Himachal dam faces agitation over land acquisition

December 6th, 2008 - 9:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Dec 6 (IANS) A multi-billion rupee hydroelectric project in Himachal Pradesh that will provide drinking water to Delhi once complete has run into trouble with residents of the area threatening an indefinite agitation against land acquisition for the dam.The Rs.24-billion Renuka dam, to be constructed on the Yamuna river in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh, will not only quench the thirst of the people in Delhi by providing 23 cubic metres of water per second but also generate 40 MW of electricity for the hill state.

However, more than 1,500 residents of over dozen villages, who face the threat of displacement due to the project, have come together under the banner of Renuka Bandh Jan Sangharsh Samiti (RBJSS) and decided to launch the indefinite agitation from Dec 10.

“We will launch an indefinite agitation against dam authorities from Dec 10. We will not allow officials to carry out survey work at the site,” samiti convener Yoginder Kapila told IANS Saturday.

The agitating people said the government did not take them into confidence before starting the land acquisition process. According to them, the project many have ecological repercussion and endanger Renuka lake, which lies downstream of the proposed dam and is of religious importance to them.

“Pre-construction activities have already begun without taking the affected villagers into confidence. If the government did not provide us suitable compensation, we would prefer a watery grave rather than surrendering to the government our fertile lands,” Kapila said.

Prem Singh, a Congress legislator from the nearby Nahan constituency, said the government had not so far identified land to rehabilitate the affected villagers.

“The government should first identify the land for the resettlement of the affected families, and then initiate the process to acquire land,” he added.

Himachal Pradesh Power Corp Ltd (HPPCL) director Tarun Kapoor said all affected villagers would be compensated and the land acquisition process would begin after taking them into confidence.

The Delhi government has initially provided Rs.3 billion to the state for starting the land acquisition work.

“Every family who owns irrigated-cultivable land will get compensation between Rs.50,000 and Rs.250,000 per bigha,” he said.

“The average rates assessed for the compensation would have been Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000 per bigha for barren lands; and Rs.150,000 per bigha for cultivable land,” Kapoor said.

“We have constituted a committee to start negotiations with the affected villagers and settle a compensation package worth Rs.120 crore (Rs.1.2 billion),” he added.

The idea of the Renuka dam was first mooted in 1990 at an estimated cost of Rs.4 billion, but the project was delayed for many reasons.

As per an agreement between Himachal Pradesh and New Delhi, the hill state will bear the cost of installing the electrical mechanical equipment, including turbine generators, while the Delhi government will pay for the dam and other construction costs.

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