Kalu : The Dam-ning Of A River And Its People


By Meenal Tatpati:in youth ki awaaz

In the latest minutes of the Forest Advisory Committee a small paragraph titled Agenda Item No. 4 highlights a dam on the river Kalu in Murbad Taluka of Thane District. It talks about the submergence of 18 villages, a “comprehensive” rehabilitation package of 68.75 crore being sanctioned and goes on to recommend the project for clearance. What the paragraph does not reveal however, is, the huge socio-economic and cultural impact that a dam diverting 999.328 ha of forest land has already had on the ecology and the people, close to 18,000, who stand to lose their land, forests and livelihood.

Anti-dam slogans on the walls of the houses in Murbad

ANTI-DAM SLOGANS ON THE WALLS OF THE HOUSES IN MURBAD

The Forests and its people

Murbad is a part of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. Many threatened species of fauna and flora and a rich biodiversity have made ecologists recommend it as an Ecologically Sensitive Area. It is also home to the Thakar, Mahadeo Koli and Katkari tribal communities, known for their dependence and intricate links with the forests. The forest here provides shelter, livelihood and sustenance. Produce from Mahua, Tendu, Palas, Mango and Jamun trees is bartered and sold in weekly markets. The forests have a dense cover of Aain, Khair, Kandhol and Khevada trees. Several medicinal plants and wild edible vegetables are also sourced. The streams and rivers provide fish and crabs and water to drink throughout the year. Bibi Pandurang Wakh of Pejwadi hamlet says, “The jungle here provides everything. Even during droughts its bitter tubers sustained us. If the dam comes, our rightful land will go. How will we survive? Where will we take our children and go?”

Mahua Flowers                                    Tubers from the forest                           fishing equipment

MAHUA FLOWERS              TUBERS FROM THE FOREST                        FISHING EQUIPMENT

The tribal communities have made utmost use of the village land having planted trees like Mango, Jackfruit, Banana, and Cashew. On their small farmlands, they grow pulses and vegetables, selling them at the local markets.

Bamboo works

BAMBOO WORKS

Besides being a rich resource base, the forests have tremendous socio-cultural significance. At Chasole, a village close to the Dam site, is an ancient temple, complete with hero stones. This temple will submerge under the dam waters. The archaeological significance will be lost. So will several sacred groves in villages that are slated to lose their forests.

The sacred grove at Kharpatwadi and the Hatkeshwar Temple in Chasole will be submerged

THE SACRED GROVE AT KHARPATWADI AND THE HATKESHWAR TEMPLE IN CHASOLE WILL BE SUBMERGED

Illegal and unscrupulous attempts of the project proponents

The locals found about the project when JPC’s and dumpers arrived at the dam site, cut thousands of trees and excavated huge quantities of soil to begin building the dam wall. After repeated pleas to the contractors to stop the work failed, the local villagers sought the help of Shramik Mukti Sanghatna, a local organization working for tribal welfare in the region. An RTI filed by the Sanghatna revealed a tangled web of manipulation of laws and unethical tactics being used by the project proponents to further this project.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dweller’s (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006; an Act enacted to “redress historical injustice” meted out to tribals and forest dependent communities has not been implemented in the area. The Act provides that no forest dependent community can be evicted from forest land under their occupation till their rights under the Act are recognized and verified. It also provides for rights to be recognized over community forests and resources. These rights have not been recognized.

The locals had not been given prior information about the proposed dam. Being a tribal area, consultations with the gram sabha regarding the project as stated under PESA were conveniently sidelined by the project proponents. The construction of the dam began in late 2010, without forest clearance. The project proponents also engaged in direct land deals with some tribal families which is illegal under the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code. This was done with total secrecy, and the soil required to build the dam was excavated from this land.

In June 2011, the Sanghatna filed a PIL in the Mumbai High Court against the project proponent on the basis of the issue of forest clearance. Meanwhile, the construction of the dam continued, amidst protests and dharnas by the project affected. The proposal was sent for FAC clearance only in August 2011. The project proponents used various tactics of coercion and threats to break the strong opposition to the dam, offering money to the landless and creating chasms within the community. However, people continued to oppose the dam, and in March 2012, the Mumbai High Court stayed the construction of the dam. By this time, 20% construction of the dam wall was already complete.

