Andhra: NAPM press release on Polavaram Dam and KG Basin

January 14, 2012


 Threat to KG Basin due to indiscriminate extraction of Oil-Gas can’t be ignored
 Declare review with moratorium : release Expert Committee Report
 Polavaram conflict needs dialogue and a win-win situation, considering all alternatives.

Bhadrachalam, January 11 : Lokshakti Abhiyan reached early morning at Bhadrachalam and attended the meeting hosted by Agricultural Social Development Society and joined by Human Rights Forum and other organisations from Bhadrachalam. Bhadrachalam comes in the submergence zone of the Polavaram Dam which will displace close to 2,00, 000 people – predominantly Adivasis, from close to 400 villages, of which 276 villages are in AP. While they are being lulled into submission with great promises of R and R policies, the people of the Delta are being told that this project is absolutely necessary for their survival nay continuing prosperity as it would “stabilize the delta region” and ensure water for a third crop. Is this project really meant for the farmers of the Delta region as is being projected? Or is it meant for the Bauxite mining companies that are coming up in the Eastern ghats? Or is it going to benefit the large scale industrial projects coming up under the Coastal Corridor, which are displacing millions of farmers of this region for whom this project has been meant for (on paper)?

National Alliance of People’s Movements, through its campaign for People’s Empowerment, wish to deal with the problem of extraction of Oil & Gas to other Minerals, such as Laterite, that affect the land and water, agriculture in K-G Basin region, East & West Godavari and Krishna Districts on one hand and the issue of right kind of sustainable and just options in Water Management, in the context of Polavaram controversy on the other.

K G Basin Saga

It was in K-G Basin that Lokshakti Abhiyan team on its second day witnessed how the incidence of land subsidence has resulted in sea water gushing in, converting paddy fields into Prawn-culture ponds. It has led to sea water flowing inward instead of natural flow of river, canal water flowing through rivulets & tributaries flowing into the sea. It’s shocking to know that reckless extraction, based on non – transparent, indiscriminate contracts & agreements to projects planned with the corporates like Reliance or Cairn Energy to public sector giants like ONGC. While we believe privatization and profiteering in Oil & Gas and Energy sector has, no doubt, emptied the State Exchequer and resulted in K-G Basin scam [as exposed in CAG Report dated Sept. 2011], its also bringing in enormous and serious environment impacts, which needs to be taken cognizance of. The Committee-appointed, inducing the Public Interest litigation in the Bombay High Court has brought out a report, yet to be made public.

Moreover, it,s on the ground that destruction of paddy, reduction in the agricultural to horticultural [coconut] yields are identified. We demand an immediate moratorium on the extraction in the already affected area, to prevent further compression of rock, sea water ingress, as well as salinization of potable drinking water, affecting livelihood of 1 Crore 30 lakh population. This, one would like to assert, would turn-over the energy-intensive, paradigm, but not be impractical since our energy and especially fuel targets are already exaggerated and transmission-distribution losses to public transport issues can and should be taken care of to save life and nature.

Polavaram Controversy : the Way Ahead

On Polavaram, the experience of large dams, across the World and across the Country, warns us against considering the Project to be safe and just, inspite of large scale displacement of Adivasis and farmers, and huge expenses & cost to the natural eco – systems. Not less than 300 village communities to be evicted are bound to cause Human rights violations to legal barriers as seen in all river-valley projects from Narmada to Brahmaputra, displacements that too of Adivasis living on natural resources cannot be compensated with cash based solutions, and the rights of the Gram Sabhas, in the scheduled and non-scheduled Adivasi areas as well as farmer populations, can’t be ignored or suppressed. The Inter-State issues with Chattisgarh and Odisha are other critical areas needing resolutions without which pushing the Projects ahead may lead to waste of time and money. Alternatives proposed in terms of five Lift Irrigation schemes already planned to benefit 5-lakh acres of land in the Polavaram command (out of 7-Lakh acres), and diversion of water from upstream reservoirs as well as local water harnessing with tributaries are worth considering. The Central Empowered Committee of MoEF and Ministry of Irrigation should have carried-out a conclusive dialogue with the affected people, but not ignoring those in the beneficiary area – K-G Basin –with a strong and sincere demand for Polavaram.

The rift between the two is obvious and serious enough not to be ignored. NAPM, therefore, with its vast experience of dam conflicts, people’s struggle on social, environmental to economic and governance issues related to Dam, could initiate a special & frank dialogue among the two regions – Communities to Farmers, Fishermen, Adivasis and Dalit Organisations.

It will also take-up the issue to the Central Ministerial level, once again for them to follow up on all issues of conflict and avoid non – compensatable, irreparable, unjustifiable losses to Adivasis, farmers and farms to forest, while ensuing that the water requirements of their counterparts in K-G basin are also fulfilled. With much experience in Water Management across the country till date, it is not impossible to have a win-win solutions. If there is a political, but also social will among people and their organisations in AP and all-over India, there is a way.

Lokshakti Abhiyan will today move on to Multai, Madhya Pradesh to attend Jan Sansad (People’s Parliament) hosted by Kisan Sangharsh Samiti where 24 farmers were killed on January 12, 1998. It will then hold a public meeting in Indore with the farmers there and then last programme of this phase of the Abhiyan in Ganj Basoda in Madhya Pradesh.

Medha Patkar, Ramakrishna Raju, Sarasvathy Kavula, Baburao Kapala, Baljeet Singh, Prasad Bagwe, Roshanlal Agarwal, Gandhi Babu, Madhuresh Kumar

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