Farmers come together to fight nature, govt apathy

Hundreds of farmers and their families from across 30 villages in Talaja taluka of Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra region of Gujarat are seeking to take on the might of nature and government apathy in their own hands.

They have come together in Methda village and working to build a weir across the coast to fight the problem of salinity ingress they have been facing for last 25 years.

"The state government had in 1992 approved the proposal to build a weir across Baghad river to curb sea water from entering inland. They even sanctioned monies. However, despite repeated memoranda, successive governments failed to build the weir and so farmers have decided to take the matter in their own hands and build a 12-km-long weir on their own," Manubhai Chavda, president of a state-wide farmers' body said.

The salinity ingress in the area has seen large tracts turn barren. Even the wells in the area are said to have salty water as dry riverbed of Baghad river sees the salty sea water enter the area with ease.

"Similar situation was witnessed till Nikol weir and Malan weir were built about 10-15 km away. Today, after the weirs, both the areas have turned fertile and farmers are reaping rich rewards. The locals here feel that once this Methda weir is built, their land too would turn green," Chavda added.

Several villagers, men, women and children, have been toiling in the scorching sun for over 10 days now to build the weir. Many are voluntarily contributing by way of equipment and heavy machinery, as well as crowd-funding the project.

Govt dragging feet

However, the state government is yet to move on ground to lend its hand with the work. "We will issue instructions to the collector and mull over as to what process we should put in place so that the issue could amicably be resolved," Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said.

His minister for water resources Parbat Patel, meanwhile, said that they have sought report from the local administration. "It is already an approved project and Rs 80 lakh sanctioned for it. We have called for a report and will act once we get information," he said. "There may be some issue of forest land and regulatory sanctions because of which the project may not have been implemented."

The other reason being attributed to the state government delaying construction of weir is huge quantities of limestone and lignite present in the area. "Big cement companies want to mine these minerals," Chavda added.

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