River-linking project in Gujarat scrapped after protests by tribal communities

CM Bhupendra Patel says government will not proceed with Par-Tapi-Narmada link project

May 21, 2022 09:29 pm | Updated 09:29 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel. File

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Government of Gujarat on Saturday announced that it had scrapped the proposed Par-Tapi-Narmada river link project in south Gujarat after strong protests by tribal communities of the three districts in the region.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Saturday called a press conference in Surat to declare that the controversial project, which was proposed in the Centre’s Budget, has been scrapped. 

“Due to misunderstanding created among tribals, they are upset with the project. The State government had not granted any approval for commencing the project works,” Mr. Patel said, adding that the Gujarat Government had decided to not proceed with the project.

He added that a meeting had been held in the presence of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, Union Water Resources Minister Gajendrasinh Shekhwat, and tribal Ministers and MLAs from Gujarat, on the project and the protests by the local tribal communities. “It was decided in the same meeting that the project would be scrapped,” the CM said. 

During the press conference, Mr. Patel did not take questions, but when asked only said that since local people did not want the project and were opposed to it, the government had decided to respect their demand. 

Earlier, the government had said the project had been suspended, following month-long protests by local tribal communities, with rallies attended by thousands of people in three places. But the protests continued despite the assurances over fears that the project would be implemented and would cause large-scale displacement in the affected districts after the Assembly elections. 

Local Congress legislator and tribal leader Anand Chaudhary had organised the protests and demanded that the State government present a White Paper on the project. 

After the Chief Minister’s announcement, the Opposition reiterated that the CM’s announcement was a “lollipop” targeting the tribal vote bank with the Assembly elections in mind. 

According to the India Water Resources Information System (India-WRIS), the project proposed to transfer water from the “water surplus regions” of the Western Ghats to the deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch, and involved seven reservoirs in north Maharashtra and south Gujarat. Apart from seven dams, the project envisaged three diversion weirs, two tunnels, a 395 km long canal, six power houses, and a number of cross-drainage works in which several dozen tribal pockets in south Gujarat would submerge, displacing their inhabitants. 

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