Hundreds of farmers question cost-benefits of ISP-OSP canals: 

Committee promises review of canals in irrigated villages:

Directs NVDA to provide land and compensate losses

Badwani: A six-member Expert Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) conducted a two day visit of villages in the Dhar and Khargone districts in the Narmada Valley on the 18th and 19th of February, 2013 in order to assess the impacts and issues pertaining the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar canals, which would cause destruction of more than 10,000 hectares of agricultural land and severe impact on the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and farm labourers.


The Committee including Chairperson Shri B.P. Das (Hydrologist), Member Secretary Shri Lakhwinder Singh (Chief Conservator of Forests), Shri B.B. Barman (Director, MoEF), Dr. Nandini Sharma (Health Expert), Shri T.S. Nair (Cropping Pattern Expert) and Shri Pawan Kumar (Director, Environment, Narmada Control Authority) held public hearings in villages Shirsala and Perkhad (Tehsil Manavar, District Dhar) and also heard hundreds of farmers in villages Chikalda (Tehsil Kukshi, Dist. Dhar) and Village Attarsumba (Tehsil Badwah, District Khargone). Numerous other officials of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) including Mr. Ajnare, Executive Engineer accompanied the team. Hundreds of farmers, along with activists and adivasis were also present and informed the team of experts at every point.  

ImageIt is notable that the over the past few years, the land acquisition and construction of the ISP and OSP canals has become a major issue in the valley, with severe resentment from farmers, for whom it is not a source of any ‘development’, but would only cause severe destruction of their already irrigated farm land, and livelihoods. In addition to causing irreparable damage to the fertile black cotton soil of Western Nimad, the rich cropping pattern, bio-diversity, flora and fauna would also be irreversibly affected.

In November, 2009, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had stayed the canal work since the necessary environmental protective measures, due planning process and the rehabilitation of the canal-affected farmers (CAFs) was not ensured by the) NVDA. In the appeal filed before the Supreme Court, the Madhya Pradesh Government was directed to provide land to all CAFs losing more than 60% land and also entrusted the MoEF with the responsibility of monitoring further canals work.

The second visit of the Expert Committee of MoEF was in the context of this judgement of the Supreme Court dated 2-8-2011. Before the field visit, a delegation of farmers and activists made a presentation before the full Committee and all senior officials of NVDA at Indore and expressed serious dissatisfaction that the canal work is being pushed ahead from the 1st to 4thPhase, without due planning and segment – wise execution as mandated in the clearances of the MoEF and Planning Commission, three Reports by Dr. Devendra Pandey Committee, recommendations by the Expert Appraisal Committee for River Valley Projects and the recommendations by Shri B.P. Das Committee itself issued in March, 2012, after its first field visit in January, 2012.

On the field, hundreds of farmers stopped the volley of vehicles of the Committee at numerous places and demanded a halt to the canal work, until their demands and issues are addressed. Some of the major issues pointed out by the farmers include:
  1. There are more than 86 villages in the proposed command area of the ISP and OSP Projects which lie within or are adjacent to the submergence / catchment area of the Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar Projects, on the bank of Narmada or her tributaries, such as Maan. Thousands of hectares of fully – irrigated lands in these villages, which is the only source of livelihood of thousands of agriculturists should be left out of unnecessary destruction and excavation.
  1. Hundreds of acres of land of poor adivasi and other farmers has been affected due to dumping of rubble from canal work, extra land excavated than acquired, standing crop and land destroyed due to severe water logging etc in many villages in the Manavar, Badwah, Mahweshwar, Rajpur Tehsils due to lack of CAD works, blocking of natural drains, losses have been caused due to breach of pipe lines etc. All such farmers must be fully and fairly compensated as per the Committee’s own recommendations.
  1. At many places, farmers also pointed out that poor quality of construction of the canals, especially lining work which came out cracking like wafers proves massive corruption by the contractors and the department. This must be fully investigated and those responsible brought to book.

Welcoming the team, farmers in the thick village community of Chikalda pointed out their fertile agricultural land and Narmada pipe lines and categorically stated that the canals would only spell doom for their livelihoods and nothing else. At Perkhad,hundreds questioned the irrationality and illegality of sand mining, submergence and canals in the same village causing severe destruction of the farmland and serious impacts on health and livelihood.

The adivasis of Attarsumba, Piprikheda, Guradia and Bagda villages pointed out how their lands, bearing three crops in a year were forcibly taken away for building the ISP canal embankments. With water having released and without due command area measures, severe water logging has resulted in destruction of the lands and the situation today is that farmers have been turned into labourers, whose food security and even health has been badly affected due to high increase in water borne diseases such as malaria and jaundice. Hundreds of poor adivasi women and men deposed before health expert Ms. Nandini Sharma and stated that there are hardly any medical facilities available in the villages and they have to spend anywhere between Rs. 500/- to Rs.1,000/- per patient and go beyond 8 kms for treatment. The claims of the officials of the National Institute of Malaria Research of spending lakhs of rupees were refuted by the people.

Handing over critiques of numerous villages such as Nimbola, Pathrad Khurd, Nandra, Chikalda etc. farmers questioned the serious gaps and flaws in the command areas plans submitted by the NVDA in a hurry to the MoEF. For instance, in no plan the river Narmada, major geo-physical feature is shown or in some cases farm land is show in the place of residential area. Numerous other CAD works such as land levelling, bunding, plantations, communication facilities have also not been undertaken at many places.

Hearing the farmers and officials, the Committee directed NVDA that it must compensate all the farmers for the losses that has been caused due to muck disposal and water logging. It also directed NVDA to undertake a village wise reality check of the status of irrigation in the 86 villages, in order to ensure that areas already irrigated are not brought within the fold of the canal command. The Committee also took serious note of the irregular and faulty canal work, lining, lack of CAD measures. The farmers and activists demanded that no further canal work can be permitted in the absence of due compliance on all environmental and rehabilitation measures.


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