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Why are tribals against Basania Dam on Narmada in MP?

The life and culture of the tribal people who live along the banks of the Narmada River have been greatly impacted by development.

By Ground Report
New Update
Why are tribals against Basania Dam on Narmada in MP?

The life and culture of the tribal people who live along the banks of the Narmada River have been greatly impacted by development. Despite cancelling the Basaniya dam seven years ago, the news of its construction has left many tribals shocked and betrayed by the Madhya Pradesh government.

The dam is proposed in Odhari village of Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh. In this dam, 2,443 hectares of agricultural land, 2,107 hectares of forest land and 1,793 hectares of government land i.e. a total of 6,343 hectares of land will be submerged.

The dam will displace 2,735 families from 18 tribal-dominated villages in Mandla and 13 in Dindori district, whose only means of livelihood is agriculture.

Tribals against Basania Dam

Naval Singh Maravi, a Backward Class member from Rampuri in Mohgaon, is more concerned about losing his forest income than his land if he and his family are displaced by the proposed Basania dam in Odhari.

He explained that the forest is a valuable resource that they can access freely without permission or payment, and that they depend on it to make a living.

The income from the black gram crop is low, and the family relies on the village forest for their livelihood. They collect tendu leaves, harra, behda, chironji, amla, and firewood, exercising their community and individual rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

Titra Singh, another resident of Odhari, was frustrated when asked why villagers protested when they were entitled to compensation. He owns three acres of forest borderland and believes that the compensation offered, which ranges from Rs 2 to 4 lakh per acre, will not be enough for him to buy land elsewhere, support his family, and finance the marriage of his two children.

Titra also expects to lose her annual income of Rs 50,000 to one lakh as the forest will no longer exist wherever she moves. The government has not yet announced the launch of the project or the compensation plan.

Madhya Pradesh plans Narmada dam

Medha Patkar, the national coordinator of the mass movement, pointed out that the Basania dam is one of the seven dams in the Narmada valley that the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh announced would be cancelled in March 2016 due to large-scale displacement and submergence of agricultural land that they will cause.

Patkar questioned the state government's sudden decision to go ahead with the dam and called for clarification on the basis and process behind it. He also raised concerns about the Narmada valley being a sensitive earthquake-prone region, with earthquakes of more than three on the Richter scale occurring frequently.

The Narmada and Son river valley districts have experienced around 37 earthquakes in the last two and a half years, with an intensity of 1.8 to 4.6 on the Richter scale.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences reported four major earthquakes in the country in the last 200 years, the last of which was 25 years ago when 41 people died in an earthquake in Jabalpur in 1997, with an intensity of 5.8 on the Richter scale. Basania Dam is located in Mandla district, adjacent to Jabalpur.

Since 1980, the Narmada Development Authority has planned to build 29 large dams on the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, of which ten have been built, six are underway, and work on the remaining 13 has yet to begin. Seven dams were cancelled earlier.

Ashok Marskole, MLA of Mandla district, along with the protesting tribals, informed the state Assembly on December 21, 2022 that the company has been notified for the construction of the dam. Marskole, who was elected from the Niwas assembly constituency of Mandla district, had inquired about the proposed project in the Narmada valley, including the amount of protected forest land and the proposed protected land.

Narmada Valley Project

The Narmada River Valley Project is the second largest project in India. It was conceived by the first Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and was given shape by the first Prime Minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Narmada Valley Project is a joint project of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on the Narmada River. In this, 30 big dams, 135 medium dams and 3,000 small dams are to be constructed on Narmada and its 41 tributaries. Sardar Sarovar Dam is the only major dam built in Gujarat.

Apart from this, 29 big dams are to be built in Madhya Pradesh alone. One of these 29 dams is Basaniya Dam.

The dam-affected tribal villages in the area have been continuously protesting ever since the notification for its reconstruction was issued.

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