HT Exclusive: ₹46,000-crore Maharashtra highway to crush Nashik vineyards
Mumbai city news: The state government’s Rs46,000-crore ambitious Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway runs through the heart of approximately 80 to 132 acres of irrigated fields, most of them vineyardsmumbai Updated: May 28, 2017 11:24 IST
In just a decade, farmers in Nashik’s Shivde village, 161km from Mumbai, have scripted a success story for themselves.
This village of grape growers on an average produces 1,000 tonnes of global quality table grapes that get exported to Europe, through direct purchase agreements with big companies.
On an average, farmers here earn Rs8 lakh to Rs9 lakh from an acre of vineyard, and for many families annual returns from the land they own is up to ~25 lakh to ~30 lakh. But, 85 of these farming households now stand to lose their vineyards, and their hard earned successes.
The state government’s Rs46,000-crore ambitious Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway runs through the heart of approximately 80 to 132 acres of irrigated fields, most of them vineyards. If the highway is built, it will swallow the lush vineyards, vegetable gardens and 70 natural wells that supply water to at least 240 acres of land on both sides of this bowl shaped village.
And, Shivde won’t be the only village hit. Four other villages in the Nashik district — Pandhurli, Sonambe, Konambe, Sonari — where small grape farmers like Vilas Harak have turned around their fortunes now stand to lose their vineyards.
“We are small farmers here, with average land holdings of 1 to 2 acres and in some cases even less. We have been growing grapes for the past 40 years, but over the past decade, the village started exporting grapes through direct agreements made with Sahyadri Farms and Mahindra Agri Solutions. To ensure global quality produce, we have had to invest substantially in drip irrigation, better farming techniques and intensive labour,” said Vilas Rambhau Harak, who will lose 3 acres of land to the highway.
“The government hasn’t helped in this journey, but it wants to now take away our land and the future of our children in the name of development.” he said. Harak and two of his brothers can make up to ~35 lakh a year from the grapes.
It’s no wonder that villages here are up in arms against chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ pet project, which is being dubbed as the Maharashtra Prosperity Corridor. The farmers from Shivde village, who prevented the district administration from doing a land measurement exercise last month, have tied 45 nooses from the trees in their fields, to show their anger.
The 701-km access controlled highway and the 24 smart cities planned along it, needs 52,050 acres of land. In the Nashik district, 3,120 acres of land (a third of which is completely irrigated) across 49 villages will have to be acquired to build the highway. Another 3,600 acres, comprising 80% agricultural land, is likely to go into building the three proposed ‘nodes’ or smart cities along the highway. “After facing opposition for land measurement in Shivde village, the process has been halted in the Nashik district. We are now trying to engage with farmers and work out the best possible compensation for them,’’ said B Radhakrishnan, Nashik collector, who is heading the land acquisition procedure