Himachal project to provide water to Delhi faces protest

August 9th, 2008 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Aug 9 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government’s decision to provide water to Delhi through the proposed 40-MW Renuka dam is likely to hit a roadblock, with people in the area protesting land acquisition for the project. Around 500 residents under the Renuka Dam Jan Sangharsh Committee are protesting the construction of the dam - on a tributary of the Yamuna river in Sirmaur district - that will displace people in over a dozen villages.

Residents say the government has not taken them into confidence about the project that will submerge their fertile lands. They have also expressed apprehension that it will threaten the existence of the Renuka wetlands, which lie downstream.

“We have decided that until all oustees get residential and agricultural areas of their choice, they will not vacate their villages,” said Ram Singh, whose fields and houses will be submerged with the construction of the dam.

Another villager, Naresh Kumar, said: “For quenching the thirst of Delhiites, the government is hell bent upon taking away our livelihood.

“We would prefer a watery grave to surrendering to the government our land that has been tilled by our forefathers.”

Yoginder Kapila, the convenor of the Sangharsh Samiti, told IANS that “every affected family must get at least 10 bighas of agriculture land at the new settlement and the compensation should be decided by taking us into confidence”.

He rued that the state government had started the land acquisition process without taking the affected families into confidence.

The proposed Rs.24-billion project will not only supply water to Delhi but also generate 40 MW of power for Himachal Pradesh.

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. Recently, the Delhi Jal Board agreed to initially provide Rs.3 billion to the hill state so that construction work could be initiated.

Sirmaur’s deputy commissioner Pushpinder Rajput said a survey had been started to ascertain the area that would be submerged in the dam waters. He said the affected families would be taken into confidence before starting the land acquisition process.

“The process to identify the land where the affected villagers will be rehabilitated is also going on,” Rajput added.

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