The Kalu River

THE KALU RIVER

The forests of Shisewadi

THE FORESTS OF SHISEWADI

Facing Displacement

These life-giving forests stand to disappear if the project is eventually completed. Also slated to disappear is the tribal whose identity is intricately linked with this forest. They will be lost, as statistics, a displaced population.

The rehabilitation plan announced by the district authorities provides about Rs 6 lakh to each affected family. The official figure of affected people is pegged at about 3000. This has been calculated without conducting either an EIA or a Social Impact Assessment (made mandatory by the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007). Sangathan activists and locals say that about 40-42 hamlets will be affected, some whose land will submerge, some whose forests. Only 50% of the people in the affected villages own land, which means that half the population depends on the forests for sustenance. If the forests disappear, so do the people who depend on it. The actual figure of affected individuals is about 18,000! This is only the backwash effect of the actual dam. The water will be supplied to Navi Mumbai, about a 100 km away, in canals and piplelines, affecting thousands of villages downstream as well. But the proposal has no comments on this.

12 gram sabhas passed resolutions rejecting the project. They neither want the dam, nor the rehabilitation money.
Nausa Shiva Waghe of Shisewadi revealed the flaw in the way rehabilitation packages in our country are planned. When asked why they do not want to take the money offered and leave, he said, “What will we do with the money? It is never enough. Money comes, alcohol enters, vehicles enter and then the money goes!

A rehabilitation package that only provides money completely misses the point. The displaced population is completely alienated, not just from their material source of livelihood but also from cultural and knowledge. Monetary assessment of these values is dehumanizing. The locals here will face loss of identity which money will not be able to restore.

The Kalu river bed with the dam wall in the background

THE KALU RIVER BED WITH THE DAM WALL IN THE BACKGROUND

The future

After rejecting the proposal in April 2012, the FAC in its latest meeting on 4th April has recommended the project for clearance with certain “conditions”. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has repeatedly stated in his letters to the Ministry of Environment and Forests that the project is of vital importance to Mumbai’s water supply needs. As it expands in size and population, land, water and resources from surrounding areas will continue to be absorbed into this metropolis to feed and shelter its increasing population. Thousands of people along the banks of the rivers that are slated to provide water to Mumbai and other cities stand threatened to be dispossessed, stripped off their land and livelihood, their forests and their rivers. They do not figure in the decision making process making this a short-sighted and incomplete attempt at providing the need of one section of the society without taking into consideration the needs of the other. The Kalu Project is just one of 8 projects slated to come up in this area. On the Kalu itself, a hydroelectricity project is under construction upstream in Malsejh Ghat in Pune District. The geological sensitive nature of the Kalu basin being coupled with absolute disregard of the provisions of cumulative impact assessments of dams in this region will prove dangerous to the ecological and geological stability of the area. A complete socio-cultural and economic impact assessment of such projects, coupled with a biodiversity assessment done by independent agencies is a requirement that cannot be sidelined in such projects.
Meanwhile in Murbad, the people’s struggle will continue.

The Kalu Dam is being proposed by the Government of Maharashtra (GoM), Raigad Irrigation Division No.2 (Kokan Irrigation Development Corporation), the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA). The contract to build the dam has been given to F.A. Enterprises, Mumbai. It is slated to provide drinking water to Navi Mumbai and Thane submerging about 2300 ha land out of which about a 1000 ha is forest land.

-Meenal Tatpati with inputs from Shiba Desor, Kalpavriksh, Pune.
(Based on a visit to 8 villages that will be affected by the Kalu Dam Project)

 

Kalu dam: State looks to MoEF again


Date: 10 October 2012 – Kalu dam: State looks to MoEF again

The state government has applied to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) once again, seeking the go -ahead for the construction of a dam on the River Kalu in Thane District. The Ministry had earlier rejected the proposal sent by the state, which had already begun construction of the dam without the necessary sanctions.

