Tiware dam breach: Officials say locals refused to shift to another location
While the construction quality of Tiware dam is being questioned, the role of villagers, who refused to shift to another location when the dam was built more than a decade ago is now being debated after Tuesday’s breach washed away 23 persons.
According to irrigation officials, the locals were asked to shift to another location as their houses were right next to the wall near the jack well, a tower constructed near the bank of the rivulet. The locals, however, refused to shift to another location citing that their farm was nearby.
“During 1999-2000 when the dam was first proposed here, our department had asked them to relocate because it was dangerous to live right next to the dam basin. The residents, however, refused to do so as many of them cultivated land in basin of the rivulet,” said Prakash Deshmukh, chief engineer, water resource department.
Built around 14 years ago, the dam is small and has a storage capacity of 20 lakh cubic metre. On the day when the dam was breached, Chiplun taluka where the reservoir is located reported 147 mm rainfall within 24 hours, the highest in four years.
A local resident from Bhendewadi Narayan Gaikwad, 65, said, “We were not ready to relocate to other places because since our forefathers we have been cultivating the land here. Instead of shifting us, the government should have considered another location for the dam.”
Another resident Shantabai Chavan said few had raised their voice against construction of the dam in the village when it was taken up. “Despite resistance from some, the government built the dam without taking proper care,” said Chavan.
Suresh Shirke, former director-general - WALMI (Water and Land Management Institute), Aurangabad and former superintendent engineer of Ratnagiri irrigation division, however, refuted the reasons cited by Gaikwad.
“It was not difficult to conduct land acquisition drive for any irrigation project. The district collector should issue Section 4 Notice under which land acquisition takes place and money should be given to farmers in stipulated timing,” said Shirke.
The 12 houses from which 23 persons washed away in the breach were from Bhendewai hamlet, part of Tiware village. These houses were right adjacent to the dam wall at jack well.
The villagers were mostly depended on agriculture with rice being the main crop in the area. Their rice fields, according to locals, were also next to their houses, from where the water from rivulet flows. The rivulet eventually merges with Vaishisthi river, which unites with Arabian sea near Dabhol.