The Invisible Fishermen Of The Godavari
The Andhra Pradesh government has a grand vision for industrial development, and the Polavaram Dam across the Godavari is essential to it. But the dam will submerge 276 villages, displacing farmers and fisherfolk.
At Rajahmundry, in the middle of my journey to the submergence zone of the Polavaram Dam (Indira Sagar) in Andhra Pradesh in search of fisher communities, I came across the official four-page advertisement supplement issued by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (APIIC), dated June 30, 2010. The advertisement highlights “10 Things Good with Godavari—timeless river, rice bowl of south India, rich agriculture, natural resources, social infrastructure, connectivity, access to seaports, a willing administration, peaceful politics, and big players already there”. The “big players already there” include Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), Reliance, and Cairn Energy.
The Godavari river is a major waterway originating in the Western Ghats at Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra, and flowing eastward across the Deccan Plateau to enter Andhra Pradesh at Kandhakurthi in Nizamabad district, where it turns southeast to finally empty into the Bay of Bengal. It travels a total length of 910 miles from its origin. Rajahmundry, known as the “cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh”, is the largest city on the banks of the Godavari, and the river, also known as Dakshin Ganga, is at its widest here—approximately 5 km from the town to the other bank at Kovvur.
While these are the Godavari’s physical characteristics, the river enters a contested arena in political terms on the question of “utilisation” of a river “wasting into the sea,” as is often quoted. Even as I write this, former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu is being held in custody in Maharashtra for voicing his opposition to the Babli project that has been a bone of contention between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Apart from Babli, the Telugu Desam Party (and other parties, when it suits them) has been opposing 13 “illegal” (as their text messages to media persons, including this writer, say) projects planned by Maharashtra on the Godavari. It’s a different matter that the State of Andhra Pradesh has commenced the ambitious Polavaram project on the Godavari, which will be affected if projects are initiated upstream of the river, in Maharashtra. The ambitious Polavaram project is a major, multi-purpose irrigation project across the river in West Godavari’s Polavaram mandal, some 34 km upstream of Rajahmundry.
In all the talk in the political sphere, the people who stand to lose their lands, livelihoods, homes (in this case, tribal communities, fish workers, dalits, etc) remain invisible.
Fisher communities settled along the Godavari in the Polavaram submergence zone belong to the caste groups Pallis, Vadderlu, Jalarlu and Gudallu; some like to be referred to as “Agnikula Kshatriyas”. In the official caste records, they come under ‘A’ and ‘D’ categories of the backward castes (BCs).
Polavaram Dam will submerge a total area of 38,186 hectares, including 22,882 hectares of un-irrigated (rain-fed) agricultural land, 12,801 hectares of what is called ‘poramboke’/government or wasteland), and 3,223 hectares of forest land. Officially, over 276 tribal villages in the agency areas of East and West Godavari districts and Khammam district (of which 274 are in the Fifth Schedule area) will be submerged. Villages that will go under first are in the Polavaram and Devipatnam mandals (in West and East Godavari district respectively), followed by Chintur, Kunavaram, V R Puram, Kukunuru, Velairpadu, Burugampadu and Bhadrachalam (in Khammam district). The project will also submerge villages in Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
Livelihoods that will be affected include agriculture (settled and shifting), forest-based livelihoods (collection of minor forest produce, etc), livestock rearing (cattle, goats, and backyard poultry), and fishing.
The States of West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh produce about 50 per cent of total inland fish production in the country. Nearly 70 per cent of the 0.71 million fisher workers in India, fish in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and other inland waters. And still there is no suitable policy catering to the rights of fish workers, especially those displaced by dams.
How does the government view the displaced fisherfolk? Perhaps in the government’s narrow vision, the fishermen of the Godavari can move and fish in locations that are not affected by their plans to use the river for power-generation. The fact that these communities have indeed moved along the river for centuries works against them, because it absolves the government of the responsibility to compensate them for their now-settled existence and livelihood.
Fisher communities/fish workers move with the river’s flow, depending on the nature of changes in fishing and the amount of fish catch. A decline forces them to move to newer territories to fish; where the catch is good, they stay. Policies also force movement on these communities. For instance, Kapileswarapuram may soon not be home to pulasa (a fish variety) if the sand mining there continues unabated, thanks to government sops to sand mining contractors by way of roads etc for the movement of heavy machinery.
