Protest against Polavaram project being constructed in Andhra Pradesh appears to be gaining strength among activists in Odisha as well as other neighbouring states amid allegations that the dam aims to benefit industrialists at the cost of tribals. As part of their anti-Polavaram campaign, a large number of activists from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana assembled on Thursday and vowed to fight against the multi-purpose project.
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The project is being constructed to benefit industrial houses along Visakhapatnam-Chennai coastal corridor rather than to provide water for irrigation to farmers as claimed by Andhra Pradesh and Union governments, alleged Bhalachandra Shadangi, convenor of People’s Forum Against Polavaram (PFAP) which organised the convention.
Andhra Pradesh government is constructing the project on river Godavari at Polavaram, about 80 km from Motu in Odisha’s Malkangiri district.
The activists alleged that around four lakh people, 60 per cent of them tribals, will be affected by the project and only politicians, contractors and industrialists will benefit from it.
As many as 276 revenue villages of Andhra Pradesh will be submerged by the project. In Odisha, over 100 villages, around 4,000 acres of agricultural land and around 40,000 people from Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district will be affected, said V Ventaka Ramaiya, president of Akhil Bharat Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.
Though the area where the Polavaram project is being constructed is a scheduled area, the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and Forest Rights Act (FRA) are being openly violated, he said.
“No gram sabha has been conducted prior to construction of the project,” said Bijay Bohidar, a retired professor, while inaugurating the convention.
Condemning the Centre for giving national project status to Polavaram, noted activist Prafulla Samantaray said Odisha government’s fight against the project is only to gain political benefits.
The state government is not fighting against the project in true spirit and has failed in taking proper administrative and legal steps, he alleged.
BJD spokesperson Rabi Narayan Nanda has, however, dismissed the allegations as baseless saying the state government is fighting against the project from day one and has placed its objection before the Central Water Commission and the Prime Minister.