Concern over the irrigation scam in the state has now reached the Centre, with civil organisations working on dams and their socio-economic aspects, asking the Prime Minister to intervene.
The open letter to the Prime Minister, dated October 4, has been drafted by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, with 25 other signatories including organisations such as the National Alliance of People’s Movement, Shramik Mukti Sanghatana, besides academicians and activists working in the arena.
The letter seeks the PM’s intervention pointing to correspondence by whistleblower chief engineer Vijay Pandhare to the state government, Maharastra’s poor track record in irrigation, ongoing public interest litigations and specific instances of wrongdoing in dams in Vidarbha and Konkan.
The letter calls for an independent scrutiny of all irrigation projects since 1995, reviewing design of the project, current status, projected and actual costs, dam safety requirements etc. It also calls for a stay on all further technical, forest, environment and financial clearances to dams in Maharashtra until this scrutiny is complete.
The organisations have asked for a CBI probe into the material used for building Lower Tapi, Hathhur and Tarali dams that Pandhare, in his letter to engineers, has pointed out as structurally poor and unsafe.
Pointing to a nexus between contractors, politicians and bureaucrats, the organisations have also slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) for turning a blind eye to the huge ecological impact of such dams.
The letter has estimated that dams around Mumbai can submerge 6,000 hectares of forests in Western Ghats and displace 25,000 tribals.
One of the important demands made in the letter is that environment impact assessment notification should be amended to ensure all large dams, irrespective of their purpose, are included for environment clearance including public hearings.
Currently, only projects for drinking water require an NOC from the forest department.