Recommending National Status To Polavaram Project Unfortunate

While the decision, though very belated, by the UPA and Congress to create Telangana State is welcome, recommending national status to the Indira Sagar Polavaram project is highly unfortunate.

Far from being a boon to both Andhra and Telangana, as is being bandied about, this multi-purpose project entails huge devastation. If constructed, Polavaram would be a massive displacer of people numbering over 3.4 lakh from over 300 villages in nine mandals, seven in Khammam (VR Puram, Kunavaram, Chintur, Bhadrachalam, Velerpadu, Kukkunur and Burghampad), East Godavari (Devipatnam mandal) and West Godavari (Polavaram mandal), all of them in the Fifth Schedule area. A majority of those who would be displaced will be Adivasis of the koya and konda reddy tribe. The latter tribe (konda reddy) which is administratively listed as PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group) will actually be in danger of extinction if Polavaram comes up. The project would destroy a large swathe of pristine forest in these areas, apart from parts of Konta block in Dantewada district of Chattisgarh and Motu block of Malkangiri district of Orissa. It will grossly undermine the livelihood of Adivasis who have a symbiotic relationship with the forest.

A close examination of the Polavaram project reveals that it is basically intended to water regions that are already developed and to feed several hugely water-guzzling industrial corridors by the coast. Why should people in such large numbers, that too principally Adivasis and Dalits and other marginalised communities, be subjected to huge deprivation for the greater development of developed areas? Or uninterrupted supply of water to Special Economic Zones and Industrial Corridors?

Significantly, Polavaram will do great injustice to Telangana, particularly the water starved upland areas of north Telangana because it diverts substantial quantities of water away from the Godavari basin districts of the region.

The forest clearance given by the MOEF on July 28, 2010 for the project was the result of plain violation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 on a number of counts. The State government had lied to obtain the clearance telling the MoEF that there were no forest rights to be settled under FRA in the project affected areas. The reality is that gram sabha consent for diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes has not been obtained. In fact, forest rights committees have not even been set up at the gram sabha level. If Vedanta was stopped from mining bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa because of FRA violations, the same must apply to Polavaram too.

The near total silence on Polavaram by even those who have waged a sustained and democratic struggle for Telangana is deeply distressing. It betrays lack of sensitivity to the plight of those, principally the Adivasis, who will have to bear the terrible cost of Polavaram. HRF calls upon all democratic sections to oppose this unjust project, which, if constructed, will displace the largest number of people in India’s history of such projects.

VS Krishna
(HRF State general secretary)

S Jeevan Kumar
(HRF State president)


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