A fortnight after local farmers stopped work on the Kalu dam, planned 90 km north of Mumbai near Murbad, they have also rejected the state’s offer of a rehabilitation package.
“We don’t want the dam here, so there is no need for rehabilitation,” said Subhash Gharat, who is leading the agitation. “We are tribal people, who are happy living off our meagre resources.”
The Kalu dam will be built between Murbad and Shahpur talukas over river Kalu in Thane district at a cost of Rs 1,373 crore. The dam, which is expected to have a capacity of 900 million litres daily (MLD), will supply water to the western suburbs of Dahisar, Mira Road and to areas in Virar and Vasai. These areas may not get adequate water supply by 2014, if the farmers continue to protest.
On September 21, farmers from 18 villages had gathered at the dam’s site office and forced work to stop, as the dam is expected to displace 15,000 residents.
“We are not skilled people. Our principal avocation is paddy farming. We will collectively loose 15,000 hectares of paddy fields to the dam,” added Gharat. “We don’t want money because we fear that it will corrupt our young generation.”
On Monday, revenue, relief and rehabilitation minister Narayan Rane had directed officials from the revenue department and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to conceive packages as per demands of the locals. The dam is a joint project between the MMRDA and the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation.
“Rehabilitation of the project affected people is necessary. I have asked officials to deliberate with people before arriving at any decision,” said Rane.
A revenue official, who did not wish to be named, said, “We will talk to the farmers. It’s up to them to accept or reject it.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, is backing the agitation. Party legislator Sanjay Kelkar justified the farmers’ stand. “We will take up the issue again and fight for their cause,” he said.