AHMEDABAD: Tribal leaders from Gujarat’s Dang, Valsad, Surat and Navsari districts are camping in state capital Gandhinagar to garner support of the MLAs of both ruling BJP and opposition Congress for an agitation against the Par-Tapi-Narmada river linking project announced in the recent Union Budget.
The project will submerge around 7,500 hectares of land owing to construction of seven dams. Tribal leaders say the project would affect 75 villages and displace more than 35,000 villagers. The linking project proposes to transfer water from the surplus regions of Western Ghats to the deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch.
The same project had come to a halt in 2007-2008 following strong opposition from tribals. The tribal leaders alleged the Centre designed the project to “cover up” the Narmada Yojana’s “failure”. Hundreds of tribals will be displaced as a result of the project in Dang, Valsad, and Tapi districts. Dang’s forests abounding in teak and bamboo and other woods will stand submerged.
Tribal leaders said they have seen many projects like the Narmada Yojana, Statue of Unity, Ukai, etc., where the tribals displaced from their lands are yet to be compensated. A delegation of senior tribal leaders of south Gujarat called on the leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Sukhram Rathva. Tribal leaders said they wanted the elected representatives to discuss the project in the Assembly.
Activist Mukesh Patel said, “We won’t let our tribals be displaced from their forest land in the name of the river linking project. Our slogan is ‘dam hatao, Dang bachao.’”