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Updated: January 30, 2010 20:09 IST

Resumption of canal excavation disastrous for environment: Medha Patkar

Mahim Pratap Singh
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Social activist Medha Patkar. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma.
The Hindu
Social activist Medha Patkar. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma.

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar has accused the Madhya Pradesh government of resorting to a policy of divide and rule among the farmers affected by the canals of the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dam projects.

She said that due to vested interests, a section of farmers of the Nimaad region of the State, especially of the Khargaun district, have demanded the resumption of the excavation of the canals.

“On the one hand, the State government has violated the directives of both the MoEF and the Water Resources Ministry by delaying the submission of the rehabilitation and command area development plans for both the projects and on the other hand, it is demanding through a section of farmers to resume the excavation of the canals,” Ms. Patkar told The Hindu.

“How can they do that when the excavation of the canals has been stayed by the honourable State High Court and upheld by the honourabale Supreme Court,” she said.

The plans are to be submitted to the expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Ms. Patkar also accused the State government of not being serious about the drafting of the plans and getting them drafted by a Mumbai-based private consultancy firm.

However, she said that such a resumption of the excavation work will prove dangerous for the region, as the rehabilitation and command area development plans for the canals were not yet ready. She said that such an excavation of canals, which could be 100 m wide and 50-60 m deep, would be disastrous for the fertile black soil of the region.

Citing the example of the Bhakara Nangal project, Ms. Patkar said that unplanned excavation of canals led to the destruction of over 2,50,000 hectares of land due to water logging and salt deposition.

“The work for canals was to start with the work for dams and the rehabilitation, impact assessment and command area development plans were to be submitted by 1989 and none of it is done yet,” said Ms. Patkar.

The excavation of the canals has been stayed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court and recently the Supreme Court refused to vacate the stay on a petition of the State government. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on the 3rd of February next.

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