The villagers who stand to lose their land if the Sarambala dam comes up on river Dabhil in Sawantwadi taluka of Sindhudurg district accuse the authorities of trying to force them out.
“We have fertile land for agriculture and horticulture on both sides of the river Dabhil. It’s like the river Nile,” said Balkrishna Gavas, one of the project-affected villagers.
Villagers alleged that in September last year, officials from the collectorate video-recorded an informal meeting on land acquisition.
“They wanted to pass off the discussion as a public hearing. But we protested since a public hearing cannot take place unless the environment impact assessment (EIA) report is submitted and put in the public domain. This has not happened,” said a project-affected resident.
A year later, in September, the collector’s office again displayed eviction notices on the walls of the Shree Mauli Devi temple because villagers have not been accepting them. This was followed by a meeting between villagers and officials in October that saw severe opposition to the project.
Officials, however, claimed that project-affected villagers are unhappy with the alternative land offered to them. “The new location has not been decided as yet. To compensate for the loss of the farmland, 10 hectares is needed,” said an official from the collector's office.
In 2006, the state irrigation department diverted by 100 metres the course of river Dabhil. Villagers protested and work was stopped.
At present, a public interest litigation filed by a non-government organisation, Awaaz Foundation, to declare the Sawantwadi-Dodamarg region an eco-sensitive zone is being heard in the Bombay High Court.
“The department had no environment clearance to divert the river or to dump mud on government forest land,” said Stalin D of Vanashakti, a non-government organisation.
In January 2011, the Science and Technology Park in Pune was asked to prepare the EIA report, which is yet to be submitted. According to government rules, a public hearing has to take place to record views of project-affected villagers only after the EIA report is submitted.