Vibrant Gujarat?: Traditional handicrafts village of Kutch under threat from proposed steel plant

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The people of around ten villages surrounding Dhamadka, Anjar taluka, district Kutch, are angry. They are protesting against the proposed steel project, which their leaders believe will mean threat to their livelihood. Reverberations of the protests were first heard during the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) public hearing organized at the village on February 4, 2014. “The gathered villagers were of the opinion that they are already facing a resource scarcity in terms of water and land, and the upcoming expansion of the plant with huge production capacity will destroy their meagre resources”, said Ajitsinh Jadeja, sarpanch, Dhamadka group panchayat.
In a statement, Jadeja said the people of Dhamadka would suffer the most. “Kutch, the last frontier of Gujarat, is world famous for its craft skills. The region is home to many thriving traditional arts and crafts which sustain a large number of livelihoods in the area. Dhamadka is a craft village, where Khatri artisans are practicing the hand block printing craft since last 10 generations, now faces the threat of a Steel Plant being set up in its backyard”, it said.
The statement underlined, “The village has a craft turnover of 20 crore through its more than 70 block printing units. There are thousands of craft lovers, designers, tourists that visit the village from all over the world, every year, to see, understand and purchase products made with this great cultural tradition that not only belongs to the village but also to the region, state and the nation.” 

Sarpanch Ajitsinh Jadeja speaks at public hearing
However, now, “the Dhamadka village and its traditional craft is facing threat from a steel plant which plans to extend its capacity on the revenue land of a village with survey no. 405/3, 406, and 407. The plant is intended to make products like MS Steel Ingots /Billets (six lakh tonnes per annum), MS Joists (two lakh tonnes per annum), TMT Bars/Angles/Channels (two lakh tonnes per annum) along with a coal fed captive power plant with capacity of 10 MW.”
“Once the steel plant and the coal fed captive power plant start functioning, it will have adverse effects not only on the artisanal practices of village but also the traditional occupations of agriculture and animal husbandry of the area”, the sarpanch pointed out, adding, “The pollution of the land and water will force them to abandon their traditional craft practices which currently support almost 700 artisans across Dhamadka Panchayat.”
Jadeja contended, “The pollution will create patches on the fabrics that are dried on the ground, and push water tables further down. Evidence suggests that the iron and coal dusts coming out of the plant will do irreparable damage to this thriving traditional craft and traditional occupational practices. The villages of Dhamadka were joined by farmers of 10 surrounding villages who gathered during the public hearing organized in the presence of YD Suthar, regional head, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and district magistrate DB Shah.”
Construction work of the project in progress
He added, “The farmers protested against the company and exposed the borewells they had already dug despite the NOC given the condition that it will not use the ground water for its production purpose.“ At the meeting, Jadeja “provided all the details to the government officials present during the public hearing. They demanded an independent probe of the issue.” 
Jadeja said, in his bid to save the project, Manoj Jain, representing the company, “claimed that the company has started putting green cover around it and planted 1,500 trees. The artisans and farmers protested against these claims stating that there was not a single plantation undertaken by the Company, and that they were furnishing images of castor plants trees which were planted by local farmers in their fields.”
“The villagers gathered also provided details of the vibrant animal husbandry economy in the village due to the dairy movement by Sarhad diary. They feared that the environment pollution of this steel plant will affect the agriculture and animal husbandry adversely. Along with the farmers and artisans of surrounding villages, other village leaders present during the public hearing were Vastabhai of Dudhai, Vikrambhai and Rameshbhai Dangar of Kotda, Kanabhai of Chandrani, Ramdevsinh from Sukhpar and Navinbhai Patel of Sangamner. They all demanded firm and sensitive action from the district administration in the wake of the issues raised by them.”
 
 

Gujarat govt refuses permission to farmers’ rally against Dholera SIR, JAAG terms it “police raj” in Gujarat

