UKP: river dammed, people damned

Upper Krishna Project. DH PHOTO

The callousness of the State in addressing the plight of those displaced by development projects has been laid bare again. Thousands of families in North Karnataka, whose land was acquired around five decades ago for the Upper Krishna Project (UKP), are yet to be adequately compensated or rehabilitated by the Karnataka government. Some 201 villages were affected by the UKP and 136 of them were completely submerged by the waters of the Almatti and Narayanpur reservoirs. People from these villages continue to languish without homes and basic amenities, including drinking water and toilets. Project-displaced families continue to be housed at rehabilitation centres without drainage, roads, transportation and primary health centres. Most of the affected were farmers and farm labourers. Many gave up their fertile wetlands for the Almatti and Narayanpur dam projects but were shifted to areas that are severely water-scarce. In addition to denying them cultivable land, successive governments have not provided them jobs or skills training. Neither have the promised homes materialised for many. Project-affected families received meagre amounts as compensation, with the bulk of the amount due to them eaten up by corrupt officials. This has been the experience of people from villages in Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Raichur, Yadgir and Kalaburagi districts.

There is reason for Karnataka to take pride in the Upper Krishna Project (UKP). One of the largest irrigation projects in the country, its Narayanpur and Almatti dams as well as its network of canals are irrigating lakhs of acres of land in several drought-prone North Karnataka districts. Economically-backward and drought-prone Kalaburagi district, for instance, has seen some 9.5 lakh acres of land come under irrigation, thanks to the UKP. The UKP is also providing drinking water and electricity for several towns and villages. However, those who sacrificed their lands and livelihoods for this project have been largely excluded from its benefits.

Not only did the Karnataka government fail to implement the Karnataka Resettlement of Project Displaced Persons Act, 1987, but it also failed to adopt the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy (NRRP), 2007. Monetary benefits that it extends to the displaced are based on orders issued during the 1989-95 period. The displaced complain that compensation amounts are fixed arbitrarily. Indeed, the government has not bothered to even conduct a survey to assess the socio-economic situation and problems of those displaced by the UKP. As the 2015 Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report recommended, the government should formulate a comprehensive rehabilitation and resettlement policy for the state in line with NRRP, 2007. A fair compensation to those displaced by UKP’s Phase I and II will facilitate land acquisition for the project’s next phase.

 

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UKP: river dammed, people damned

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