Visakhapatnam, May 18
THE Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh, has urged the State Government to give up the proposed mega project on the Godavari at Polavaram in West Godavari district, meant to irrigate 7.27 lakh acres and transfer Godavari water to the Krishna basin to stabilise the Krishna delta.
The project, according to the forum, is "an unmitigated disaster from the point of view of Girijans, as it entails submersion of 276 villages inhabited mostly by Girijans."
Dr K. Balagopal, General Secretary of the forum, and Mr V.S Krishna, Secretary, believe the State Government is taking up the project in a hurry without conducting any scientific studies on its impact on the lives of tribals and obtaining the necessary clearances from the Union Government.
In a report published in the latest issue of the forum's bulletin, Dr Balagopal says 276 villages in East Godavari, West Godavari and Khammam districts will be submerged, and nearly 50 per cent of the population in these villages consists of Girijans.
According to Government estimates, only 213 villages will be submerged, but that is an erroneous calculation, according to Dr Balagopal. Citing the study conducted by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, he says 276 villages face submersion.
It is estimated that 27,798 families (1.17 lakh people) will be displaced and uprooted from the villages. The Government's contention that the project is essential to irrigate large tracts of upland areas in the two Godavari districts and for the stabilisation of the Krishna delta is not tenable.
The policy of uprooting many Girijans from their natural habitat to provide irrigation facilities to farmers' lands in the plains "is against all canons of equitable distribution of water."
Dr Balagopal suggests that, instead of taking up the mega project, the Government could take up several lift irrigation schemes on the Godavari in the tribal tracts and contemplate a smaller diversion scheme at Polavaram to provide irrigation to some of the lands in the plains.
Dismissing the assurances given by the State Government that a comprehensive rehabilitation and resettlement package will be prepared for the Girijans and others, he argues that, "The track record of the Government in these matters is too well known to inspire any confidence."
He is also against the inter-basin transfer of waters (80 tmc ft of waters from Godavari to Krishna for stabilisation of the Krishna delta), as it may harm the interests of the Telangana region in lean years.
"It will change the water-sharing equation with the upstream riparian States of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The result will be that the water-starved regions of Telangana and Rayalaseema will suffer," he argues in the report.