VARANASI: The foundation stone laid by chief minister Mayawati for the construction of Kanhar Dam in Dudhi tehsil of Maoist-affected Sonbhadra district on January 15 has triggered a wave of resentment among the locals, mostly tribals, who are now fearing a large-scale displacement.
They have decided to launch a 100-km foot march from the construction site in Amawar village to the district headquarters at Robertsganj on March 10.
Around 5,000 people, under the banner of Kanhar Bachao Andolan, would reach the district headquarters on March 20, said Maheshanand of Gram Swarajya Samiti (GSS).
The GSS, which has been working in Dudhi and other blocks of Sonebhadra district since 1984, has extended its support to the tribals. The People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) has also come forward in support of the tribals of affected areas.
However, the district administration of Sonbhadra is unaware about the people's unrest. Chief development officer (CDO) and acting district magistrate Mohammed Shathkat Kamal, when contacted on Tuesday, said that he would look into the matter.
"We would not allow construction of any dam on Kanhar river," said Vishwanath Kharbar, a member of Kanhar Bachao Andolan.
"If a dam is built, it would displace thousands of tribal families from their roots. We are committed to stall the project," he said.
Maheshanad said that the foundation stone was laid by the CM in Lucknow, and later the plaque was fixed at the village. It is not the first time when the locals have opposed the construction of dam on the Kanhar river, a tributary of Sone river.
In 1976 too, then chief minister N D Tiwari had laid the foundation stone of the Kanhar Dam, but the project was stopped due to opposition from people, he added.
He said that because of the dam, 11 villages of Sonebhadra district would get completely submerged and 25 villages would be affected partly causing displacement of about 8,000 families. Besides, 16 villages of Chhattishgarh and five villages of Jharkhand would also be affected.
The GSS has launched an awareness campaign against the Kanhar multipurpose project in 25 villages of UP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
According to Lenin Raghuvanshi, executive director of PVCHR, the number of members associated with Kanhar Bachao Andolan (KBA) has reached over 3,000.
The KBA has a 22-member central committee, which links up with 25 villages through its local committees.
Hundreds of farmers and landless labourers belonging Gond, Pannika, Karwar, Pariha, Chero, Bhuiyan tribes are facing displacement threat due to Kanhar Dam project.
The women of these villages are taking active part in the movement, said Maheshanand adding that the villagers oppose the construction of the big dam but are in the favour of construction of the small dam for the irrigation through the lift cannel.
It is estimated that about 9,00,000 trees, 2,500 kuccha and 200 pucca houses, 500 wells and about 30 government schools would get submerged in water after the construction of the dam.
He said, "The project is clearly violating the basic rights given to downtrodden villagers and tribals in the constitution of rights like right to life, right to healthy environment, right to education etc.
He said that to start the project work, negligible amount of compensation was given to some people. "People were paid Rs 30 to Rs 300 for the houses while a petty amount of 30 paise given for a mango tree," he said.