The fish workers who stand to be displaced by the Polavaram project do not claim any ownership over the river, or its fish. They simply see their vocation as hereditary—they were born to fish and that is what they will do, they say. All they want is that this be recognised by the government.
“Vaalu Godaari ki Godaari ivvaru kada?” (“They won’t give us Godavari for Godavari, will they?”) asks Malladi Posi of Manturu (in East Godavari district) ironically, looking straight into my eyes. “Perhaps we have to go elsewhere, looking for a river, if not Godavari,” reflects Sangani Eswara Rao of Kachluru in Tunnur panchayat, East Godavari district.
Malladi Posi and Eswara Rao are fishermen, belonging to the Palli caste, from villages along the river Godavari that are threatened by displacement by the Polavaram Dam. Posi and Rao’s words throw up deeper questions: For whom does the Godavari flow? Just as tribal communities seek land for land, and forest for forest, can these fishermen seek a river for a river in compensation? Is the Godavari meant only for industry or agriculture, not for fishermen/fish workers? Whose river is the Godavari? What about those whose lives and livelihoods depend on “hunting” fish (caapala veta, as they call it, rather than ‘fishing’, which would be caapalu pattadam)?
These questions highlight the plight of men and women whose lives are more closely linked with the Godavari’s flow than anyone else’s. Should the Polavaram Dam see completion, these communities could lose their identity forever as they join hundreds and thousands of wage labourers on construction sites or in agricultural fields.
There is no mention of fisher communities in the R&R (relief and rehabilitation) statistics of the Polavaram project; in a strange paradox, they are not counted as part of the population of the “agency areas”. Although, they have fished in these waters for centuries, subtle changes in their settlement patterns were never important enough to be recorded by census officials. When it comes to voting, however, they do seem to count as they have ration cards.
How can a people be compensated for the loss of a river? Perhaps the calculations could begin from the losses these fish-hunters/ fish workers of the Godavari are likely to suffer.
“There can be use rights, but not property rights in relation to water,” says Ramaswamy Iyer, former Secretary, Water Resources, Government of India.
A river must be seen as a shared natural resource rather than a common property resource (CPR). The idea of property is problematic and part of a commercialised view of natural resources, with exploitation built into it. Indeed, there needs to be discussion on referring to a river or any natural resource as a common property resource, considering the inherent problems within the larger global political economy. When one speaks of rivers, pastures, grazing land as “property”, a whole new cycle of asserting rights through ideas of state and power begins, where the marginalised have to prove the onus of owning something they have never considered their property in the first place. The simplest example is the way fishermen build temporary shelters along the banks of the Godavari to fish for five to six months a year. Tribal communities do not question or place ownership rights over the sand and banks that may physically be part of their village. Sharing a natural resource like a river, a mountain, a forest has simply been an extension of their lives, an aspect currently being questioned in the construction of Polavaram Dam and the whole R&R exercise.
Ramaswamy Iyer adds: “The idea of CPR is indeed problematic when it comes to rivers, but it is useful to think of all water sources (rivers, lakes, ponds, groundwater aquifers) as being neither state property nor private property but as belonging to the community and held in trust for the community by the state. This is the public trust doctrine, and the Supreme Court did observe in the Spam Motels case that the public trust doctrine was part of Indian law. However, they have not consistently maintained that position in all cases. Now the Plachimada case is before the Supreme Court, and one hopes that the Supreme Court will make a definitive pronouncement on this issue.
The Supreme Court on October 4 issued notice to the centre on Orissa’s application seeking a stay on the operation of the final approval granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for the Indira Sagar Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh and for a direction to maintain status quo in its execution.
A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Mukundakam Sharma also permitted Maharashtra and Karnataka to file applications for impleading themselves in the suit filed by Orissa against Andhra Pradesh.
The Bench asked Orissa to delete the Union Ministries of Environment and Forest and Tribal Affairs from the list of parties and to retain only the Ministry of Water Resources. The court granted the centre four weeks for filing its response and directed that the matter be listed after five weeks.
In its application, the Orissa government said it came to know about environmental clearance for the project only recently. The conditions stipulated in the July 28, 2010 clearance granted by the MoEF were similar to what was contained in the letter given in 2009 granting in-principle approval. Even while the 2009 approval was pending in court and was a subject matter of adjudication, granting the final approval on the same conditions would amount to over-reaching the Supreme Court’s orders and interference in proceedings. The application pointed out that the project on an inter-state river would have serious consequences of submergence and adverse environmental impact on Orissa territory. Despite this, the centre gave clearance without any intimation or notice to the Orissa government.
