna against Koyna Dam


Mumbai, Feb 10, 2013, DHNS:

Thousands of dam evictees and project-affected people (PAP) continued their round-the-clock picketing, called Tiyya Andolan, in the interiors of seven districts of Maharashtra demanding the implementation of their long-pending demands.

The protests have been going on since last Monday, in Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur, Aurangabad, Raigad and Pune.

Speaking to Deccan Herald from Satara where dharna is going on against the Koyna dam, Jagannath Vibhute of Shramik Mukti Dal (SMD) which is spearheading the state-wide Tiyya Andolan, said: “The state government has sent a message after six days that they will take up the issue of displaced families, people and PAP in the Cabinet meeting to be held this week.

Take for example in Satara where nearly 27,000 families have gathered in Koyna Nagar, around the Koyna Dam, the first major man-made reservoir in post-independence Mahrashtra. Thousands of families were displaced in 1960 and several thousands continue to remain in rootless condition.

They have no place to go. They have become homeless in their own homeland.”
Giving details of other places where the picketing is going on simultaneously, Vibhute said on the border of Sangli and Kolhapur districts, around 500 representatives of dam evictees are carrying out Tiyya Andolan near the base of the Warna Dam.

Similar protests are also being carried out near the Gad Nadi Dam in Ratnagiri district, Teen Vira Dam in Raigad district, Tembhapuri Dam in Aurangabad district and Dhamani Dam in Kolhapur district. Affected people in Azra Tehsil (Kolhapur) and at Pandharpur in Solapur district.

The basic demands of the agitators are: Giving equal rights to the daughters in ancestral property of PAP families, independent status to Gram Panchayat (with 500 or more population), free vocational training, below poverty-line ration cards; disbursing of funds to women self-help groups; grazing land (gairan) for PAP rehabilitation and absorption of Tiger Project PAP families in forest development programmes.

Interestingly, these policy-level demands have been twice sanctioned in the meetings held by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in 2011 and 2012; but the government for some strange reason has failed to implement it.

According to Vibhute: “Eight months ago the committee appointed by government to look into the issue submitted its recommendations…but the response of the state is just unfathomable. It just refuses to look at the anguish of the people.”

 

#India- Between thirst and darkness in Maharashtra


Rivers are diverted for generating electricity, while the government plans water trains for its people. Baba Umar reports on an impossible situation in the state
Baba Umar

January 31, 2013, Issue 6 Volume 10

Parched earth Eight districts in the Marathwada region of the state are expected to run completely dry by March, Photo: Getty Images

THIS SUMMER, people in southern Maharashtra can enjoy either electricity or water, not both. Until recently, the state had prioritised use of water for industrial purposes over agriculture. But now the government finds itself at odds to explain the diversion of water to hydel projects when water activists claim that the diverted water can be used to meet the requirements of eight drought-hit districts, which are expected to run completely dry by March.

Activists say the state government diverts massive quantities of water from the drought-hit regions of southern Maharashtra to hydel projects in the water surplus western regions of the state, eventually ending up in the Arabian Sea. But stopping the diversion may also mean shortage of electricity in an energy-starved state.

“If the government is serious about quenching the thirst of millions of people, then it has to stop diverting water from east flowing rivers to the west, which is a water surplus area and receives over 3,000 mm rainfall annually,” explains water resources expert Himanshu Thakkar a water rights activist.

Maharashtra diverts 1,413 MCM of water annually to three hydel projects from the Krishna river basin, while the Koyna dam in Satara district diverts 1,911.4 MCM of water from the Krishna basin to five hydel projects. Currently, these projects have 2,835 MCM of water in live storage. And this water is sent to Konkan areas where it ends up in Arabian sea.

“The water available in live storage capacity of these dams today is sufficient to provide 100 litres per capita per day for about 7 crore people for the entire year, provided it’s not diverted,” Thakkar says.

According to him this water, besides the additional flow into these dams through the rest of the year, can be useful for the drought-prone areas if no more water from any of these dams are allowed to drain into the Konkan rivers until monsoon arrives.

The three hydel projects in the Krishna- basin collectively produce 297 MW of electricity, while the five hydel projects based around the Koyna dam collectively produce around 1,956 MW of power. The eight projects add up to 8.5 percent of the state’s total installed power capacity.

“A decision should have been taken as soon as it became apparent that the monsoon is a failure and the state is in dire need of all available water,” says Thakkar. “We are already at least five months late in taking a decision on this. When people are facing severe water scarcity, it is high time the diversions were stopped.”

Currently, water is being supplied across the region by tankers. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has already spent Rs 414 crore to combat the situation, of which Rs 248 crore was released for erecting cattle shelters for nearly 70,000 cattle head in the drought-hit villages and hamlets. According to reports, the government has also finalised plans to send water-filled train carriages to the droughthit region.

Earlier this month, a high-level committee that studies which states affected by natural calamities need the Central government’s help approved assistance of Rs 778.09 crore to Maharashtra. But people living in the districts of Aurangabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Osmanabad and Hingoli, which are the worst-hit in the region, are yet to see the crisis subsiding.

“The state government must work on long-term solutions. Sending water by tankers is a only short-term effort,” says Shrikant Katre, a local journalist. In Jalna, people are taking their cattle to government shelters “because they can’t afford to provide the animals with water and fodder”, he adds.

A media report suggested that stopping water diversion was discussed during a meeting at the water resources ministry, but the option was rejected.

“Stopping diversion would also mean hampering energy production in the already distressed state,” a senior official in the water resources ministry told TEHELKA on the condition of anonymity. “The government, I think, would continue to remain in limbo. We can’t see power cuts in the state, neither can we see people dying of water. It’s a double-edged sword.”

In the past five years, the state’s peak electricity demand deficit has risen from 17 percent in 2005-06, to 22 percent in 2011-12.

But water expert Thakkar says: “In times of crisis, such decisions need to be considered. Maharashtra is already facing the possibility of conflicts and clashes, with the people and cattle in the Krishna basin facing dire water scarcity. When there is talk of running water-tanker trains, shouldn’t this option too be explored?”

WATER RESOURCES Minister Sunil Tatkare couldn’t be reached for his comments. His public relations officer, however, referred TEHELKA to Dr Patangrao Shripatrao Kadam, minister for rehabilitation and relief works saying, “His ministry is managing the present drought condition.” But Kadam’s staff denied access saying, “He is busy in a meeting and can’t comment right now.” An SMS sent to Kadam elicited no response.

Suniti Su Ra of the National Alliance of People’s Movements says the water from these dams have been flowing into the sea for more than 60 years and in all these years the government could have developed a mechanism to stop this water from going waste.

“The state needs to overhaul its water policy. Water for industries has all along been prioritised over water for agriculture and drinking purposes. Water meant for farmers and drinking purposes is guzzled by industries across the state,” she says.

While the government is struggling to help people survive the drought, Thakkar says the only option left is to stop the diversion of water from ending up in the sea.

But is the government listening?

babaumar@tehelka.com

 

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