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On Ambedkar Jayanti, Dalit’s protests in UP turn police firing zone | The News Minute
Devanik Saha | The News Minute | April 17, 2015 | http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/ambedkar-jayanti-dalit%25E2%2580%2599s-protests-turn-police-firing-zone
If the Kanhar Dam is built as planned, not only will villages submerge and tribals be displaced, the forest cover in the area is also at the risk of being diminished.
On a day when all political parties were busy paying homage to Dr Ambedkar, the spot of a peaceful environmental protest and Ambedkar Jayanti celebration by some villagers in Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh was turned into a firing zone by policemen.
The protest was against the construction of Kanhar Dam, a project conceived and approved by Central Water Commission in 1976 at an estimated budget of Rs 27.75 Crore. The dam was intended to provide water for irrigation purposes to Dudhi and Robertsganj tehsils of Sonebhadra district. Kanhar River is a tributary of Son River and passes through Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Though the initial work was started, the construction has been stalling for a few years now. Apart from the vociferous protest from tibal communities, the project also faced funding problems. In spite of repeated attempts by the previous Mayawati government and the push given by Shiv Pal Yadav of the present SP dispensation, the project has seen minimal progress.
On 14th April, villagers had gathered at the dam site to step up their agitation against the land acquisition for the project. The protesters were carrying the photo of B R Ambedkar to mark his birth anniversary, when police opened firing. The protest was initiated under the banner of Kanhar Bandh Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti (KBVSS), an anti-dam group.
If the dam is built as planned, not only villages submerge and tribals be displaced, the forest cover in the area is also at the risk of being diminished. The proposed dam falls under the Renukoot Forest Division, which is one of the densest forests of Sonebhadra with a tree density of 652 per hectare. The dam will affect several lakh villagers and cause considerable impact on environment, wildlife and livelihood of tribals, in addition to the loss of biodiversity.
Environmental clearance was given to the project in 1980, as per official records of Ministry of Environment and Forests. Since the dam requires removal of forests, the project doesn’t even any forest clearance under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. More than 34 years later, the environment clearance means nothing.
The project requires a fresh environment clearance under EIA Notification, 2006 and all the studies done again to assess whether the project is viable or not with respect to the present scenario. The Uttar Pradesh government has started construction work on December 5, 2014, after which, a petition was filed at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by Debadiyo Sinha, an environmental activist associated with Vindhya Bachao Andolan, a non-profit in the region. NGT gave an order on 24<span style="position: relative; font-size: 13.5pQ