Gujarat farmers build weir after govt's 25-yr apathy

Thousands of farmers and their families from across 30 villages in the Talaja taluka of Bhavnagar district in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat have achieved what successive state governments failed to in 25 years.

These farmers fought government apathy and lack of resources to build a weir across Baghad river in Methada village to stop the problem of salinity ingress that had turned hundreds of acres in their backyards barren.

As many as 10,000 villagers completed the construction of the 900-metre weir with their own resources. The work had begun on April 6.

Even the wells in the area are said to have salty water as the dry river bed of the Baghad river sees the salty sea water enter the area with ease. The farmers hope that with the weir in place, their lands would turn fertile.

The Gujarat government had approved a proposal to build a weir way back in 1992.

"The government had estimated the cost to be at Rs 80.67 crore, with the civil construction cost to be no less than Rs 50 crore," Bharatbhai Bhil, a social activist working with the farmers in the region said. However, nothing has happened since.

Bharatbhai said that over the last 20 years, the farmers were only showered with promises.

To him, the real intent of the government got clearer in last three years, when the government decided to transfer the land to Ultratech Cement for limestone mining.

"Once this was done, the farmers decided to take matters into their own hands and build the weir," he said.

As many as 10,000 villagers completed the construction of the 900-metre weir across the river with their own resources. The work had begun on April 6.

"Most of them donated their time and labour. Some gave Rs 10, some Rs 50 and some even more. Some brought their JCBs, others brought their tractors and using their earthy wisdom, they have built the weir at a cost of Rs 35-40 lakh. All of us would celebrate its construction this Sunday," Bharatbhai said.

As for the state government, Bharat says nothing has moved.

This is despite what Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had said early in April: "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".

However, the big question now worrying the farmers is whether the weir would be able to withstand the ensuing monsoons.

"This is government work but because the government did not do it, the farmers have built the structure using their own resources and understanding. There may be structural issues and it all depends on intensity of rains," Dr Kanu Kalsaria, a former legislator from the district who has been working with these farmers, said.

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Gujarat farmers build weir after govt's 25-yr apathy

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