Drawing a distinction between the original and revised proposals, the application pointed out that Orissa entered into the 1980 agreement with Andhra Pradesh based on a maximum backwater level of 174.22 feet for a maximum discharge of 36 lakh cusecs as put forth by that state. However, according to the Andhra Pradesh government’s application before the MoEF, backwater spread would go as high as 182 feet for 36 lakh cusecs. Therefore, the basic or most fundamental assumption of fact, on which the agreement was entered into, turned out be wrong.
“The concept of ‘project-affected persons’ (PAPs) goes beyond those who are displaced and includes any persons or groups who are affected in any manner by a project.
“Apart from the submergence of a certain area, dams and barrages have downstream impacts too: they reduce downstream flows and affect the river regime, its capacity for cleaning itself, its function as a recharger of groundwater, its role as the sustainer of aquatic life and vegetation and downstream communities and their livelihoods, the health of the estuary, and so on. Fisherfolk downstream would be among those affected, and any impact studies would have to include them. I think that the EIA (environment impact assessment) would have to cover this, and that the MoEF will go into this.”
Can the Godavari ever be “compensated” then? Does she belong to Andhra Pradesh, or Maharashtra, or Chhattisgarh?
The Godavari needs to be seen as a common pool resource. Today, the state holds sole rights and discretionary powers over the river, either leasing out parts of it (as in the case of Reliance Industry’s “patch” in the Godavari basin, at Gadimoga, by the estuary of the Godavari near the Coringa mangroves, for gas) or diverting a chunk of it towards another delta (Krishna) and towards future industrial development along the Andhra Pradesh coastline.
MAMMOTH DAM WITH MAMMOTH CONCERNS
The AP government is promoting the project over objections from its neighbours Orissa and Chhattisgarh states that decry the project’s adverse impact on local communities.
At the heart of the squabble lies significant environmental and human rights concerns. Project critics say that construction of the dam is already inducing tribal villagers to flee to higher ground to escape inundation, taking with them a particularly unsound farming practice called ‘podu’. This practice entails burning up a patch of forest, farming it for 2-3 crop cycles, and moving on in search of another pristine patch for the same purpose, scarring the earth and destroying forest cover.
The dam is a mammoth US 3-3.5 billion dollar project. First envisaged by the British in 1941, the Polavaram project aims to construct a dam on the mighty Godavari river and divert large quantities of water 174 kilometres through a link canal to the Krishna river. The dam is expected to produce 960 megawatts of power and irrigate 291,000 hectares of land in 15 of AP’s 23 districts, according to a study done by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The total land requirement for the project is 46,060 hectares. Authorities claim that the project will also provide drinking water to 2.5 million people in 540 villages on the project’s route.
The project’s critics claim that human and environmental costs make the project too expensive to construct. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the adverse effects of the project. A study by the MoEF estimated that a combined total of nearly 200,000 people would be affected by Polavaram in AP, Orissa and Chhattisgarh states. Studies carried out by independent groups, such as a 1996 report by Godavari Krishna Vijaywada Link (GKVL) and National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), found that the project would submerge an area of 63,691 hectares, mostly in AP but also in the nearby two states. Half the estimated inundated land will be agricultural, and about five per cent will be forests.
With numbers like these, the controversy is hardly likely to go away. Already, there have been reports that the local adivasis in Chhattishgarh have been moving uphill, axing more forests for farmland and homesteads. Tribals, who remain in their traditional villages have put up notices to discourage AP government officials from visiting. One such notice states: “This is our village and we do not allow any body from the Government.”
Non-governmental organisations have found that uphill migration of the adivasis in Chhattisgarh has contributed to deforestation. A 1994 study by NGOs had estimated that 153,000 acres of forest cover would likely lost due to such uphill migration. Even that rate is now considered conservative.
The Polavaram project has been controversial since the very beginning. Decades after the British mooted the idea, the Central Water Commission (CWC) granted hydrological clearance to the project in 1982. But opposition from activists stalled the project for years. In 2005, the Andhra Pradesh government took up the matter seriously and declared its intention to complete the project in five years. But it has not been smooth-sailing. Public protests and litigation brought the project to a standstill as the AP High Court stayed work till the MoEF granted environmental clearance to the project. That clearance was contingent upon public hearings in the affected areas. Accordingly, a series of such public hearings were conducted by the state, ultimately helping it win clearance from the MoEF in October 2005.
