Skip to main content

Fisherfolk walk of out public hearing on Bhadbhut project, say it would adversely affect their livelihood

Officials at the public hearing
By Our Representative
Gujarat government-sponsored environmental public hearing for the proposed Rs 4,000 crore Bharbhut barrage project on river Narmada’s mouth in Bharuch district has proved to a non-starter. While as many as 1,500 farmers and fisherfolk turned up to attend the hearing on July 19, they all walked out, en mass, soon after sharply registering their protest against the proposed project as “anti-people”. The walkout took place immediately after Pravin Tandel, the fisherfolks’ local leader, spoke saying the project would “adversely affect the fish catch, especially Hisla, once the it is implemented.”


Much against the official view that the Hisla catch was on decline, and one need not worry on this score, as found reflected in the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, a Government of India undertaking, the fishermen said this was an incorrect assessment based on efforts to undermine fishery activities on the mouth of the river and beyond. “Currently, Hisla fetches Rs 1,200 per kg, and is our main source of livelihood. To say that fishing is a side activity is a misnomer”, said Tandel.
In fact, the fishermen said, there is even “underestimation on the number of the families dependent on fishing activities.” While the EIA report – on which the public hearing took place – spoke of very few fishing boats, hence there was nothing to worry, the fishermen told the officials present on the occasion that they could well come and see how many fishing boats were there to find out the number of people involved in fish catch. “The officials or the NEERI experts have never cared to interact with the fishermen. They are telling a lie that they have”, said Tandel.
Demanding that NEERI should be “barred” from preparing such “false reports”, the fishermen walked out of the pandal, where the public hearing was taking place, no sooner NEERI officials, backed by Gujarat government officials, stood up to speak. The popular mood was strong – that the barrage was being built to help industry. The NEERI report says, of the 500 million cubic metres (MCM) of water to be made available once the barrage is built, 200 MCM would go to the industries in Dahej and other nearby areas, while 60 MCM for drinking water and merely 10 MCM for irrigation.

Environmentalists wonder why is Bhadbhut not part of Kalpasar project
Meanwhile, two top environmental organizations, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) and Paryavaran Mitra have come down heavily on NEERI’s EIA report, saying its objectives are unclear. In fact, both the organizations have particularly stressed that the NEERI report quietly ignores the Bhadbhut project’s links with the Kalpasar project, which is proposed as a huge sweet water lake by damming the Gulf of Khambhat. 
Nowhere does the report state that its main aim is to provide water, through a canal, to supply water to the lake. “NEERI should have also questioned as to why is this small part of the larger Kalpsar project is applying for such piecemeal clearances, which is actually in violation of Supreme Court orders”, says Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP in a report.
Based on this, Paryavaran Mitra said, Bhadbhut should be cleared as part of Kalpasar, and a separate clearance should not be allowed. A few days back, in a strongly-worded letter to the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, under whose auspices the hearing took place at Bhadbhut, Paryavaran Mitra drew attention to the fact that the organization’s volunteers went to the region where the project was sought to be implemented. 
During their interaction the NGOs’ volunteers got the impression that “the affected people in the project impact area were surveyed rather than consulted. In fact, local people said the state government officials did not have any direct meeting with them, nor was any public announcement made for holding such meetings. Clearly, small fishermen were ignored during consultation, and this is a massive complaint about the project.”

Comments

TRENDING

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.

World Bank needs a new perspective on development, not just a new president

By Maju Varghese*
The resignation of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was an unexpected development given the fact that he had three more years to complete his tenure. Resignations at such a high level after bidding for a second term is unusual which prompts people to think what would have led to the act itself.