Land reclaim dispute over drying dam

Land reclaim dispute over drying dam

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John Ahni Schertow
April 7, 2007
 

Here’s a story (from the BBC) about an attempted land reclamation in India. The Gumti hydel project displaced approximately 25,000 indigenous People, and now that the water levels from the dam have dropped severely, hundreds are attempting to reclaim the land – but the police are chasing the people away…

From the article: The state’s Communist-led coalition government says it will not to let anybody settle down on the lands emerging from the reservoir of the 10 MW Gumti hydroelectric (hydel) project.

But Tripura’s power minister Manik Dey admits production of electricity from the project has completely stopped since mid-March.

“There is hardly any water in the dam’s reservoir to generate power but we are not saying goodbye to the project as yet,” Mr Dey said.

A rise in the reservoir’s bed due to heavy silting caused by soil loss from the hills around the Gumti hydel project is believed to be responsible for the crisis.

The Gumti hydel project was commissioned in 1974, despite fierce protests by nearly 40,000 indigenous tribes people whose fertile lands went under water.

Not even one-fifth of the people who were forced to give up their land were compensated because most tribesmen had no land records to prove ownership.

‘Historical injustice’

“There’s heavy deforestation in the hills caused by the primitive agricultural practices in the hills around Gumti by the tribesmen who lost their lands to the hydel project,” says environmentalist Abhijit Bhattacharya.

“There’s also rampant illegal logging by timber smugglers. That’s badly affected rainfall levels and led to heavy silting in the Gumti reservoir.”

This has prompted demands for scrapping the Gumti dam, so that the dam lands can be redistributed amongst Tripura’s landless tribal population.

Rabindra Debbarma, general secretary of the opposition Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), wants the Gumti dam to be scrapped to “undo a historical injustice” against the indigenous tribes people of Tripura, who have been marginalised in their own state by ceaseless influx of Bengali settlers from what is now Bangladesh.

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