No social impact study for 495 acres of Yettinahole

No social impact study for 495 acres of Yettinahole project land

Officials believe that skipping the SIA will save them at least one year's time

The previous Congress-JD(S) coalition amended the state Act, giving the government the power to skip SIA for projects broadly classified under irrigation, drinking water, educational institutions. Credit: DH file photo

The state government has planned to sidestep social impact assessment (SIA) for the acquisition of 495 acres of land, in an apparent bid to expedite the long-pending Yettinahole project.

The land in question is spread across 17 villages in Tumakuru, the nerve centre of the Yettinahole project.

Officials believe that skipping the SIA will save them at least one year's time.

SIA is a prerequisite for land acquisition as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. However, in 2019, the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition amended the state Act, giving the government the power to skip SIA for projects broadly classified under irrigation, drinking water, educational institutions, among others.

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The Yettinahole project aims to provide drinking water to Chikkamagaluru, Tumakuru, Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagar, Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts from the Netravati river in Hassan district. The project has specially seen stiff resistance from farmers in the region over land compensation, leading to challenges in acquisition.

Earlier this year, the government gave a similar SIA exemption to acquire 53 acres of land to construct the Gouribidanur gravity feeder under the same project.

Speaking to DH, an official in the water resources department said the exemption was given in the interest of expediting the project.

"We can save at least one year if we skip the assessment. More importantly, these are small parcels of land that will neither impact the villages nor anyone's house," the official said.

However, the government's approach has been met with scepticism by farmers.

S N Swamy, secretary of the Yettinahole Horata Samithi and state committee member of Raitha-Krushi Karmikara Sanghatane, said the government was cheating farmers by taking shelter under this amendment.

"The land acquisition Act provides for rehabilitation and resettlement under the second schedule of the legislation. While as per the first schedule, the land owner is merely compensated for the land lost, under the second schedule, the aggrieved party is eligible for a one-time settlement or a house or employment, among other compensatory measures depending on the context. The whole premise for applying the second schedule is the social impact assessment," he explained.

Further, whether the land portion is small or big is entirely subjective, Swamy contended.

"For a person who owns only 2 acres, losing one acre is half of his property and loss of means of subsistence. Hence, this needs an impact assessment study."

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