Under the Morand-Ganjal Irrigation Project of Narmadapuram division, dams will be constructed on the Morand River in Morghat village of Seoni Malwa and the Ganjal River near Rehatgaon of Harda district, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The above-mentioned irrigation project is part of the Narmada Valley Project, under which 29 dams are to be constructed.
This Morand-Ganjal Irrigation Project project will be completed in three phases. In the first phase, Morand Dam will be constructed. In the second phase, canal work will be done. And then, in the third phase, the Ganjal River dam will be built. The project was first proposed in the year 1972. And the first survey was conducted in the same year which revealed that due to the Morand-Ganjal project, at least 6-7 villages will completely submerge. Furthermore, the Korku tribe living in the region will be the most affected.
This project was stalled for many years due to opposition from the tribals. But now, the Madhya Pradesh government has again given a green signal to the above-mentioned irritation project. When some officials came to survey Bothi village in the Harda district for dam construction in March 2023, they were forced to flee by the villagers.
Bothi village is about 30 km away from Timarni tehsil of Harda district. It is a forest village where people of tribal society have been living for many generations. Bothi’s name is also among the 6-7 villages that will be submerged under the Morand-Ganjal project. Ganjal Dam is to be constructed at a distance of 6 km from here.
What do the tribals of Bothi village say?
The reporters of Groundreport.in reached Bothi village, to understand the situation of the tribals.
Only a few pucca houses can be seen in this village of 150 houses. Even the government schemes reach here at a very slow pace. However, the villager Sultan Deora says,
“We are happy with the way we live, we get all the necessary means to survive by doing farming and labour. We don’t need anything else, nothing more than our water, forest and land (Jal, Jangal Zameen)”
Talking about the submersion of Bothi village due to the construction of the dam, Sardar Singh Deora says, “We have been fighting for the last 30 years to save the Bothi village. Our village will be the first to be drowned in the construction of the dam on the Ganjal River. Hence, we have to raise our voices too.” He later added, “We gave a memorandum to the DM. But, no one is ready to tell us how much compensation we will be given for our land?”
On the compensation, the old age villager Prem Singh says that “No compensation can fully compensate for our loss. We won’t be able to live in other places because we are habitual of living in a forest. If they will snatch our water and air, we will not survive for long. I do not understand why isn’t the government taking care of tribals?” With a determined expression, he added, “We will be displaced to provide water to other people’s homes. We will fight, but not leave our village.”
The villager Sultan Deora says,
“In Bothi village, we grow three crops, work as labourers in our spare time and collect mahua, tendu leaves from the forest. We make a living from this. After being displaced from here, our identity of being farmers and tribals will be erased, we will be left only as labourers.”
Regarding the fight to save Bothi, Prem Singh says, “When there was a movement for the villages submerging due to the Indira Sagar Dam, we participated in the protest. We hope that when our village drowns, the people will come to support us. We have got the support of Narmada Bachao Zindagi Bachao Abhiyan. Under this, all the tribals will unite and force the government to reverse its decision.”
Target to irrigate 100 % of land in Harda
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has set a target of irrigating 100% of land in the Harda district, while The people of Bothi village want to stop the Morand Ganjal Irrigation Project at all costs.
Madhya Pradesh Farmers Welfare and Agriculture Development Minister Kamal Patel, while reviewing the project on November 1, 2022, has instructed the officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority and Harda district to complete the irrigation project on time.
The Morand Ganjal Irrigation Project was conceived in the year 1972, under which it was proposed to build dams on the Morand and Ganjal rivers. The first survey for the project was also done in the year 1972, in which it was said that 6-7 tribal villages would submerge. Since then there has been an opposition to the project among the tribals. The tribals have gathered the support of the Narmada Bachao Sangharsh Samiti.
In 2014, the Jabalpur High Court dismissed the PIL against the project. Soon after, MP’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan flagged off the Morand Ganjal project. In the year 2019, the Congress’ Kamal Nath government also decided to continue the project. BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, after returning to power, has decided to complete the Morand Ganjal project at the earliest.
According to the government, 4 districts Harda, Khandwa, Hoshangabad, and Betul will be benefited from this project. A total of 52 thousand hectares of land will be irrigation through this project.
Damage to forests and wildlife
A total of 10 villages can be submerged by the project. Among them, are four villages from Hoshangabad, four villages of Harda, and two villages from Betul district. However, only 6-7 villages have been talked about in the survey report. This will not only lead to the displacement of tribals but will also harm the environment. Of the 3,158 hectares of land to be submerged, approx 2,286 hectares is forest land. The backwaters of this dam will also submerge the corridor connecting Satpura in Narmadapuram and Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. This would stop the movement of tigers from one place to another, which is very important for the conservation of tigers.
The tender and work order for the dam has been issued. And, now the National Board of Wild Life has to decide whether the permission should be granted or not.
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