The government on Tuesday informed the Bombay high court that it had applied for the sanction once more on the grounds that the dam water is meant for drinking purposes, and thus the permission to build it should be granted. The plea also states that the dam, if constructed, would improve the situation of drinking water availability in areas such as Mira-Bhayandar and Navi Mumbai.

However, the MoEF, based on a report submitted by its Forest Advisory Committee, has stated that the government should not be allowed to build the dam. This was communicated to the state government as per a letter dated July 27.

The report states that the project area fell under the ecologically sensitive zone of the Western Ghats, and also involved rehabilitation of the villages, a rehabilitation plan, an environment impact assessment report, a technical report on wildlife status and management, a gram sabha resolution for the forest dwellers who have been granted rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act.

The government failed to furnish all the above documents, and in the MoEF recommended that the case be closed.

The decision was given during the hearing of a petition filed by Shramik Mukhti Sanghatana, an NGO, that has alleged that the dam over the river was being built without required permission from the forest department.

On June 5, DNA had first reported how the dam, if built, would submerge an area of 2,100 hectares, including around 1,000 hectares of dense forest, and displace four villages.

Subsequently, in an affidavit filed by the state government, it had admitted that work on Kalu dam in Murbad began in October 2010 without required permission from the Centre and the MoEF.

According to the state, as per a resolution passed on July 9, 2009, it was granted an approval for building the dam. However, the Sanghatana argued that it was only after they moved the court that the state had sought the necessary permissions.

The Kalu dam, after being built, will be able to store a total capacity of 407.99MCM of water.

A total of 2258.87 hectares of land is going to be submerged under water. A total of 787 families likely to be affected by the project, and each family is being provided with Rs7 lakh as compensation.

A total area of 999.32 hectares is being reserved in Beed district to relocate the forest land which will be used for the project.

Bombay HC orders state to stop work on Kalu dam


Dam Damned

Dam Damned (Photo credit: Lingaraj G J)

By Mustafa Plumber | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

The Bombay high court on Thursday stayed the construction of a dam being built on Kalu River in Thane district because necessary permissions were not obtained by the state government from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

The stay would continue for three months until the ministry decides on the proposal seeking permission.

On June 5, DNA had first reported how the dam, if built, would submerge an area of 2,100 hectares, including around 1,000 hectares of dense forest, and displace four villages.

“The private construction company appointed by the state government cannot undertake any activity unless further permission is given by the court,” said the division bench of Justice DD Sinha and Justice VK Tahilramani.

The bench rapped the ministry for not deciding on the proposal within three months as per the forest conservation rules, thus allowing the state government to carry out the construction activity on the dam site. “If it is a temple or a resort, it is ok. But if the matter is in larger public interest, it should be decided on a priority basis. You cannot keep everything on hold,” the bench said.

The bench noted that the ministry was non-apologetic for the delay.

“It is unfortunate that the statement made by the ministry on completing the entire exercise within four weeks was not honoured. However, nor there is an apology or regret in this regard. Because of procedural technicalities, the process was not completed. Due to the apology by the counsel, we don’t propose to take this matter any further.”

The bench directed the MoEF to decide on the state government’s proposal, seeking permission for development on forest land within three months. The Central Advisory Committee of MoEF has two months to submit its report/suggestions/recommendations based on the report dated February 9, submitted by the Chief Conservator of Forest (Central) in the ministry for consideration. Thereafter, the central government has to take a decision on it within a month.

The directions were given during the hearing of a petition filed by Shramik Mukhti Sanghatana, an NGO, alleging that the dam is being built without required permissions from the forest department.

In an affidavit, the state government admitted that work on Kalu dam in Murbad began in October 2010 without permission from the Centre and MoEF.

The MoEF had carried out a site inspection and the report submitted by the chief conservator of forest said the construction should be stayed as the state government had not got the necessary permission.

Advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for the Sanghatana, argued that the work order was given on May 29, 2010, and only after the petition was filed, the state government applied for permission to the chief conservator of forest in June 2011.

According to the state government, as per a resolution passed on July 9, 2009, it was granted an approval for building the dam.

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