Middle Vaitarna Dam across the west flowing Vaitarna River near Mumbai is supposed to be a state-of-the-art technological feat. It’s a 102 meters tall concrete dam, the second tallest in Maharashtra. It was built with an what is claimed to be innovative mix of cement and fly ash from Eklahere Thermal Power Plant. The dam is also claimed to be completed in a record time. Additional Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), Mr. Jalota claims that Middle Vaitarna was completed in 15.5 months out of the total project duration of 42 months. This speed is supposed to be ninth fastest globally for RCC Dams[i].
The project was partly funded by the Jawarharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). When fully functional, the dam will be supplying 455 MLD (Million Liters per Day) water to MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), one of the biggest Municipal Corporations of the world.
So many exceptional performances claimed for one dam!
One would expect the similar concern for efficiency and speed while dealing with rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected population.
The project submerged over 3473 hectares of land (8581 acres land) including over 634 hectares forests (1566 acres forest). It also affected about 8 villages and several adivasi padas in the region. Of these, only 35 families who lost their homes were rehabilitated in a colony near the project site of Kochale village.
A visit to the rehabilitation colony in 2012 and in January 2014 where the project affected families moved in last year reveals:
Extremely poor construction quality. Just one year after families moved in, roofs of one of the houses collapsed. Human injury was narrowly avoided.
Almost all of the homes are chronically leaking.
There is no drinking water supply to this colony. The main supply tank does not get water. So no taps are working.
There is no water in the toilets. Site-in-charge and contractor orders a tanker when they feel like.
Common electric connections are defunct: Contractor took away the meters. No electricity at Hospital, Temple and Community Hall.
No Doctor has been appointed at the hospital. It’s an empty building.
Completely disillusioned by these houses, many affected people have built separate mud and thatch houses next to the ‘Sarkari’ homes.
What is the state of other Project affected people?
The affected people from Kochale, Karegaon, Vihigaon have received paltry compensation sums at Rs. 28000 per hectare for cultivated land. This is much lower than per hectare compensation given to the Forest Department for trees lost.
Project affected were told that one member from each affected family will get a government job. Land acquisition for Middle Vaitarna has been done under the article 52 A of the Maharashtra Land Acquisition Act, which includes provisions for ‘Urgent’ land acquisition. Special Land Acquisition officer promised that action will be taken about securing some jobs. After a long follow up, none of the project affected have received jobs. Requests for recommendations for temporary jobs at the dam site have also been denied.
Regarding “Project Affected” Certificate (Government Resolution 21 Jan 1980): According to the Maharashtra Project Affected Persons Rehabilitation Act 1999, it is the duty of the Collector “to issue a certificate to a person who is nominated by the project affected person for being employed against the quota reserved for the nominees of the affected persons”.
None of the PAs from Middle Vaitarna have received these Certificates, even after repeated and expensive follow up with a number of agencies.
When they contacted the Tahasildar, they were given a list of 12 documents that they have to compile in order to get this Certificate.
These documents include certificates from 4 other officials.
Considering the fact that all the Project affected persons of Middle Vaitarna Project are financially vulnerable tribals, with minimum education and considering that this small number of population is bearing the brunt of displacement and loss of livelihood for a mega city, they could have been helped with in this task.
In the case of Bhatsa Dam near Middle Vaitarna, the same conditions prevails for over 35 years. Project affected have not received full compensation, have not been given project affected certificates or any jobs.
The state of rehabilitation and resettlement for the claimed state of art dam seems dismal to say the least. More than 12 dams are coming up around Mumbai Metropolitan Region for drinking water supply. These will together affect more than one lakh tribals and over 7000 hectares of forest.