The unending saga of projects, protests, and ad hoc solutions

The unending saga of projects, protests, and ad hoc solutions

Submitted by alvin on Fri, 2016-08-05 19:29 While in Karnataka people were fighting against Goa for water, Telangana people were protesting against their own government opposing its land acquisition policy. These two cases might appear different, but I see an underlying similarity behind these protests. Both protests have farmers at their core, but, in my opinion, both lack the farsightedness that is needed to ensure sustainable development. Instead, they harp on ad hoc solutions. Soon after the Mahadayi tribunal’s interim verdict, Karnataka witnessed widespread protests, some of which turned violent. Parched North Karnataka — fighting for a basic necessity of drinking water since decades — was naturally disappointed with the verdict. Understandably, emotions were high as getting Mahadayi water seemed like a distant dream yet again.  Here, I really doubt the honesty of Goa’s contention. The conflict seems to be originating not from the love Goa has for the ecosystem of the Mahadayi valley - though that is the winning argument Goa is banking on - it looks more like “Why should we share?” kind of attitude. I am saying this because out of more than 200 TMC water available Karnataka asked for just 7.56 TMC in its interim plea. It wouldn’t have disturbed the ecosystem to a large extent. Even the ‘Waterman of India’, Rajendra Singh, supports Kalasa Banduri project. In his opinion, the project is not harmful for ecology but a safe diversion as it doesn’t use all the water flowing into sea. But Goa is not in a mood to oblige.  We are fighting for Mahadayi water for almost three decades. Forget about Goa, based on a PIL filed by our own Belgaum-based NGO, Karnataka HC did put a stay on the construction work related to Mahadayi project in 2013. The project cost is increasing drastically because of the undue delay. So is isn’t it high time that whatever we are using or losing in the name of Mahadayi — not to forget the hefty amount Fali Nariman and others are pocketing (Rs8.98 crores in just 3 years) — should be put to use in a wise way?  The project was initiated almost 30 years back. Now the ‘would be’ beneficiary population has definitely increased, scenario is different, environmental conditions have changed, and we have new technologies which might provide better solutions. So, updating the project may not be as practical, feasible as it was before.   Even if the Mahadayi project gets completed, will the needy and the thirsty get enough water for long? What is the guarantee that the major portion of water is not going to be gulped down by those vast sugarcane fields? The issue has been utilised politically at the expense of farmers’ dreams. So is it not wise to move on and find a far-sighted, sustainable solution (like more arid crops, less number of factories in river basin, measures to increase ground water level, reforestation in catchment areas) rather than messing with river’s natural course? So I find the practicality and sustainability missing in this whole ‘fight for water’ issue.  Now, coming to the Telanagana part of it. I find the same sustainability argument missing in this battle as well. Ironically, protesting farmers are from Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s home district, Medak. And this is the major challenge KCR is facing after coming to power. The Rs9,800-cr Mallanna Sagara project — one of the biggest irrigation projects being planned by Telangana government — aims at irrigating 12 lakh acres of land.  The project requires 20,000 acres of land in Medak district alone. Nearly 14 villages of Medak will be submerged due to the reservoir. Naturally, farmers were up in arms over the project. Nearly 30,000 villagers from these areas started an indefinite strike almost at the same time when Telangana was celebrating its second anniversary. Recently, there were lathicharges on farmers and the police also opened fire in the air. As expected, the opposition parties have joined the protest and the heat is spreading to other projects as well. The main contention here is that farmers are not ready to part with their land under GO 123 as they feel that the compensation promised under this GO is not sufficient.  They want to be compensated adequately under the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, which has a R