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Forum’s Initiative on Polavaram
The Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India (Forum) believes that the existing studies, information and data available on the Polavaram project, and Governments inability to adhere to the laid down procedures and processes in the case of construction of dams especially if it has inter-state ramifications (for example not getting clearance from Central Water Commission) warrant that the Government of Andhra Pradesh take a pause on the further construction of the project (canals as well as the dam) and should not proceed with the project in its present form. The Government should take the lead in initiating independent studies with regard to some of the key aspects of the project, namely,
In the light of the above the Forum is of the opinion that the government should take a pause, complete the above mentioned studies and assessments through independent and competent agencies, make the findings available to all stakeholders, hold consultations with the stakeholders especially the potential oustees and beneficiaries and then take a decision on the future of project.
For any reason (or no reason) if the government is adamant in going ahead with the project then the Forum would strongly suggest that the government explores the options of reducing the height of the dam so that submergence and displacement can be brought down and that the government adhere in letter and spirit to all the provisions in the R & R policy, and also set up the necessary institutional mechanisms for the speedy and proper implementation of the provisions of the R&R package. The aim should be “development oriented rehabilitation” and also avenues should be explored to rehabilitate the oustees, mostly adivasis, within their own agro-climatic and socio-cultural milieus.
The Forum also feels that there is a need for the oustees and beneficiaries to interact with each other directly and understand each others conditions and viewpoints as this interaction may lead to better options. Thus the Forum would take the lead in organising such an interaction and the idea is to get all the mandal presidents from both the submergence area and beneficiary area (command area) in one place for a direct “dialogue”. Since the projected cost-benefit ratio is being questioned, the Forum would take the lead in getting cost-benefit study done by a renowned economist preferably by a person who can methodologically integrate the new concerns that are being thrown up by environmental and other social movements. The third initiative that the Forum would take is to make an assessment of the alternatives that are being thrown up and in this the Forum would try to get the help of people like K. R. Datye who has done similar work in the context of Sardar Sarovar Project.
Before the Forum initiates the above-discussed three-point action, it would organise a meeting of all the groups and organisations working on Polavaram to discuss with them the stand of the Forum and also the three-point action agenda. The main purpose of this meeting is to get a feedback on the proposed action agenda of the Forum so that one, we do not repeat anything that is already being done, and two, explore the possibility of the involvement of at least some of these groups and organizations in the proposed actions and the later follow up.