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River interlinking to transfer tribals' drinking, irrigation water to Maharashtra industries

Myth of surplus water in Mokhada region
Counterview Desk
Top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), recently submitted its comments on the Damanganga–Vaitarna-Godavari Intrastate Link project to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a project sought to be packaged by the Maharashtra chief minister as diversion of water from allegedly water surplus Konkan region to the drought-affected Marathwada region.
SANDRP’s Parineeta Dandekar, who signed the submission, says that while this can be an “eye candy for majority population”, it is actually a “destructive” project.
Costing Rs 2,700 crore in the first phase, the project proposes to transfer water from Damanganga and Upper Vaiatarna Basins into Kadve Dam in Godavari Basin and from there to Dev Nadi in Sinnar, to provide water to Sinnar. According to Dandekar, it will displace “more than 4,000 people, mainly tribals, submerge eight villages and 1,230 hectares of land, 179 hectares of forest and possibly parts of Tansa Sanctuary.”
She continues, “What it means in reality is that the tribal region of Damanganga and Mokhada, which is ridden with chronic water scarcity, infant mortality and malnutrition, is now suddenly a ‘surplus’ region, which will have four dams to transfer water to Sinnar region, a prosperous region with double cultivation, thermal power plants, the Maharahstra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and the notified Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).”
Pointing out that this summer, Mokhada block “almost exclusively depended on water tankers”, with locals complaining that “absence of irrigation facilities is the main reason behind abject poverty of the region”, Dandekar says, the project would only ensure that most of the drinking and irrigation water of tribals “will go to industries in Sinnar!”

Excerpts from the submission:

The project Damanganga–Vaitarna-Godavari Intrastate Link will be environmentally destructive, socially damaging and economically unviable for the following reasons.

The project hides one of the most crucial issues

Cumulative impacts of diversion project on the society and ecology of the donor region. The Maharashtra Government has planned and even implemented several intra-basin links in the Damanganga and Vaitarna Basin to divert water into Godavari and Tapi Basins. One such project is also being discussed by the Expert Appraisal Committee (Damnaganga [Ekdare]-Godavari Link Project). However, Section 9.4 on Cumulative Impacts states “No Cumulative Impacts”.
This is wanton hiding of crucial information which will have far reaching impacts of the region. This itself is a ground for rejecting TORs for the project.

Diverting water from a poverty ridden, water starved and malnourished tribal region to economically powerful region, furthering inequality

The project plans to divert water away from the Damanganga and Upper Vaitarna Basins which are home to majority tribal populations. SANDRP has visited this region while studying the erstwhile Par-Tapi-Narmada and Damanganga-Pinjal Links as well as the Godavari Diversion projects.
There is a huge resentment in the minds of local people and leaders about diverting water away from this region. The leaders and Former MLAs of the region passionately believe that “assured water holds the key to the development of this region. They tell us “Even educational institutions will not come to our region if we cannot ensure water”.
The current projects cumulatively plan to divert all the supposedly surplus water of the Damanganga basin into Godavari basin, which already is already urbanized, industrialised and prosperous. The paltry allocations made for the supposedly “surplus” region from where the water will be diverted are too less and do not take the local development needs and aspirations into consideration. In any case, it is a fair demand of the locals to “firstly” satisfy the local needs, and only after these are satisfactorily met, discuss any diversions.
Of the five dams proposed under this project, five dams fall in the Palghar district, in Mokhada Block. In this summer, nearly entire Mokhada Tehsil which has exceptionally high rates of malnutrition, was supplied drinking water with tankers. It has been reported that “34 tankers of 12,000 litres each, supply water to 46,650 residents across 28 villages and 77 hamlets in the region.”
Palghar District in which Mokhada falls along with other tribals blocks has one the highest child mortality and malnutrition rates in the State. And one of the important reasons is lack of irrigation facilities.
Lack of drinking water facility in Mokhada block
According to Anjali Kanitkar, who is on the board of directors, Aarohan, one of the organizations working on rural health, mother and child health in Mokhada Block, “We had gone to Mokhada after reading reports of deaths due to malnutrition. But what we heard was not about malnutrition, but most of them, 57%, said that lack of drinking water and irrigation facilities was the main issue behind the poverty.”

