Date:Apr 14, 2015 

Tribal leader Akku Kharwar and eight others seriously injured in the firing in Sonbhadra district, says a press release

imageTribal residents are up in arms against the Kanhar dam as it will submerge several villages (File photo)

On Tuesday morning, the police opened fire on tribal protesters who had gathered at the Kanhar dam site to condemn the land acquisition for the project, says a press release by a forest rights organisation.

Tribal leader Akku Kharwar, a resident of Sundari village, and eight others were seriously injured in the firing in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.

Village residents had gathered at the dam site to intensify their agitation against the alleged land acquisition for the project. The protesters were carrying the photo of B R Ambedkar to mark his 125th birth anniversary, according to the release issued by All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).

AIUFWP, an association fighting for the rights of tribals and Dalits, has condemned the incident.

The release claims the police, led by the inspector of Amwar police station in Duddhi tehsil, Sonbhdara, fired arbitrarily to disperse the protesters, including women.

Reasons for opposition 
The villagers are against the project as it will destroy around 2,500 hectares of dense forests once it comes up. It would also have an immense negative impact on the Son river which is categorised as “Critically Modified Stage F” with just 5 per cent of Mean Annual Runoff (as per the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute 2014). MAR is the amount of water running over the land surface during the year.

The Kanhar dam project will submerge areas dominated by tribes, who have not been informed about the environmental and social impacts of the project, according to Mirzapur-based non-profit Vindhya Bachao Andolan.

The Kanhar dam project
The Kanhar dam project was first conceived in 1976 to provide irrigational facilities to Dudhi and Robertsganj tehsils of Sonbhadra district in southeast Uttar Pradesh. However, the project remained a non-starter due to the alleged non-availability of funds for several years.

The Uttar Pradesh government finally started construction work on December 5, 2014. Nineteen days later, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stayed further construction at the dam site after a petition was filed before it by Debadiyo Sinha.

Sinha alleged that the project could not be started based on clearances obtained in the 1980s. It required a fresh assessment taking into account the significant environmental changes which occurred in the past 30 years, he argued.

As part of protest against the state government’s decision, the gram sabhas of all the affected villages also filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court regarding discrepancies in the land acquisition process.

Current status 

In January 2015, Sinha approached the court with a contempt petition against the Uttar Pradesh government for its non-compliance with the NGT’s directive. On February 4, 2015, NGT sought a reply from the state government, but the latter failed to comply within the stipulated 10-day period.

On February 21, NGT sought a report from the Union environment ministry within a week and set March 4, 2015, as the final hearing date, according to news reports.

At this hearing, the project proponent was asked to produce the forest clearance report. Since the state government failed to do so, NGT granted them time to produce the valid forest approval at the next hearing on March 12, 2015.

However, for the second time in a row, the ministry failed to comply with the green body’s directive. It was first asked to submit a compliance report on February 19 about the progress made by the UP government on the Kanhar dam construction. The matter was reserved for judgement by NGT in its order dated March 24, 2015.