The Kanhar Dam was conceived 37 years ago and has been in abeyance since last 25 years. It was originally approved by the Central Water Commission in September, 1976 for irrigation purposes and the initial budget was of Rs. 27.75 Crores. Initially, there was some foundation work undertaken but the project was soon stalled due to inter-state issues, lack of funds and strong protests from tribal communities of the region. As per a progress report of the project for 1998-99, the construction work is completely abandoned since 1989-90. Since then, there are numerous occasions when the project was inaugurated, notable among them is one on 15th January, 2011 when the then Chief Minister Mayawati laid foundation stone again. Another inauguration took place when on 12th November, 2012 when Mr. Shiv Pal Singh Yadav (uncle of present CM Akhilesh Yadav), the Irrigation Minister of Uttar Pradesh laid another foundation stone to start the work of spillway. However no work could be taken up.
With the latest inauguration of construction of the dam on 5th December, 2014 after a span of 25 years without a fresh proper cost benefit analysis (CBA), any environment impact assessment (EIA) or Social Impact Assessment (SIA) ever, the commencement of project activities happens against the law and natural justice.
As per official records of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the project has 'Environment Clearance' of 1980 which is more than 34 years old and invalid. Nor has the project any 'Forest Clearance' under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Hence, the project requires a fresh 'Environment Clearance' under EIA Notification, 2006 and all the studies done again to assess whether the project is viable or not with respect to the present scenario. It is further observed that despite the order of National Green Tribunal dated 24th December, 2014 in which it was clearly stated that the Irrigation Department, U.P. will not conduct any construction activity if they do not have Environment Clearance and Forest Clearance under law, the construction is still going on in blatant violation of the court order.
If constructed, the dam will submerge more than 4,000 Hectares of land in which not only lakhs of trees will be affected, but nearly 10,000 families (many of which are tribals) will be displaced.
As per a recent newspaper report, the affected families are 60,000 from 80 villages across Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh.
The forest cover will also be put at risk; the Renukoot Forest Division is in fact one of the most dense forests of Sonebhadra with tree density of 652 per hectare. In such case, lakhs of trees will be affected by this project which would cause significant impact on environment, wildlife and livelihood of tribals. Vindhyan mountain range is also known for the wildlife and rich diversity of medicinal plants which are inherently linked with tribal culture. The loss in biodiversity will also be a serious major issue.
This is one of those projects which is an example of how so called developments worsen the situation for the people and environment.
Gram Sabhas (village councils) in the area of the project affected villages has already passed a consensus against the project and submitted the same to the State Govt. A local committee, Kanhar Bachao Andolan, started mobilization against the project in 2002.
At the time when this project was incepted in 1976, the environment and social scenario of the country and this region was very different from what it is today. River Sone was not in critically modified state, Forests of Sonebhadra and adjoining regions were still intact, human population was lesser, technology was not so advanced, science of climate change was not fully understood and the need of protection of environment was not felt or required as it is today. In 1976, protection of rivers was not a primary concern as the problems were not evident as it is today. In such scenario furthering such abandoned projects shows poor understanding of environment and insensitive attitude by the policy makers. It is thus important to undertake a proper cost-benefit analysis, a fresh Environment Impact Assessment and Social Impact Assessment, conduct proper options assessment to understand the implications of this project on the ecological balance and people keeping into account the present scenario. Such studies should undergo a detailed scrutiny and public consultation process.(See less)