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

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Untold story of Jammu: Business 'down', students fear lynching, teachers can't speak

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, seeking to debunk the view that people in Jammu, the second biggest city of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Srinagar, people had gone “out celebrating” abrogation of Article 370 which took away the state’s special status, has reported what it calls “abominably high levels of fear” across all sections in the town.

Success of 'political' Hinduism: Kashmiris being depicted as antagonists of rest of India

By Anand K Sahay*
There are times in history when facts call attention to themselves; they assert their independence in all its amplitude and are in no need of the crutch of interpretation. Such a moment is visible in Kashmir now. Merely by being on the table, the facts there taunt the regime’s proclamations.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…