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Par-Tapi-Narmada link project likely to "displace" 35,000 tribals, submerge 75 villages, 7,559 ha of precious land

Par river near village Jhari
By Our Representative
Well-known advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has estimated that if the Par Tapi Narmada (PTN) Link Project is implemented as part of the Government of India's ambitious river inter-linking scheme, then 75 tribal villages, 3,592 hectares (ha) of forests in Western Ghats and a minimum of 7,559 ha of land will be submerged. This apart, it is likely to displace around 35,000 adivasis.
SANDRP's Parineeta Dandekar, who recently made a spot survey of the project in Maharashtra's Jhari, a tribal village, which may face submergence, has said in a recent blog that under the scheme, seven dams are proposed on the west flowing basins like Par, Nar, Auranga, Ambica and Purna, "which will transport west flowing water from Maharashtra and Gujarat to unbelievably far-off places in Gujarat like Kutch and Saurashtra."
Contending that in reality all waters are likely to be "used up in Central Gujarat region", Dandekar says, the PTN Link Project, according to National Water Development Agency (NWDA), involving seven reservoirs in north Maharashtra and south Gujarat, will "enable" transfer of 1350 million cubic metres (MCM) of water from the west flowing rivers like Nar, Par, Auranga, Ambica, Purna into Tapi and Narmada.
"Initially the project was also supposed to utilise surplus waters of Tapi from Ukai dam, but later it dropped Ukai from the calculations", the expert says, adding, "The cost of the project is Rs 6,046 crores by 2004-05 prices. Even by NWDA calculations, the project has a dismal benefit-cost ratio of just 1:1.08", which means "its annual expense would be Rs 572 crore and annual benefit Rs 618 crore."
Adivasis of region to be displaced by Damanganga-Pinjal link
Pointing towards the shocking manner in which the feasibility report for the project has been prepared, Dandekar refers to the portion which says the affected people "only work in fields and forests", and that “when the affected families will be shifted to new places having all civic amenities such as, water supply facilities, medical facilities, schools and community building for recreation purposes, there will be general improvement in the life style of the people and their culture.”
She wonders how could NWDA is assume itself to be "the authority for improving cultures and also a judge who thinks that tribal culture is inferior and needs general improvement", adding, "This highlights the ignorance, bias and high handedness of the agency towards these people and their lifestyles. In any case, if the aim is to provide the tribals with amenities and services, it can still be done without displacement."
Suggesting that the PTN Link Project is being implemented under the directions of the Gujarat chief minister’s water resources adviser BN Navalawala, Dandekar recalls, "Incidentally, Navalawala is the only former water resources secretary of India who had to resign under directions of the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, since Manohar Parrikar, erstwhile chief minister of Goa, complained against him for being biased about Goa-Karnataka water sharing dispute on Mahadayi river."
The expert says, "In all this rhetoric of PTN Link Project, the tribals of Maharashtra and Gujarat find no place", insisting, while Gujarat is offering Damanganga-Pinjal link in "exchange", the latter is "solely for the water use of Mumbai Municipal Corporation." She adds, Mumbai has several alternative ways to secure water "rather than destroying forests and mountains of Western Ghats or displacing thousands of tribals."

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