Friday, February 17, 2017
We want water not ‘power,’ says Barmer village; Protests power substation
At the ‘ratri choupal,’ the village meeting held with the district collector on Friday, villagers of Korna, Pachpadra tehsil, in Barmer district protested against the administration’s plan to construct a power substation at a spot frequented by migratory birds.
JAIPUR: At the 'ratri choupal,' the village meeting held with the district collector on Friday, villagers of Korna, Pachpadra tehsil, in Barmer district protested against the administration's plan to construct a power substation at a spot frequented by migratory birds.
Villagers said that the land also served as a rich catchment area for water due to which there was no water scarcity in the area. However, district collector Sudhir Kumar Sharma tried to convince the people that they should not come in the way of development.
In September 2016, Barmer district authorities sought to allot about 400 bighas of land in Korna for a power substation. In revenue records, this land is listed as 'gauchar' or grazing land, marked for cattle to graze. This area serves as a catchment area for several large lakes in the vicinity, including the largest in the Jodhpur division, Gangawas. Several migratory birds nest in the trees in this area. The Sarus crane and a large number of migratory and resident birds, including flamingoes, can be spotted here in winter. Cattle from over 20 villages graze here.
On November 9, the gram panchayat of Mulki Dhani wrote to district authorities, with an elaborate explanation, on why the substation should be shifted elsewhere to barren land.
"Korna's 'khasra' number 27 is 'gauchar' land. The 400 bighas to be allotted to the substation would ruin a rich catchment area for some of the largest lakes in Jodhpur division, including Gangawas. Over 9,000 cattle from 24 villages in the vicinity are dependent on the waterbodies that are recharged because of this land. Wild animals too are sighted in this area. A large number of migratory birds flock to the area. The substation could be moved to a spot where it would cause much less disturbance," the villagers wrote.
Guman Singh Rathod, sarpanch of Korna village, has written in the 'Format for public consultation' that the villagers' opinion was never sought before the Rajasthan Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Ltd (RVPN) decided to utilize this land.
"I was informed after the matter was finalized. We refused the idea and have asked the substation to be located elsewhere," he said.
In the column on employment opportunities that the 'development project' would bring, the villagers have written that there was sufficient work available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Sohan Singh, a resident of Korna, told TOI, "We got to know of this proposal only when the collector sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the panchayat. We went with a delegation and met energy minister Pushpendra Singh. We have also informed our MLA Amra Ram about our opposition to the proposed project. We have been assured help but we don't know for sure if the project will be shifted elsewhere."
Environmentalist Harsh Vardhan said, "On the one hand, chief minister Vasundhara Raje speaks of water harvesting, on the other, the state machinery attempts to destroy natural sites that recharge rainwater."
Concerned citizens have now taken the matter to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The Bhopal bench of NGT will hear the matter on January 25.