The project is so strongly opposed locally that four months back, five villages and several hamlets of Mokhada put up a huge protest rally and asked questions to their candidates if they will oppose this project

In such a situation, even proposing any “diversion” projects in the region is entirely unacceptable and goes against the principle of our country being a Welfare State.
There are several in-depth reports which document the water scarcity and malnutrition in this “surplus” region. This also goes on to prove that water availability and access to people has nothing to do with NWDA’s (National Water Development Agency, the institution tasked with doing all the studies related to interlinking of rivers in India) labels of a “surplus” or a “deficit” basin.
In principle, Damanganga-Vaitarna-Godavari Link ends up being a project diverting water from a water scarce, poverty ridden region to the prosperous notified DMIC region.
This is unacceptable and will be strongly protested and we request the EAC to not consider this project for TOR clearance and lay down a right precedence.

Industrial water use in beneficiary region given priority over drinking and irrigation use in donor region

Of the diverted water, maximum water will go for Industrial Water Use (73 MCM for Industries). The donor region, in the meantime does not have assured drinking water supply or Irrigation. This is diversion of drinking and irrigation water to industrial Use and against the State Water Policy of Maharashtra and the National Water Policy of India.

The beneficiary region has several inspiring river rejuvenation initiatives

The project plans to bring 196.73 million cubic metres (MCM) into Dev Nadi of Sinnar, purportedly stating that this is for drinking water and irrigation needs.
Several initiatives are being undertaken to rejuvenate Dev Nadi and use it effectively for Irrigation and drinking water needs of Sinnar. These are widely reported in the press. One such initiative is Yuva Mitra which has developed a highly successful diversion-based irrigation system and integrated livelihood project on Dev Nadi.
In addition, the Maharashtra government’s flagship programme, Jalyukt Shivar, was implemented so effectively in Sinnar that it led to increase in groundwater levels and the Water Conservation Minister even said that the state should follow Sinnar’s model.
In this situation, where the region is trying to become water sufficient, there is no justification for bringing in water from a far flung region, displacing more than 4,000 people, mainly tribal, and submerging eight villages and 1,230 hectares of land, 179 hectares of forest, possibly parts of Tansa Sanctuary.

No justification for diverting water to Sinnar

Sinnar MIDC or the notified DMIC has not demonstrated that it has exhausted all the possible options of water use available to its disposal. The absence of such demonstration and when local people have been working on such alternatives should be sufficient reason not to sanction such inter basin water transfer which will have deep ramifications of ecology and society of the donor region and the state.

Major impact on eco-sensitive region of Western Ghats

All of the five dam sites fall in the ecological sensitive areas of the Western Ghats. Majority region falls under “dense and fairly dense forests”. Udhare Dam on Gargai River will possibly involve parts of the Tansa Sanctuary. The ecological loss of submerging 179 hectares of forest or the destruction of the rivers and river dependent livelihoods are not accounted for anywhere in the cost benefit analysis of the project.

The existing diversion projects in the Godavari Basin, which involve lifting of water have proved to be failures

The Water Resources Department of Maharashtra has already worked on several transfers from West Ward basins into Godavari Basin. Most of them have been resounding failures, with languishing projects, local protests due to displacement and cracks due to blasting, extreme increase in project costs and wrong calculations of water availability.
These need to be independently reviewed before clearing more such projects. SANDRP’s report on these projects, based on site visits and analyses of government documents, can be found HERE.
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Click HERE for SANDRP’s full submission

Comments

Anonymous said…
Why dont Maharashtra focus on Rain Water Harvesting as every year it rains heavily and flood like situation happens

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