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Gujarat govt claims oustees "fully satisfied" with land acquired for Garudeshwar weir on Narmada

Villagers protest against weir
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has claimed that villagers, whose land has been acquired for constructing the Garudeshwar weir across Narmada river, and 12 km from the Narmada dam site, were “fully satisfied” with the package offered to them decades ago. In said this in an affidavit filed before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in response to a petition filed by Gujarat-based environmental body Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), seeking stoppage of work at the weir, alleging the weir’s environmental and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) clearances have not been taken, as required by law.
The environmentalist group had cited a March 2013 letter written by Shekhar Singh, a senior member of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), responsible for all clearances for the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), asking the Gujarat government “to immediately stop construction of the Garudeshwar weir”, as it has not submitted “full feasibility report, environment and social impact assessment report including impacts during construction and operation of the weir” to the environmental sub-group of the NCA.
Interestingly, the state government assertion comes at a time when the Government of India has admitted that it has not received any documents from the Gujarat government for environmental clearance of the weir. In its affidavit before the NGT on the same petition, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has stated, it did not receive “either for scoping/terms of reference (TOR) or environmental clearance”, nor does it have any “information on Garudeshwar project.”
Ignoring Shekhar Singh’s and Government of India’s contention, the state government has said that the weir’s “land acquisition proceedings commenced in 1987 by issuance of a notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act”, adding, “The land required to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, was 113.81 hectares (ha) and only 23 ha are in the process of acquisition. The remaining land was acquired long back in pursuance of the several notifications issued under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act right from 1987 onwards till 2007”.
The state government has further said that the weir-affected land owners have “accepted” the “statutory awards contemplated under the Land Acquisition Act”, adding, “All the persons whose lands were acquired approached the district court seeking higher quantum of compensation, and thereafter the High Court of Gujarat, clearly showing that no one has objected to the land being acquired.”
Meanwhile, the state government appears to have stirred up hornet’s nest by declaring that the weir is part of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), and not an “isolated project”. It says, SSP is “a comprehensive project encompassing within its sweep the construction of dam, construction of dykes, canals, construction and installation of electricity generating power house and construction of Garudeshwar weir”.
Its affidavit suggests that the weir is a very important component of the Narmada dam. Referring to how it would help generate power produced at the dam, it insists, “The construction of weir is of tremendous public importance since the same would enable the reversible operation of the underground powerhouse units (six turbines of 200 Mega Watt each, already constructed and commissioned several years ago) and thereby will enable production of peak electrical energy under all condition of water availability by use of reversible turbine.”
The statement has made senior environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Lakhan Musafir, who filed the petition before the NGT, wonder, if this were so, why were those whose land was acquired for constructing the weir refused compensation as per the SSP. They have insisted, if the weir was part of the SSP “then the affected persons of Garudeshwar weir need to be treated as per the SSP resettlement and rehabilitation policies.”
The environmentalists say, the permission to raise the dam height beyond 90 metres, according to a Supreme Court order of 2000, should be given by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) from time to time after it obtains the clearances from the NCA’s R&R and environment sub-groups. And because the weir is part of the SSP, the same should apply to it. They insist, “At no stage since 1987 have the social and environmental impacts for Garudeshwar weir been assessed and such assessment had not approved by the competent authorities.”
The state government claim that the weir affected persons “happily accepted” the land acquisition package comes when 70 villagers around the Narmada dam have strongly reacted to the weir without any approval from their gram sabhas. They have sought to invoke Schedule V of the Constitution of India, under which approval from the gram sabhas is a must before going ahead with any major project that may affect their livelihood.
Construction of the weir, according to the villagers, who have formed an informal organization called Sitter Gaam Adivasi Sangathan, is being carried out at a time when the whole area is sought to be converted into a tourist spot. The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA requires gram sabha approval for any such land acquisition is a must if adivasis are involved.
In a representation to the Gujarat government last year, the Sangathan said, “More than 1,000 acres of land will be submerged because of the Garudeshwar weir, yet there is no mention in the package as to for how many days in a year this will happen, and if people will get compensated because of the destruction of standing crop if the submergence is temporary.”

Comments

Rishit said…
I recently visited Indravarna and saw the weir being constructed myself. An artificial barricade is formed in the waters using mud from the banks. Once the barricaded water dries out, the construction will start. It looks horrible. Just a few kilometers away a Statue worth 200 crores stands to be constructed. And a few kilometers away from the statue stands the ugliest man-made structure, the Sardar Sarovar Dam. What do they think they're doing to this region? Police surveillance is at its peak. Locals are cornered and threatened. The people of Indravarna complained of the small size of watermelons that grows ever since the Narmada dam was built. Something to do with the fertile soil the river used to bring. They are so dejected that they have told the authorities that they don't want any money. They are being forced to move.

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