Protests have started in the tribal-dominated districts of Dang, Tapi and Valsad against the interlinking of the Par-Tapi-Narmada river basins in Gujarat and Maharashtra. A major section of this project will be executed in these three districts. The interlinking of these rivers was among the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The project is estimated to cost Rs 16,000 crore.
As many as four protest rallies were held last month in Waghai, Ahwa and Kali Bhil areas of the Dangs and Dharampur town of Valsad and thousands of tribals had taken part in these projects. Member of Tapi’s Kelvan village panchayat Jignesh Kokani, who took part in one of the rallies, said they are opposing the project because tribals will lose their land.
Mukesh Patel (40) from Sarvar village in Ahwa taluka of the Dangs said that the tribals settled along the river bank have developed the forest land allotted to them into agricultural farms by incurring substantial expenditure.
“With the construction of the reservoirs, their farmland will be submerged and they will lose their income. It will also result in their displacement,” said Patel.
Kelvan village sarpanch Sumanbhai Bhil said though many people will get irrigation water, they opposing the project because of the fear of losing land. Dhaval Chaudhary of Bhilistan Tiger Sena at Songadh in Tapi district, who has been agitating for compensation to the affected families of the Ukai dam for the last three months, said let the government hold a public debate before going ahead with the project. His colleague Pritesh Chudhary said the outfit is opposing it because there is no transparency.
Congress MLA from the Dangs Mangalbhai Gavit said that it is intended to develop others by destroying adivasis (tribals). His party colleague, Dharmapur MLA Ishwarbhai Patel said he will not allow it in his area. “I had already held a rally against the project on September 2,” he said. JD(U) MLA from Jhagadia Chhotubhai Vasava said: “Around 4,700 dams have been built across the country, resulting in displacement of over 5 crore tribals’’.
State Irrigation Minister Nanubhai Vanani, however, said the government will adequately compensate the affected people. “There is always some kind of opposition whenever a new project is launched. But, we will go ahead with it. We have already sent our proposals to the Maharashtra government because Par river falls there,” said the minister.
On the other hand, former BJP MLA from the Dangs, Vijay Patel, alleged that opposition to the project is a conspiracy to bring Naxalism in Gujarat.
According state irrigation secretary N K Jadav, a detailed project report has been prepared by the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), but the state government has not accepted it so far because of submergence issues. According to the DPR, six reservoirs — Jheri, Paikhed, Chasmandva, Chikkar, Dabdar and Kelwan — are to be built over rivers Par, Nar, Tan, Auranga, Ambica, Kapri and Purna.
A socio-economic survey prepared for NWDA by Water and Power Consultancy Services India (A Government of India Undertaking), Gandhinagar, said the creation of the reservoirs would affect 61 villages, mostly located in Dang and Valsad districts of Gujarat, besides Nasik in Maharashtra. Wankan village in Ahwa taluka will be submerged in the Kelwan reservoir.
The projects envisages transfer of surplus water of rivers in Maharashtra and south Gujarat to feed the command area of the Miyagam branch of Narmada canal. It will save water in Narmada dam, which will be taken to Saurashtra and Kutch.