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The Gujarat government has denied permission to the Jameen Adhikar Andolar Gujarat (JAAG) to hold a farmers’ rally on February 9 at village Sandhila in Dholera special investment region (SIR) to protest against the SIR. Close on the heels of the state government decision, JAAG said in a statement said this signifies “Police Raj in Gujarat, portents of an emergency.” JAAG wants the Dholera SIR status, comprising 22 villages over an area spanning nearly 920 sq km in Gandhinagar district, to be cancelled, claiming farmers do not want it.
According to JAAG, farmers of the region “have been protesting against the Gujarat government’s so-called development project for the last three years to save their very fertile land and also to fulfill long pending promise of Naramada water for irrigation.” This is the reason why “they decided to put up a show of strength and combined protest against a project which spells destruction and death for them, not development.”, it added.
Pointing out that “a large number of villages, which fell under the Narmada command area, have now been de-commanded, depriving them of their dream of farming their lands with irrigated water”, JAAG has said, the protest was organized to “register farmers’ protest against the draconian SIR Act and to demand the cancellation of the Dholera SIR project.” 
“The fact that the farmers are opposed to the Gujarat chief minister’s pet Dholera SIR project and that they rather want the Narmada water for irrigating their fields was made known at the public hearing held in Dholera on January 3, 2014”, JAAG said, adding, “Wishing to respect the rule of law and the codes of civil behaviour, the farmers had sought police permission for the same and this has been denied.”
JAAG contended, by denying the permission, the state government has “made an unstated yet implicit admission that Gujarat today faces an undeclared emergency, that the civil and political rights of citizens here remain suspended, and that democracy is no longer alive here”, claiming, “Almost throughout the year, in most parts of Gujarat section 144 remains in force.”
Declaring that it will not cow down by the refusal of permission, JAAG said, “At every public gathering of this kind, the police remains present in huge numbers as if the citizens pose a threat to the nation. Despite denial of permission, the farmers are determined to gather, as declared and announced, on 9thFebruary 2014 at 10 am at village Sandhida. They will gather there and, in a peaceful and non-violent manner, will court arrest.”
Pointing out that the “behaviour of the police under the orders of their political masters is unacceptable and should not to be taken lightly”, JAAG said, “Gujarat has bid adieu to democracy and democratic practices. The Gujarat government, busy in tomtoming its (illusory) record of development to the world, is forcing its own version of ‘development’ down the throats of farmers.”
Pointing towards how permission for protests were denied, JAAG said, “On August 15, 2013, the police cancelled the permission granted for the flag hoisting at the last minute to the protesting villagers in the Mandal-Bechraji SIR area. Then, on October 23, 2013 the permission for the cattle rally from Hansalpur to Gandhinagar was denied to the protesting Maldharis.”
Further, “on January 18, 2014 the cattle rally by the maldharis was stopped by the police, they were beaten with lathis and had cases registered against them. Likewise, the protesting adivasis near the Narmada dam were rounded up just prior to the chief minister’s visit and released only after his appearance in the area was over.”
“Again on December 18, 2013, the police again tried to stop villagers who had gathered to share information about the SIR Act. The people assembled despite several attempts by the police to stop them. And then again on December 28, 2013 the police yet again denied permission to the youths for a motor-cycle rally on the issue of the SIR in Dholera”, JAAG said in the statement signed by its leaders Pradyumansinh Chudasma, Rajbha Chudasma and Sagar Rabari.

नरेंद्र मोदी के दंगों के दाग नहीं धुलेंगे

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गुजरात में हुए 2002 के दंगों को लेकर राजनीति अपने चरम है। आगामी आम चुनावों के पहले उठे दंगों से जुड़ी राजनीति के शोर से सियासत गरम हो रही है। 

कृषि राज्यमंत्री तारिक अनवर ने शरद पवार और प्रफुल्ल पटेल के नरेंद्र मोदी पर दिए बयान पर सफाई दी की नरेंद्र मोदी पर लगे दंगों के दाग नहीं धुल सकते।

तारिक अनवर का कहना है कि लोगों के मन में गुजरात दंगों को लेकर नरेंद्र मोदी की जो छाप छूटी है उसे आसानी से मिटाया नहीं जा सकता। ना ही नरेंद्र मोदी की छवि साफ नहीं है। लिहाजा एनसीपी का बीजेपी के साथ तालमेल का सवाल नहीं उठता है, हालांकि एनसीपी को एनडीए से ऑफर जरूर मिला था। दरअसल एनसीपी और बीजेपी की विचारधार अलग-अलग है। बीजेपी की विचारधार सांप्रदायिक है, इसके अलावा शरद पवार को नरेंद्र मोदी से कोई लगाव नहीं है।चूंकि 1984 के सिख दंगों और 2002 के गुजरात दंगों में फर्क है। गुजरात दंगों में सरकार शामिल थी, जबकि 1984 के सिख दंगों को रोकने की कोशिश हुई थी। ऐसे में गुजरात दंगों के दोषियों पर कार्रवाई होनी चाहिए और दंगा पीड़ितों को इंसाफ मिलना चाहिए।

 

 

Public Hearing for Dholera SIR was based of incomplete, out-of-date facts provided in Environmental Impact Assessment report

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This is in reference to the environmental public hearing (EPH) of Dholera SIR for Ahmedabad district held on January 3, 2014. We have reviewed the minutes of the public hearing that has been uploaded on the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) website. Based on the minutes, we have prepared a list of responses in which the project proponent has agreed, either at the EPH site (Dholera) or in writing, that it will incorporate several issues it had missed out while preparing the final EIA report.

