Even as close to 122 villages on the other side of the Statue of Unity across the River Narmada are on the edge after the local district administration initiated a process to include the area under the eco-sensitive zone as per a notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), BJP’s Bharuch MP and tribal leader Mansukh Vasava has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging that the zone be withdrawn to “mitigate the protests” of tribal communities.
Vasava’s letter comes on a day when the state government’s general administration department sanctioned two circles of management with a strength of 201 personnel for the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority, or SoU Tourism Authority (SoUTA). The personnel will be responsible for the operation and maintenance, water supply, sewage lines, roads, parking, lights as well as the decorative lighting in the area of 25 sq metres of the Kevadia colony.
In his letter drafted in Hindi, Vasava has cited the example of Rajasthan, where the notification for the eco-sensitive zone has been withdrawn in the “interest of farmers and locals”.
“In the name of the notification of the MoEFCC, government officials have begun interfering in the private properties of the tribals. The local tribals in Narmada have not been taken into confidence or given the understanding of the issue, which has created fear and mistrust among them. The locals are preparing for protests and some opposition parties are leveraging on the lack of communication between the government and the locals, inciting them against the government,” the MP stated.
Vasava has also urged Modi to withdraw the notification to restore “peace and order” in the lives of the locals. “The area around the Statue of Unity in Narmada district is fast developing due to the tourism projects. However, it is my humble request that the area should be removed from the purview of the eco-sensitive zone to allay the fears of the local communities and for the benefit of the tribals. It will also help mitigate the opposition of the tribals here.”
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With the growing spotlight on Kevadia as a tourism circuit, the SoUTA has been introduced as a body with 201 stipulated vacancies at various levels of management to look after the future requirements of the town, including revenue, law and order, administrative, medical, town planning, fire and emergency services, solid waste management and sanitation. The SoUTA will be led by a CEO, who will be assisted by two deputy district collectors as well as officers for revenue, health, tourism, fire safety and town planning.
The first circle of SoUTA will include administrators for the Statue of Unity, Shreshth Bharat Bhavan, Gora bridge navigation channel, jetty service and overall maintenance of the complex. The second circle will include the administrators for all other projects around SoU, a statement issued by the government stated Wednesday.
Each of the two circles will have 112 employees, including two supervisory engineers, one executive engineer (civil) and executive engineer (electrical). As many as 61 existing officials from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) have been deputed at the SoUTA along with their offices. Close to 51 other officials will soon be inducted.
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