Dubious benefit

Widespread protests over Subarnarekha's revival

By C Balaji
Published: Wednesday 15 February 2006

the Jharkhand government's revival of the Subarnarekha Multi-purpose Project (smp) has triggered tribal protests in the state. The tribals are opposing the project for the submergence and displacement it will cause in large areas in East and West Singhbhum districts.

"The project would submerge nearly 145 villages in East and West Singhbhum. 2-3 lakh tribals would be displaced, severely affecting their livelihoods. The government hasn't even announced a compensation package as yet," says Mukesh Muram of the Adivasi Visaph Sangh in West Singhbhum.

The project has been divided into five segments -- Chandil dam, Ichha dam, Galudih barrage, Kharkai barrage and their micro-distribution networks. The Chandil project got over by 2001 and generates around 1,000 mega watts of power. The Iccha section was to serve the irrigation and drinking water needs. But its construction was stopped due to protests and lack of funds. It is this part of the project that is being revived. The Rs 4,000 crore project, being funded by the World Bank and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, is scheduled to be completed by 2008.

The project would also encroach upon the Dalma sanctuary spread over both the Singhbhum districts. But according to B K Tripathi, administrator, smp, "The Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court has made three recommendations: formation of an elephant corridor on the left bank of Chandil canal covering 15 km, development of an eco-sensitive zone in a 500 m periphery of Chandil south canal and afforestation on at least 1,800 hectares of non-forest land."

The project would provide irrigation facilities to 2.65 lakh hectares in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal and provide water to the industrial town of Jamshedpur, Tripathi added.

However, Xavier Dias of the Bindra Institute of Research and Action, an ngo , said, "The Jharkhand government is under pressure from the Orissa government to revive the project as it would link the Ganga, Subarnarekha and Mahanadi rivers and thus benefit other states. The real purpose behind the project is to dump industrial waste from the mines in Jharkhand into the dam."

But according to S Bhowmik, additional director, the Union ministry of environment and forests, "We have neither got any proposals nor any detailed project report from the Jharkhand government in this regard, as yet."

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