But critics charge that not only will the project threaten indigenous tribes, but the October 10, 2005 public hearings too were conducted haphazardly. They point out that the MoEF clearance was granted in haste after the AP government conducted such hearings in only five places—Khammam, West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Krishna districts. None were held in neighbouring-affected states of Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
Tribal communities that are hardly literate were not provided the executive summaries of the project in their local language before the hearings. Nor were they allowed to raise their voices during the hearings. Besides, he adds, they were not aware about the rehabilitation packages being offered.
The project will submerge at least 30 villages in Chhattishgarh. The Chhattisgarh state government has asked AP state government to review the project, making it clear that it would not allow inundation in its territory because the benefits accrued to it is so minimal.
Meanwhile, Orissa state’s Chief Minister Navin Patnaik also wrote a letter to his counterpart in AP, objecting to the latter’s decision to go ahead with the project without consulting Orissa. He has sought a review of the entire issue and sent a similar letter to the Central Water Commission expressing his displeasure at clearances given without his state’s approval.
It is said that a 2005 survey by National Water Development Agency (NWDA), the project would displace at least 250 villages affecting around 20,000 houses. Other studies have put the number of likely-to-be-displaced villages at more than 300, predominantly tribal villages.
But the protests have fallen on deaf ears, and it is easy to see why India is a huge country with pockets of prosperity amid grinding poverty. So is the case with water. While parts of the country have abundant water, others remain dry for long spells. For politicians and technocrats, the obvious answer lies in technology, especially those that can bend nature to the will of “development experts” in government departments. Tellingly, politicians are loathe to oppose a project that is touted to have such wide benefits. A meeting of all political parties in January this year also gave its tacit approval to the project, though the Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked the state government to reduce the size of the dam to minimise submersion.
Project supporters say that the river inter-linking is crucial for irrigation. They point out that long distance inter-basin transfer of water from surplus basins to deficit areas has been mooted for a long time. A National Perspective Plan (NPP) formulated in 1980 by the central government and CWC identified a number of inter-basin water-transfer links to connect both peninsular and Himalayan rivers across the country. The inter-linking of Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Pennar and Cauvery rivers is one of the four parts of the Peninsular Rivers Development Component of the NPP.
But then the question arises: whose stake is paramount when it comes to building irrigation projects on rivers—agriculture, industry or fisherfolk? And is the Indian state the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to rivers and forests and other natural resources?
While experts have often debated these questions indirectly or directly, the people whose daily lives are affected are never consulted in the matter of resources that should, ideally, be “common” in terms of being “communally” perceived and treated—the way tribal communities perceived their land and forests until they were marked as administrative divisions in the colonial state; or fishermen/fish workers perceived rivers (or seas as the case may be) until they were issued licences as ‘permits’ to define their access to these.
According to Elinor Ostrom: “The resource units or benefits from a common pool resource include water, timber, medicinal plants, fish, fodder, central processing units, and connection time. Devising property regimes that effectively allow sustainable use of a common pool resource requires rules that limit access to the resource system and other rules that limit the amount, timing, and technology used to withdraw diverse resource units from the resource system.”
This does not seem to be the case as far as allocation of use of Godavari waters is concerned, especially when it infringes on the livelihoods of fisher people. And what happens when a major chunk of this common pool resource is diverted for a single/singular economic activity, say industry, especially when it results in the destruction of livelihoods based on that common pool resource? There is no legally-binding provision on the state in this regard, or a space for communities such as fish workers to seek legal redressal.
All concerns were visualised and taken care of in 1980 itself
Highly exaggerated fears expressed by various people, with or without knowledge of the precise nature of the Polavaram Project, have resulted in creating a certain amount of panic among the people of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh (please read Chhattisgarh wherever Madhya Pradesh occurs and Odisha where Orissa occurs) living in the neighbourhood unnecessary.
The Project, originally conceived in 1941-43, is now going to see the light of day in a few years’ time and is unlikely to cause damage and destruction in Andhra Pradesh itself and the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and Orissa to the extent, some people would like to visualise.
