Pancheshwar dam: Uttarakhand plans to develop vertical township for rehabilitation
Uttarakhand plans to develop vertical townships equipped with all modern facilities to rehabilitate the people who will be displaced by the proposed Pancheshwar dam, if Uttar Pradesh did not return its assets.
Being a mountain state that has 70% of its geographical area under forests, Uttarakhand has hardly any land left to relocate about 31,000 families likely to be displaced by the mega dam -- a joint project of the India and Nepal governments.
The dam will occupy 9100 hectares of land in three hill districts of Almora, Champavat and Pithoragarh, according to officials.
Irrigation and flood control minister Satpal Maharaj said the state had no land either to rehabilitate the oustees of the proposed dam or carry out compensatory afforestation in lieu of trees that would be lost to its water.
“We hope our land currently under the Uttar Pradesh irrigation department will be returned to us, so we can relocate the oustees,” Maharaj said.
“(In case things do not materialise), as a last resort, we might develop vertical townships equipped with all modern facilities to rehabilitate the people who will be displaced owing to the proposed dam,” he said adding, vertical townships “occupy less space.”
The minister hoped that the Centre would prevail upon the UP irrigation department to return Uttarakhand its land and other assets.
“We need our land back as we don’t have space that we need to carry out compensatory afforestation,” he said.
“(If that doesn’t materialise) the Centre would have to purchase land for us, so we may rehabilitate oustees of the dam or carry out afforestation.”
The issue relating to most disputed assets between the two states remains unresolved after Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.
Maharaj blamed the state bureaucracy for the contentious issue lying unresolved even 17 years after the state’s formation.
“The reason for the distribution of most assets lying unresolved is that the state bureaucracy failed to make its case properly.” he said. “The lacuna persisted not only under our government but also under all the previous dispensations.”
As a result, Maharaj said, “We are maintaining canals under the possession of the UP irrigation department but we can’t remove kiosks etc illegally built on them because that property (canals) doesn’t belong to us.”
Besides, “a large number of canals, the UP government also has under its possession the vast tracts of our land where we could rehabilitate the oustees of the proposed Pancheswar dam.”
Politically, however, Maharaj pointed out that efforts were on to ensure that the UP government “hand over to us all our assets”.
In that connection, he recently called on UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. “I reasoned with him that if his (UP) government returns our land we will rehabilitate the oustees of the (proposed) Pancheshwar dam,” Maharaj said.
“That will pave the way for the construction of the dam and, once it is complete, UP will also start getting its share of water from the reservoir,” the irrigation minister said.
Similarly, the issue was also discussed with Union water resource minister Nitin Gadkari. “In a recent meeting with him, I sought his mediation for an early resolution of the disputed assets and he assured that he would mediate between the two sides,” Maharaj said.