Pune: “Society needs to stand up and ask questions. Instead of just criticising and opposing the government and various organisations working on any project, people should come together to stop unnecessary projects,” said expert in water studies DM More.
He was speaking during a debate organised by Afarm and Bhavtal Magazine on ‘Learnings from Narmada’, an open debate on future of mega hydro projects, on Monday at SM Joshi Auditorium. More, who was also a government officer, said, “Way back in 1980, when the biggest dam of this State, Ujjani, was constructed, it irrigated 30,000 hectares of land under it. But not even 10 per cent of its water was given to farmers. However, no one asked us any question as to why the doors of the dams were closed and water was not provided to farmers.”
More and Pradeep Purandare were to judge the debate between activist Medha Patkar and water expert engineer Vidyanand Ranade over decommissioning of the dams in the country.
Rubbishing the claims made by Patkar that the Jayakwadi dam in Aurangabad district was a failure, Purandare said, “Today, nearly 305 villages get water through the dam. Besides that, the Aurangabad industrial sector too could be developed through it.”
“We agree that the dam was built to provide water for farming, but over the years, the objectives have changed. What we need to check is the equal distribution of water to farming and industry,” said Purandare.
He called for rational thinking among both groups, for and against, for the decommissioning of dams. He also said that people know half truths about the decommissioning of the dams in United States of America.
Meanwhile, Patkar remained adamant on her stand that the bigger dams destroy bio-diversity and environment, besides leaving thousands of project affected people without proper rehabilitation. She also said that Jayakwadi dam was a failure according to the World Bank since it neither served its purpose nor were displaced farmers rehabilitated.
She said, “We need dams/projects that do not affect the environment or displace people on large-scale. She alleged that Sardar Sarovar’s water is not given to farmers but to various multi-national companies like Coca Cola, Ambani and Adani industries.”
Ranade said that big dams not only save evaporation, but bring large hectares of land under irrigation. Besides, it generates electricity required for other purposes. “The evaporation rate of a dam depends upon its width and not the depth. So if we go for a medium or small dam project, they have wide width and thus the rate of evaporation increases. On the contrary, big dams are deep and we can also generate electricity,” said Ranade.
The last session of the day-long event was coordinated by Bhavtal’s Abhijeet Ghorpade.