Centre drops Par-Tapi-Narmada project in Gujarat after protests from tribals

Move comes after Union Ministers hold meetings with Gujarat’s tribal MPs, MLAs

March 29, 2022 11:48 am | Updated 09:24 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

A view of River Narmada in Ahmedabad.

A view of River Narmada in Ahmedabad. | Photo Credit: Paul Noronha

After strong protests from tribals in south Gujarat, the Centre on Monday applied the brakes on the Par-Tapi-Narmada river-link project that was proposed in the Union budget. 

The decision to put the project on hold came after a meeting in New Delhi with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Water Resources Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Gujarat’s tribal MPs and MLAs, including State BJP chief C.R. Paatil. 

The State government has apparently conveyed to the Centre about protests by the local tribals in south Gujarat and its likely electoral impact on the forthcoming Assembly poll in the State. 

According to sources, Mr. Shekhawat has assured the State leaders that if Gujarat was not in agreement regarding the project, it would not be implemented. He reportedly told them in the meeting that the consent of both Gujarat and Maharashtra was required to launch the project and if any State was not in agreement, the project could not be launched. 

The State BJP leaders also alleged that the tribals were being “misled by the Congress ahead of the Assembly poll,” in south Gujarat. 

Earlier, more than 5,000 tribals had gathered in State capital Gandhinagar to oppose the proposed Par-Tapi-Narmada river link project, which the local communities fear will displace residents in south Gujarat. 

Before holding a protest rally in Gandhinagar, thousands of tribals had gathered to register their strong protest in Dangs on March 18. So far, the local residents have held half a dozen rallies and protests objecting to the project, which they claim would destroy their livelihood in Valsad, Dangs and Navsari districts. 

Proposed by the Centre, the project is meant to transfer water from the water-surplus regions of Western Ghats to the water-deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch through the Sardar Sarovar Project. 

Project proposal

Under the project, water was proposed to be taken from seven reservoirs through a 395-kilometre canal. Of the seven reservoirs, one is from Maharashtra and the remaining six are located in Valsad and Dang districts of Gujarat.

The controversial project seeks to link three rivers — Par, which originates from Nashik in Maharashtra and flows through Valsad in Gujarat, Tapi from Saputara that flows through Maharashtra and Surat in Gujarat, and Narmada originating in Madhya Pradesh and flowing through Maharashtra and Bharuch and Narmada and Vadodara districts in Gujarat.

As per the detailed project report prepared by the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), about 6065 ha of land will be submerged due to the proposed seven reservoirs to be built in Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

A total of 61 villages will be affected, of which one will be fully submerged and the remaining 60 partly. The total number of affected families would be around 2,509. 

“They want to destroy tribal villages in order to get surplus water from south Gujarat to Saurashtra,” said Ramesh Chaudhary, a local tribal from Valsad district. 

Opposition support

The Opposition Congress has supported the agitation and protests the tribal communities are holding against the project. 

“At no cost will we allow the project to happen,” said Congress MLA Anant Patel, a leading tribal leader in South Gujarat.

He added that local tribals would lose their residence as well as farmlands if the project was implemented. 

Worried about the spiralling protests by the tribals ahead of the Assembly poll, the State government has maintained that there was no move to start work on the project. 

BJP leaders in south Gujarat also tried to persuade the tribal communities that there was no action on the proposed project so far, while accusing the Congress of trying to instigate the tribals with political motives. 

“On the one hand, the Central government announces that the project would be implemented, while the State administration is denying it. Why does the BJP government not bring out a white paper on the same,” asked Opposition lawmaker Anant Patel, who has been spearheading the protests. 

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