The observations show that the project proponent has agreed to the fact that important studies like water source, power source, and allocation of land were either not carried out or were not done in detail. As the affected people and stakeholders will not be able to review the final EIA and cannot give their inputs now, we request you to cancel the draft EIA report submitted by the project proponent (Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation), and come up with a new EIA report incorporating all the above studies or details which the project proponent has agreed that they do not exist in the EIA report. We also request you to reschedule the EPH as per the EIA notification, 2006, so that people can review the EIA report with all the necessary information and then give consent to the project.

Some of the responses given by the proponent to the questions raised during the EPH are not satisfactory. When questions were raised about lack of any “provision or responsibility in the law for the livestock keepers and resettlement of the local people”, the proponent gave a vague response, that “this area shall be developed under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. Since no land acquisition is involved in it, there is no question of rehabilitation/ resettlement. Farmers can cultivate their land till they wish to do so.”

Also, in the minutes the project proponent has claimed that “the farmers can continue to carry out agriculture on their land, till the time they desire to do so, in the re-allotted land that is given to the farmers after deducting the specific amount of land for basic infrastructure.” The draft EIA report has mentioned that “approximately 14 per cent of the total site area, i.e. 12,804 ha, will be retained as farmland for the short term” and “this land will not be required for development until the city grows beyond a population of about two million inhabitants.” It means once the population of the DMIC exceeds two million, land will be acquired from the farmers!

The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is a homogeneous and ambitious project but then it is also massively resource-intensive. Lakhs of people living in DMIC will get affected, because the project has refused to make them prime stakeholders. Instead of coming up with a very meticulous report at the important stage of public participation, the project proponent hasn’t spared a thought on the key issues like water source, power distribution, and allocation of land. Hence, we request you to cancel the EPH and demand a new draft EIA with details that the proponent has agreed to (in the minutes of EPH) and then hold EPH.

Following responses, cited in the minutes of the EPH by the project proponent, indicate insufficient study:

 

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Only a few huts remain in the area of Dholera SIR where sea shore is shrinking

1. The project proponent has agreed in the minutes that on the basis of new “data, based on new satellite image, new survey and in consultation with the Central Salt And Marine Chemical Research Institute, Bhavnagar, the new Coastal Regulatory Zone lines shall be defined.”

2. People demanded increase in buffer zone of village from 150 to 500 metres, for which project proponent has assured that “the procedure to extend it to 500 mertres will be initiated.”

3. Regarding the objection to decommand the Narmada irrigation, the project proponent has responded that Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd has decided to provide canal in this area.

4. The project proponent has agreed that “details regarding environmental changes of village Bavaliyari and nearby region will be incorporated in the Final EIA.”

5. The project proponent has agreed in writing that “since Dholera SIR development would adopt maximizing re-utilization of wastewater and use of recyclable wastes, a detailed framework on waste management will be developed based on the latest technology options available for adoption. Moreover, Water Resource Management Planning and Waste-Resource Management Planning will be in concurrence.”

6. The project proponent has agreed that “precise power distribution details for various phases with respect to total energy demand of 1,700 MW will be worked out at a later point of time. If possible, these details will be included in the Final EIA report.”

7. One of the responses says, “The fact that you felt the Draft EIA to be representing information on various sources of water to be haphazard is acknowledged. Improvements in the Final EIA report will be made, to represent water source details with quantity for various phases of project to the best extent possible”.

8. Regarding comments on sources of water, the response was, “While preliminary  feasibility is established, a detailed feasibility study is in the process of being commissioned to plan the proposed solution of further treating the treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants of Ahmedabad city and using it as a source for industrial grade water demand. Large environmental benefits are anticipated by further treating the wastewater from the sewage treatment plants of Ahmedabad.”

9. The Development Plan of Dholera SIR is prepared based on record of existing village map of the revenue department, which are old and not updated. The work of re-survey is done by the state government. After receiving new certified maps from the revenue department with necessary changes will be prepared.

10. The state government has initiated the exercise of resurvey in the entire area, and the process of record promulgation in 22 villages covered under Dholera SIR has been taken up. After completion of the same, the authority will take the necessary action.

11.  Regarding power requirement for the Dholera SIR, the response was, “Environmentally compatible power generation facilities to meet the power needs for Dholera SIR will be planned either within Dholera SIR and/or as part of the DMIC Development Corporation’s comprehensive power infrastructure augmentation plans for various DMIC nodes, including Dholera SIR.”

12. For about 15 km East of Bavaliyari village exists the Gulf of Khambhat, and this coastal area is experiencing chronic erosion due to tides, at an average rate of around 1 cm per day. The Mandvipura village near to Bavaliyari has already lost its gamtal due to such coastal erosion. This fact is also in the records of the revenue department. The response was, “The Development Plan of  Dholera SIR is prepared, based on the record of the existing village map of the revenue department. The work of re-survey is done by the state government. After receiving new certified maps from Revenue Department necessary changes will be done accordingly.”