A 95-year-long study of the likely impact of the Project with regard to submergence and displacement shows that the highest possible flood in the river at Polavaram will not last more than 24 hours (details later). Secondly, the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have already agreed on all aspects of the Project and had entered into an agreement on April 2, 1980.
These facts are available with the “Further Report” on the “Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal” issued in 1980. Two main reports of the Tribunal headed by Justice RS Bachawat were also issued in 1980, which do not deal exclusively with the Polavaram Project in such details as the “Further Report”. This reporter has quoted extensively from the “Further Report”.
It is evident that the construction of the Polavaram Dam at FRL (full reservoir level) will result in submergence of land in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
One paragraph in this “Further Report”, which is relevant on the issue of submergence of land in the three states’ mention: “The construction of the Polavaram Dam at FRL/MWL +150 feet involved submergence of land in three states namely Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. On the August 7, 1978, the state of Andhra Pradesh entered into an agreement, with the state of Madhya Pradesh which permitted submergence of lands in the state of Madhya Pradesh at Konta due to all effects including backwater effect of the Polavaram Project up to FRL +150 feet but not beyond that limit. The Polavaram Project is to be designed for the maximum probable flood in consultation with the Central Water Commission, so as not to exceed the limit of submergence mentioned above. A similar Agreement was entered into by the state of Andhra Pradesh with the state of Orissa on the December 15, 1978, under which submergence in the state of Orissa at Motu/Konta is not to exceed RL+150 feet due to all effects including backwater effect and the Polavaram Project is to be designed for the maximum probable food in consultation with the Central Water Commission, so as not to exceed that limit of submergence.”
Realising that there would be some difficulty in ensuring what has been mentioned in the above paragraph in maintaining an FRL at +150 feet, the tribunal took the view that the difficulty was capable of solution by taking proper safeguards in order to prevent excess submergence of land in the two states. Andhra Pradesh on its own accord showed willingness to adopt and observe the following safeguards with regard to Polavaram Project:
(1) The design of the Polavaram Dam including spillway, number and size of the gates, crest level, etc be left to the Central Water Commission but the CWC shall keep the FRL/MWL at +150 feet.
(2) The CWC may determine the places and height of the embankments to be constructed in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa to avoid submergence higher than +150 feet at Motu/Konta due to backwater effect on account of construction of the Polavaram Dam.
The “Further Report” inter alia says: “During the course of arguments, learned counsel of Government of India stated in writing that ‘Polavaram Dam with FRL/MWL +150 feet at the dam site proposed by the state of Andhra Pradesh is technically feasible’.”
In connection with the issue of submeregence of land due to the construction of the Polavaram Dam, the state of Andhra Pradesh had filed three tables:
(1) The first table shows the water level for different discharges at various pond levels with and without the Polavaram Dam based on the computerised study made by it;
(2) The second table shows the number of years in a cycle of 95 years in which various flood discharges over 15 lakh cusecs occurred and the duration of the discharge;
(3) The third table shows the area of submergence, number of villages and population likely to be affected in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.
In a cycle of 95 years, a flood of 15 lakh cusecs occurs in 22 years or say once in five years with a maximum duration of nine days, a flood of 20 lakh cusecs occurs in nine years or say once in 11 years with a maximum duration of six days, a flood of 25 lakh cusecs occurs in two years, i.e. once in 48 years with a maximum duration of only three days, and a flood of 30 lakh cusecs has occurred only once in the last 95 years and the duration of the flood was less that 24 hours.
With the maximum food of 36 lakh cusecs, the level at Konta/Motu even without the Polavaram Dam will be RL+166.10 feet according to the computerised studies, that with the Polavaram Dam level at RL 140 feet the increase over and above the natural flood level will be only 4.65 feet and will result in an excess submergence of 23.45 acres of riverbed and 403.26 acres of bank area in Madhya Pradesh and 12.8 acres of riverbed and 504.5 acres of bank area in the state of Orissa and as a last resort these areas can be protected by construction of embankments.
