Last month, when Deputy Chief Minister and Irrigation Minister Sudesh Mahto stated that Swarnrekha Multipurpose Project (SMP) is on Jharkhand Government’s priority list and the state government has appealed to the central government to declare SMP a national project.
But on the other side of coin, lots of the families to be displaced from SMP in Kolhan-Porhat region have lodged their protest in vociferous but peaceful manner with the Jharkhand Government. The affected villagers opposed the 12th Five Year Plan approach paper of the Jharkhand Government presented in the Union Government during the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in Delhi; villagers have urged the Union Government not to declare SMP a national project in haste.
What is Swarnrekha Multipurpose Project?
SMP was commenced way back in 1978 in Jharkhand. It was a multipurpose project that envisioned Drinking water, Irrigation water and Hydel Power-Generation. Thus it was planned that 2 dams would be constructed in the SMP project, first on river Swarnrekha at Chandil near Jamshedpur and second one on river Kharkai at Icha near Chaibasa. In addition, the plan included construction of 2 barrages, one at Galudih on Swarnrekha and other on Kharkai at Ganjia in Saraikela; plus network of canals from these 2 dams.
According to the official communiqué on SMP, “The work in Chandil and Galudih Barrage is going on. Also the work in Chandil Dam and Galudih Barrage are nearing completion. But in the Icha Dam Area we are facing resistance from the local villagers and it remains incomplete.”
Why Affected Villagers are opposing SMP?
Talking to media, Daskan Kudada stated in no uncertain term, “The State Government is pursuing SMP without bothering to clarifying what benefits would accrue to scores of Tribals in the forest area of Saranda, who are going to be displaced……..Not only the Judgement of the Supreme Court, but the very ethos of the tribals are being eroded by way of Icha Dam construction without properly defining what purpose will it serve to scores of tribals in the forest area of Saranda.”
Daskan further asked, “Once these tribal villagers who are largely dependent on Agriculture are displaced from their agriculture farm-lands and villages…..then tell me how this SMP would help the local farmers?” It may be noted here that Daskan Kudada is convener of Kolhan-Porahat Visthapan Pratirodhi Adivasi Jansangthan, and umbrella outfit of the affected villagers of the scheduled area.
Do these affected villagers have a point?
We think so; let me share few well-known examples of similar Hydel Projects of our country.
Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC)
- It was started in 1954 in undivided Bihar (now in Jharkhand); the residents of Dhanbad District and Jamtara District in Jharkhand, they were badly affected by the DVC project. It had affected more than 70000 people belonging to 250 plus villages, these displaced families were promised jobs and compensations by the government. But 5 decades later many displaced families are still fighting to get the promised compensations by the Governments.
- It was built on Odisa’s Mahanadi river in 1957. In this project about 1.50 lakh people were displaced. In 2011, the displaced people are still fighting to get the promised compensation and rehabilitation.
Sardar Sarovor Dam
- This Dam project is perhaps the most controversial project of the recent times. It was built on Gujarat’s Narmada River. In this project, more than 50000 displaced people are still waiting for right compensation and rehabilitation.
Thus, one could see that the past record of various Central and State Governments in carrying out the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R & R) Policy for the displaced village population does not really inspire much confidence among the affected families.
Given these past records of Jharkhand Government and the wide-spread tentacles of Maoism in rural areas of Jharkhand, especially in Saranda Forest Region of state, we do not see how this SMP would move ahead. Unless the Governments pull up its socks and honestly implement the promised R & R policy, this SMP is likely to become a counter-productive for every villagers that are going to be displaced by the project. And the development fund meant for the SMP would simply be wasted or squandered by the authorities.
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