Palghar farmers’ fast over diverting Surya dam water enters third day
The state plans to divert water to Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayander, which farmers say means their lands would be denied water
Scores of farmers from Vikramgadh, Dahanu, Jawhar, Mokhada and other areas in Palghar district under the aegis of the Surya Pani Bachav Samiti (SPBS) are on an indefinite fast at Palghar for the past three days to protest the state government’s plan to divert water from the Surya dam to the twin cities of Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayander. The contract to construct the 88-km long pipeline has already been awarded to the L&T Group by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) under the Surya Regional Bulk Water Supply Scheme.
Ramakant Patil, chief convenor of the SPBS who is also undertaking the fast, said the Surya dam, which was built in 1990 over the Kawdas and Dhamni rivers in Kasa taluka,Dahanu, was specifically for irrigational purpose for 19,000 odd acres of farmland in Palghar district. “Now the MMRDA is planning to divert around 89% of the dam water to the above cities so as to solve the cities’ drinking water issues, but we the farmers would be denied water for our land,”said Patil.
“According to information, the government had issued an affidavit to the high court that it would be diverting the irrigational water to the above cities on temporary basis till 1996 and later extended the diversion to 2007. Now the water will be permanently diverted to the above four cities,and we will be left with little water for our farms,” said Patil.
Prakash Lovekar, another activist who is also taking part in the hunger strike said that the Rs457 crore construction cost of the Surya dam,which has a full capacity of 403 mld (million litres per day) was borne out of funds from the Tribal Welfare Department. “Now, the very purpose of providing water to tribal farmers is being diverted to quench the thirst of the urban city-dwellers,”he said.
If the government goes ahead (with the plan to divert water), then in the coming years, Palghar district will be denied of any new drinking water schemes as there would be no water available from the Surya dam for the purpose,Patil said. Lovekar further said that the government would be stopping all pending left and right side canal works of the Surya dam, as the majority of the water will be diverted to the above cities,as there would be no water left in the dam.
Scores of farmers also blocked the peak-hour morning traffic for two hours near Hutatma Chowk, where the agitators are on hunger strike. Some protestors also marched to the office of Dr Prashant Narnaware, district collector,Palghar, for his intervention. The collector was unavailable as he was in Mantralaya due to the ongoing assembly session, a leader said.