The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) will hire an independent agency to monitor issues related to the Kalu dam project,which has drawn flak for alleged violation of environmental norms. The agency,financing the project,has already spent over Rs 110 crore for the project in a year.
The dam construction has faced criticism for allegedly proceeding without environmental clearances and failing to conduct a proper social impact assessment. We are giving our money; we should be able to ensure that things are being done in an appropriate manner because the investment is huge, said D T Dange,principal advisor to MMRDAs water resources management cell. The estimated cost is Rs 445 crore and the completion period is six years. The cost will escalate.
The Bombay High Court had,last month,stayed the work of the dam being built over Kalu river in Thane until all permissions are secured from the Union government. The project needs forest clearance,for which a proposal has been submitted to the Central government, Dange said.
Around 100 people from the tribal areas of Shahpur,Thane and Dahanu had gathered outside the MMRDA office last month in protest against dams planned at Kalu,Shahi,Susari and Balganga,of which the first two are being financed by the agency. To their questions about the alleged violations of national rehabilitation policy while going ahead with the projects,the agnecy had responded that it was just the financing agency and hence was not in a position to respond.
We had pointed out that if it is funding a project how can the MMRDA be not aware of issues surrounding the construction. The decision to float a tender to appoint an agency to review the work seems like a direct impact of the conversation we had, said Brian Lobo,an activist.
The Kalu dam,being constructed by the Konkan Irrigation Development Corp,will have a capacity of 400 million cubic metres and is expected to cater to the water requirement of Thane,Bhiwandi,Kalyan,Badlapur and Ambarnath till 2021. However,the construction requires the acquisition of 1,400-1,500 hectares of private and agricultural land besides directly impacting eight villages.
There was no baseline social survey conducted; the consent of villagers was not sought. It being a tribal area,the authorities should have involved the gram panchayats in the process,which was not done, said Indavi Tulpule,another activist.