Ultimately on April 2, 1980, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh signed an agreement regarding the design and operation of Polavaram Project. The states of Karnataka and Maharashtra welcomed this agreement. The agreement provides inter alia:
(1) The Polavaram Project spillway shall be designed for a flood discharging capacity of 36 lakh cusecs at pond level of +140 feet and not less than 20 lakh cusecs at pond level of RL+130 feet;
(2) The pond level shall not be kept higher than RL 145 feet in the month of June, if the inflow in flow into the Polavaram reservoir exceeds three lakh cusecs;
(3) On receipt of flood warning from the upper sites and/or due to anticipated inflows into the reservoir requiring regulation, the pond level shall be regulated as provided in the Agreement;
(4) Protective embankments with adequate drainage sluices shall be constructed and maintained at the cost of the Polavaram Project in order to protect the land and properties above RL+150 feet in the territory of the state of Orissa due to the construction of the Polavaram Project or at its option for the payment of compensation; and
(5) Payment of compensation by the state of Andhra Pradesh in respect of properties in the state of Madhya Pradesh likely to be affected above +150 feet because of the construction of the Polavaram Project and rehabilitation of oustees or construction and maintenance at the cost of the state of Andhra Pradesh, the necessary protective embankments with adequate pumping arrangements and/or drainage sluices. The option for either of the above alternatives will be exercised by the state of Madhya Pradesh at the suit of construction of the Polavaram Project.
Thus, by this agreement the parties have settled the controversy with regard to the submergence of the territory in the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh on account of the construction of the Polavaram Project. One may go on and on regarding these agreements but the previous few paragraphs have explained almost everything about the submergence aspect of the project.
Finally, one comment. How did the late YS Rajshekhar Reddy, former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, who revived the dormant project, decided to name it after Indira Gandhi? Another Indira Gandhi Sagar is already in existence across the Narmada river in the Harda district of Madhya Pradesh!
The Godavari, the largest river in South India and the second largest in India, rises near Tryambakeshwar hills in Nashik district of Maharashtra and flows for 910 miles (about 1460 km) through Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh before joining the Bay of Bengal near Rajahmundry where the Dowlaiswaram Barrage, built by Sir Arthur Cotton in the 19the century, exists.
A number of barrages and dams have been built across the river during its long journey through the Decca Plateau. About 30 km north of the Barrage, which is about 60 km from the sea, is the village of Polavaram where a 150-foot-high dam is proposed to be constructed across the Godavari.
This is an old project, conceived by the British when the East and West Godavari districts of today’s Andhra Pradesh were part of the Madras Presidency.
The Polavaram Project will have impact on Karnataka and Maharashtra too. If and when the Project is completed, one canal from the Palavaram Dam will carry the waters of the Godavari to above anicut at Vijaywada, which will result in less discharge of waters of the Krishna river through the Nagarjunsagar Dam across the Krishna. This will mean also less discharge of the Krishna waters from the Sri Sailam Dam upstream of Nagarjunsagar. In effect, this will mean higher availability of waters of the Krishna for both Karnataka and Maharashtra. The other canal will carry Godavari waters to the city of Vishakhapatna, for ever suffering from shortage of drinking water.
By Arabinda Ghose
But the stakes over the Godavari today are high. A changing world economy and liberalisation have opened up spaces for activities that require the whole river, leaving little room for smaller communities with “smaller” needs.
The fisher community feels short-changed. They are not even counted among the project-affected despite the fact that the entire stretch of the river, their livelihood canvas, will be rendered inaccessible to them.
It would be naive not to acknowledge that the Polavaram Dam that is coming up in West Godavari district is being built to secure water for industry. It’s not about providing irrigation to “parched fields”. The investment is big, so is the concept and design. Who will it feed, once it comes up? The “big guys already there”, and others on the way. To quote again from the advertisement mentioned at the beginning of this article:
“APIIC has secured four blocks of oil fields—two offshore and two onshore—covering 4,587 sq km. The proposed Petroleum and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR), covering a sprawl of 603.58 sq km is coming up with an investment of Rs 3.43 lakh crore between Kakinada and Visakhapatnam. An astounding 12 lakh people will be included in the employment footprint of this grand project. The state’s chief facilitator is the shaping hand in 300 industrial parks, covering a cumulative extent of 1.30 lakh acres. In just the last five years, APIIC made available 30,000 acres of land to entrepreneurs, besides accumulating a land bank (for future use) of 82,000 acres. The Kakinada Special Economic Zone is coming up over 10,000 acres in East Godavari straddling Tondangi and Uppadakothpalli mandals. In addition, many other projects are in the pipeline, prominent among them being a 138 km petro corridor with an investment of Rs 2 lakh crore between Kakinada and Vizag.”
Clearly, a big-time river-grab is in progress to feed this grand industrial vision. Do the fisherfolk stand a chance?
By R Uma Maheshwari