The proposed dam on Narmada and Ganjal rivers under the joint irrigation project may affect as many as 23 villages in three districts of Madhya Pradesh.
The construction of the dam, tenders for which have been invited, will submerge 2,371 hectares forest across Harda, Hoshangabad and Betul districts.
According to activists opposing the Morand-Ganjal joint irrigation project, the Environment Minister in 2017 had said the project would get the nod only after Forest Department’s permission to the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA).
According to the legal procedure, without obtaining the Forest Department’s nod applying for the environmental clearance is illegal.
Citing the information received under the Right to Information Act, social activist Shamarukh Dhara of the Jindagi Bachao Andolan, told IANS, “The project didn’t receive any forest or environmental clearance, even than the tenders have been invited”.
He said, the NVDA received terms of reference (ToR) for the dam in 2012, which was valid for two years but was extended to four years. In 2015, public hearings were organised in the three districts, he said and added despite public protest a report estimating its impact was sent to the Environment Ministry for clearance.
Social activist Amulya Nidhi said the project would affect forests in 23 villages and people living in as many as eight villages across the three districts. Theses villages had big tribal population.
In 2012, the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government had estimated the cost of the project at Rs 1,434 crore, but in 2017 it increased to Rs 2,800 crore and the administrative sanction was also given to it.
Now, tenders have been issued for Rs 1,800 crore, which is an estimated outlay for construction and the rehabilitation cost would be extra.
According to the government data, thousands of families in 178 villages are struggling for their lives after the Gujarat government raised the water level in the Sardar Sarovar Dam. They are yet to be rehabilitated and the government is blaming it on fund crunch.
However, the NDVA has invited the tenders for another dam, say.
Activists fighting for the rights of flood-affected people said the government was talking of implementing ‘right to water’, the existing dame was being opposed and the steps were being taken for new dams. They also question the viability of the project.
No NVDA officials agreed to talk on this project.