One thing that bothered Budha Patel,the young sarpanch of Nari village,was the possibility of water logging that could happen because of the proposed four-lane road connecting Sarkhej-Vataman-Bhavnagar. He made a brief representation at the public hearing organised under the chairmanship of District Collector Pradip Shah and officials from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Gujarat State Road Development Corporation Ltd. (GSRDC),on Friday.
But what did not bother him much was the impact the road will have on the countrys only blackbuck sanctuary.
Patel was representing a small group of 15 villagers at the public hearing at Nari village,which has a population of 7,000. Had the meeting been organised at Bhavnagar,only 10 kms away,there could have been a bigger attendance and more arguments.
The hearing was scheduled to start at 11 am but began an hour late after the arrival of Shah even as officials from GPCB and GSRDC and a lone officer from the Forest Department prepared for a PowerPoint presentation and readied documents.
Not surprisingly,the hearing was concluded in less than an hour with only three to four villagers hesitatingly raising their concern over the proposed project.
The proposed four-lane road would result in water logging in our village. The road would work like a dam. Sir,we would like to know whether you have any plans to solve our problem, asked the village sarpanch amid some hushed voices from behind.
To this,Shah with the help of officials from the GSRDC,said there are concrete plans to channelise the storm water.
The next to raise the concern was Dr Indrakumar Gadhvi,the president of Dharmakumarsinhji Nature Conservation Society and also a lecturer at the Marine Science Department of Bhavnagar University. Sir,we are here to . but he was interrupted by the collector,saying,Technically,this hearing is only for local residents and not for outsiders. You may submit all suggestions in writing to us and we will do the needful.
Shocked by this technical remark from the chairman of the meeting,the handful of the activists tried their luck by calling some experienced people who could probably tell them what prevented them from expressing their concern about the irreversible damage that can happen to the blackbuck sanctuary.
Gadhvi said: We just wanted to make our point that the road will pass through a 1.4 km stretch of the sanctuary and it have big impact once the project is complete.
Shrenik Shah,a young activist said: There are several questions which remain unanswered. We wanted to raise issues such as the expertise of the agency which has prepared the Environment Impact Assessment of the project and other loopholes such as barbed wire fencing,which is impractical. But we were simply asked to keep quiet and give it in writing.
Shah,however,did not mind sharing his views after the hearing was over.
We must take development positively. There should not be any harm in giving up a small patch as we will not mind acquiring land on the other side of the sanctuary. Neither will the blackbucks mind relocation. We are open to provide a platform to everyone to remove this negative approach, he said.
The four-lane road from Sarkhej via Vataman to Bhavnagar is 152 km long. Of this,116.1 km falls in Ahmedabad district and 36.3 km comes under Bhavnagar district. The crucial patch of 1.4 km passes from the tail of the black buck sanctuary. The four-lane road is expected to accelerate industrialisation. The project authority has excluded the 1.4 km stretch from widening,but has kept the doors open for future planning.