Although the prime minister's programme to lay the foundation stone at the 710 mw Koel Karo hydel project on March 5 was shelved, the anti-dam lobby demonstrated its muscle by gathering at Torpa village, 95 km from Ranchi. A 20,000-strong crowd -- mainly tribals -- prevented the Bihar chief minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, from laying the foundation stone.
Presiding over the meeting, the central president of the Koel Karo Sangharsh Samiti and elected chief of the Guria clan of the Mundas, Raja Paulose Guria, said, "We will not let our ancestral lands be destroyed. What has the government done for us? We have been happy here without them."
Others who addressed the gathering were Vishwanath Bhagat, Bernard Mincap, Vasant Kumar Lomga, Niyal Tirkey -- all from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Mangal Singh Bobonga (JPP).
The project envisages a 55 metre high dam across the north Karo river, and a 44 metre earthen dam over south Koel river. It is slated to affect 115 villages. About 1.25 lakh people may be displaced by the dam.
Protesters fear that the government might resort to forced evictions. State government sources indicated that Laloo Yadav was determined to get the project off its feet.
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