WORLD ANTI DAM DAY
NO DAM ON RIVER PINDER
There have been continuous demonstrations by the dam- affected people of the Pinder valley since January 20, 2011 against the Devsari HEP in several affected villages. On the occasion of the World Anti- Dam Day, on March 14, there was a large demonstration under the banner of Bhu- Swami Sangharsh Samiti and Matu Jansangathan in the three villages which served as venues for the drama of project ‘public hearings’. An effigy of the Land Acquisition Act was also burned by the people.
Several prominent leaders of the area were at the agitation. In Kotsari, Subhas Parihar of Matu Jansangathan, Jagdish bhai from village Sunau and Pansingh from village Paithani led the demonstration. In Chepdu, women leaders like Mamta Shah and Kamla Ben were at the forefront with Pushkar Shah. In Deval, Neema Ben of Phaldia, Sunita and Balwant bhai of Talot, Dinesh Misra of village Haat, Munni Devi of village Kael, K D Misra of Deval and Mahipat bhai from Devsari led the people in protest against the Devsari HEP. They were joined by Vimal Bhai.
The people of the Pinder valley stand in opposition to the destruction of the valley and the construction of the dams. Protests since January 20, 2011 have been going on in affected villages like Paithani, Paingad, Sunau, Devalgad, Soona, Tharali, Chepdu, Nandakesari, Ichholi, Hatkalyani, Talaur, Padmalla, Kothi, Ghaud, Khirkot, Atthu, Boragad, Chaud, Kunnipartha, Milkhet, Sorigad, Savaad, Thermalchoting, Lausriban, Mandoli, Khesbalad, Pinau, Bakh, Harmi, Ulanghra, Tudri, Kotha. People aware of the situation, must remember that the ‘public hearings’ of the project were stopped by the people twice, as they had been kept in the dark about the proceedings and were misled. Yet, this public hearing was declared a success. In the environmental ‘public hearing’ conducted on January 20, 2011 the government, the administration and the dam company were seen working together, securing each other’s interests. It is clear that this dam is being forced on the people. The dam- affected of the Mandakini valley are rotting in jails, the Alaknanda valley has been destroyed by the unyielding attacks of one dam project after another. The displacement from the Tehri dam continues to date.
While on the one hand, the dam- affected people are being wooed into voting and supporting various political parties to power; on the other hand, more than a 100 villages have been affected by earthquake induced land submergence and no rehabilitation policy has been framed for them. What will be the fate of the displaced by the Devsari HEP? Pansingh from village Paithani, one of the people leading the agitation in the village Kotsari, said “the sole objective of the dam company (Satluj Jal Vidhut Nigam) is to generate power; they neither know nor care for the people and the environment of the valley.” The people of the Pinder do not want the same to happen to them. Around Rs. 1351.33 crore are being spent on the dam project. The villages around the 17.903 km long and 6.90 m wide tunnel are likely to face earthquakes and induced submergence, drying of water sources and cracks on walls, etc. “Has the dam company made any offices in the villages surrounding the tunnel like Soona and Silodi?” asks Mamta Shah, a woman leader of the demonstration in village Chepdu. Till now, the State Government has not handed over the 195.2555 Hectares of forest land that the project demands. However, the land of 16 villages has been handed over to the project. The environment, which includes the protection and conservation of forests, water resources and land, is also being polluted and degraded. When the Uttarakhand of beautiful river prayags is rapidly changing into the Uttarakhand of dam reservoirs, then the Pinder valley, with its culturally and spiritually important prayags like the pranmati cannot be allowed to submerge.
The government- administration-dam company have used the draconian Land Acquisition Act, 1894 to snatch away the lands of 15 villages. While the Section 4 notices were announced in November, December and January, they were only published in the newspapers in February. It is clear that the company was only waiting to get the ‘public hearing’ over and done with, which it succeeded in doing on January 20, 2011, amidst wide protests from the public. The application of Section 17 along with Section 4 has resulted in the right of the people to oppose the acquisition of their lands being taken away. Section 17 is the emergency clause, which is to be used ‘in case of urgency’. In situations such as floods- drought- wars, etc the District Collector is authorised to exercise this clause, not in opposition to the people. “This is worse than the British Raj! No right to speak out in opposition of acquisition of your own lands?” said Mahipat Bhai of Devsari.
The Dam has not yet received its environmental clearance. How has the dam company started construction? Is the Government aware of this? The people want the cancellation of the proposed Devsari HEP with immediate effect. In support of this demand, demonstration were held in the villages of Kotsari, Chepdu, and Deval, villages where the project’s ‘public hearings’ were held. Vimal Bhai of Matu Jansangathan said,” The struggle against Big Dams will continue.”