Visit to continue tomorrow as well: Serious issues and impacts exposed.
4th January, 2014: The Expert Committee appointed by MoEF to appraise and approve the environmental works related to the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Canals visited the villages in the Khargene and Khandwa districts today. Dr. B.P. Das, Chairman, Mr. T.K. Nair, Bio Diversity Expert, Dr. B.B. Director, Director, (River Valley Projects), MoEF, Mr. Lakhwinder Singh, Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Bhopal were the Committee members who visited the villages to inspect the progress and problems related to construction of canals, the on-farm development works and other works as a part of command area development carried out in both the projects as well as the water logging, salinization due to seepage and canal breaches in various villages.
The Committee was accompanied by tens of senior officials of NVDA in more than a dozen vehicles as also tens of villages in the canal affected and command areas. The field level assessment of the progress of canal and CAD works in the Phase-I areas of OSP and ISP brought out vividly that while each distributaries in this Phase are built and have waters released, to cover the command area upto a few thousand hectares in each, it is also seen that there are large chunks of lands falling outside the command area, which are benefitted and while many land holdings in the command area also not irrigated in the command, but by pumps and pipelines put up directly on the canals.
It was also seen that while in certain areas, without canal irrigation, large tracts right from the beginning of the command area are also seriously affected and losses worth crores of rupees are borne by the farmers, without compensation being paid. The Committee was given details lists of farmers, whose land was affected even without acquisition and the farmers expressed their anguish and anger, as in Mokhangaon, Toklai, Chhota Kelva and Gujarkhedi. While the NVDA officials showed certain areas where distributaries or minors were built, committee observed that lining was non-existent for main canals from 58 to 65 kms at least and in almost all distributaries, the lining was not of cement, but of cement blocks, not properly joined. The Committee reiterated that lining is a must and water should not be released without full lining. NBA has warned that the problem of water logging would be worst as was anticipated in many expert Committee reports and as happened in Bhakra Nangal, where 2 lakh hectares of land was affected and huge losses occurred.
At few places, the chairmen of the Water Users Associations which were formed in the command area villages long back tried to belittle the issues of the canal-affected farmers and questioned their demanding compensation and completion of the pre-conditional works. However, at the end of the day, people in village after village and even the committee accepted that losses to the title holder farmers must be assessed and paid. In the concluding heated discussions the Committee has to accept that a number of recommendations in its earlier reports remain to be fulfilled and once again entrusted the responsibility to the NVDA officials. These include compensation for muck deposited illegally on un-acquired lands, review of already irrigated areas in the villages on the banks of Narmada, affected by Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar dams,
The Chairman also admitted that the Back Water Levels of Sardar Sardar Project are yet to be finally calculated and this needs to be considered so as to ensure no overlap of BWL and command area. Committee would continue to visit villages in the second phase of OSP and if possible, ISP tomorrow. This will include visit to villages where nothing short of disasters occurred in the monsoon of 2013 due to massive canal breaches. The affected farmers would also follow the Committee and give them a concluding brief tomorrow. NBA also notes that there is an interim order on the ISP and OSP canals passed by the Hon’ble High Court. A detailed repose to the same shall follow soon.
Deven Tomar Mukesh Bhagoria Jamsing Richa