Shramik Mukti Sanghatana appeals to Jayanthi Natarajan not to give final approval

After rejecting a proposal last year, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has recommended clearance of land for the controversial Kalu dam in Thane district, drawing sharp criticism from activists and tribals affected by the project.

A letter to Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, conveyed their “utter shock and dismay” at FAC’s decision earlier this month according green signal to divert 999.328 hectares of forest land for Kalu Dam in Murbad taluka in the eco sensitive Western Ghats region.

The FAC in its meeting on April 3 and 4, agreed to the justification by the Maharashtra government for the project but expressed concern over its “ill-informed commitment” earlier that it will not take up other drinking water projects in the area when it was seeking forest clearance for another dam on Shai river nearby. The FAC noted that the Chief Minister had specifically requested for review of the earlier rejection.

Last April the FAC rejected the clearance since construction had begun on non-forest land without prior approval. It involved submergence of 18 villages and there were issues of connectivity, the dam was located within seven km of a protected area plus the fact that it was located in the eco sensitive zone of the Western Ghats. In addition, the project authorities had not provided resettlement plans, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), technical report on wildlife status, or gram sabha resolutions on Forest Rights Act (FRA) compliance, among other things. However, this time while recommending clearance, the FAC said of the 18 villages, only five were to be fully submerged, six partially and seven lose only land. Three bridges will be built to ensure connectivity and according to the minutes of the meeting, members said there was no need for an EIA since this was a drinking water supply project. In addition FAC accepted the State government’s contention based on the Chitale committee’s report that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) would face a shortfall of 5,985 million litres per day (MLD) by 2031 and Kalu dam was important since it would provide 1,140 MLD.

The FAC said the recommendations of the High Level Working Group on the Western Ghats Panel Report would be binding on the State government and the project authorities and all mitigation measures would have to be undertaken.

Apart from penal compensatory afforestation, it also asked for a cumulative impact assessment of all drinking water projects in the region and flora and fauna studies area to be undertaken by the State government at the cost of the user agency and said that the mitigating measures would be binding.

  • Activists demand action against those responsible for illegal construction of dam

  • Construction on the dam had gone ahead without the forest clearance