Sunday, August 28, 2005

Vandana Shiva opposes River plan : A NAXAL SYMPATHISER ?

India moves on river plan, critics warn of disaster
Staff and agencies
28 August, 2005

By Terry Friel 9 minutes ago

NEW DELHI - Two key states have agreed to start the first stage of a $200 billion plan to link India‘s rivers, a scheme critics condemn as a recipe for ecological disaster and violence from those it will force from their homes.

"It would be wrong to promise early results," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at last week‘s signing in New Delhi.

More than 8,500 farmers and villagers will be forced from their homes just for the dam, and an unknown number by the canal.

"It‘s a bold and historic initiative that will change the country‘s water management paradigm," said former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose government revived the programme.

Almost three quarters of farmland is not irrigated, hostage to the annual monsoon as the major source of water.

"It‘s really about spending money," said well-known activist Vandana Shiva, of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which has carried out its own detailed study and is helping organise grassroots opposition to the Ken-Betwa project.

Shiva said the project was based on flawed science and was being driven by vested interests who would gain from the huge construction projects and the shift towards water-intensive money crops, such as sugarcane and fruit and vegetables for export.

She points out the Ken and Betwa rise from the same mountains and will therefore be high or low at the same time, making diverting water from the Ken damaging during floods and impossible during droughts.

"That will be one more reason of ecological breakdown, more corruption and more political instability," Shiva said.

Shiva warned local opposition could lead to violence if the government continued to ignore it, similar to peasant-based insurgencies in other areas by rebels known as Naxalites.

"Here are people stating their grievances. They are not being listened to and you are going to push them to the kind of situation you are trying to overcome in the Naxalite areas," she said. "They will fight. They‘ll fight."

She also warned police would have to fire to disperse protesters, as they did during a rally over water in the western desert state of Rajasthan this year.

"If every river link is going to mean killing and shooting then you will have civil war in this country."

No comments: