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Polavaram Conundrum – Richard Mohapatra జూలై 19, 2011

Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Andhrapreneurship, Bhadrachalam, BJP, Congress, corruption, Godavari, Identity, Koya, livelihoods, Polavaram, TDP, TRS, Uttara Andhra.
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“People living in the Polavaram dam’s submergence zone have another strong legal protection besides FRA, which can be used to demand scrapping of Polavaram dam. All the villages are governed by the powerful Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996. Under this Act, no project can be initiated in a Schedule Five area without the consent of the gram sabhas there. What’s more, no land can be acquired without the consent of the gram sabhas”.

Deccan Herald July 19, 2011

Polavaram Conundrum
Richard Mohapatra

Fear of submergence haunts Kurturu, a village nestled in the Papi hills of the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh

In 2005, a band of officials, an unusual sight in this remote village in West Godavari district, visited the place and marked a rock. Then they broke the news about the Polavaram multi-purpose project on the river Godavari that would submerge Kurturu along with 275 other villages.

The words “FRL 150 feet” are inscribed on the rock face, which mean submergence at full reservoir level of 150 feet (45.72 metres); it indicates the level to which the river will rise once the Polavaram dam is constructed. The rock is at a much higher level than the 1986 flood level. Kurturu residents have vivid memories of the flood—the worst by far, when the Godavari rose by over 45 metres and submerged the village. The residents, belonging to the Konda Reddy tribe, point at trees on the hill to indicate the flood level.

The flood lasted just two days. The dam will submerge the village forever. Even in summer, when the river’s flow is relatively low, the village will be submerged 18 metres under water, informs Rajakrishna Reddy, a resident of Kurturu. The Polavaram dam, an earth and rock-filled structure, will displace the largest number of people in India’s history of such projects.

“For every five acres (2.02 hectares) that will be irrigated by the project, one tribal family will be displaced,” says E A S Sarma, former power secretary, who has been tracking the project. The dam’s backwaters will submerge 3,731 hectares (ha) of forestland; its net present value, assessed at Rs 13 lakh per 0.4 ha, would add up to Rs 1,120 crore. Kurturu’s residents have been waging a desperate battle to stay afloat. In 2008, they came to know about the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, popularly called Forest Rights Act (FRA).

Section 4(5) of the Act states no forest dweller can be removed from his land until the process of recognition of rights is completed. Even after the procedure is completed, the rights, which include rights to traditional habitats and community forest resources, have to be respected, FRA says.

People living in the Polavaram dam’s submergence zone have another strong legal protection besides FRA, which can be used to demand scrapping of Polavaram dam. All the villages are governed by the powerful Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) of 1996. Under this Act, no project can be initiated in a Schedule Five area without the consent of the gram sabhas there. What’s more, no land can be acquired without the consent of the gram sabhas.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project says 276 villages will be affected; an estimated 177,275 people live in these villages. The Polavaram Project Environmental Impact Appraisal Report of 1985 expected 150,697 people to be displaced in 226 villages.

But the population of these villages according to the Census 2001 is much higher—236,834. State officials find it hard to explain the difference of 59,559 while estimating the number of people who will be displaced. Further, in the past 10 years, the population of these villages would have increased. If one takes into account 15,105 households (60,118 persons) that would be displaced by the two canals, then one arrives at the figure of 317,150 persons affected. The clearance for the project has however not been given.

Down to Earth Features
Source: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/177267/polavaram-conundrum.html

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