Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Narmada dam-affected fisherfolk don't yet have fishing rights in Madhya Pradesh, admits top Central official

Narmada official talking with fisherfolk in Maharashtra village
By Our Representative
A senior Government of India official has admitted that the Madhya Pradesh government has not provided fishing rights to the fisherfolk-oustees of the Sardar Sarovar dam, living on the banks of Narmada. Narmada Control Authority's (NCA's) Afroz Ahmed was in Mararashtra's Bhusha village for an interaction with the state’s fisherfolk ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday bash at the dam on September 17.
Even as conceding to a similar longstanding demand of Maharashtra oustees, living next to the Narmada river, Ahmed, who is learnt to have been sent to mellow down their anger, on the rise following "failure" to provide any facilities to them as part of the rehabilitation packages to offered to the Narmada dam oustees, said, he takes "full responsibility" for providing fishing rights to 17 fishing cooperatives operating along Narmada.
The NCA official’s meeting with Maharashtra's fisherfolk followed the state government agreeing to form fisherfolk's cooperatives to the struggling oustees of Manibeli, Shelgada, Chichkhedi and Khardi villages, even as distributing them fishing nets to them. On hearing of the NCA official's visit, fisherfolk representatives from Madhya Pradesh villages joined in to raise their demands.
Ahmed, who was seen to answer all questions related to the fisherrfolks' problems following the Government of India nod to close down of the dam's gates, leading to the reservoir level reaching 138.68 metres, the full height, however, avoided any reply to queries on why 15,000 oustees have been kept out of the rehabilitation package. These oustees have been kept outside of the package because of "recalculation" of the backwater levels.

A senior Narmada official, talking to Counterview on condition of anonymity, said, the backwater levels have been recalculated at a "much lower level" than the earlier level because “a previous Madhya Pradesh government, hyped the backward levels to extract as huge Central funds in the name of oustees."
However, he insisted, the recalculation showed the Narmada's backwater waters wouldn't rise as much as earlier contemplated at the full reservoir level."
Meanwhile, a memorandum submitted to Ahmed, the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), under whose auspices most of the fisherfolk had gathered, appreciated the NCA official for holding direct dialogue with them, even as objecting to Modi’s birthday bash on September 17 in order to “dedicate” the dam to the nation.
The memorandum said, “Even basic environmental preconditions in Maharashtra, a prerequisite for completing the dam, have not been fulfilled till date”.
The facts enumerated in the memorandum included the failure to treat the 20,000 hectares (ha) dam’s catchment area out of 67,000 ha, failure to plant trees in lieu of 40-50,000 destroyed because of submergence, and failure to develop 33 villages, whose land went into submergence.

Providing specific problems of villages, the memorandum said, there are no health facilities in Akkakua and Akrani villages; there is a failure to look into the complaints of rehabilitation of 950 families, which have not received either land or irrigation facilities; failure to survey 226 families of the Tapu village; forest rights to forest dwellers have not been provided; and there is incomplete construction of several rehabilitation colonies, including Kathardedigar, Mod and Kukalav. 

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