Friday, March 13, 2015

Kamsarat Nallah Dam Project: Project Stuck in Muck?

Kamsarat Nallah Dam Project:
Project Stuck in Muck?

A stay order on excavation of earth on a writ petition has spooked the Kamsarat Nallah Dam Project. Will the project get delayed and miss the deadline?

By Zubair Ahmed

A resident of Wimberly Gunj files a writ petition seeking stay on the excavation work going on at Kanyapuram village for the Kamsarat Nallah Dam Project. Now, how the Administration reacts to the Court Stay Order will decide whether the project gets delayed. And whom should be blamed if the project gets stalled or delayed? Petitioner or Respondents?

The work on Kamasarat Nallah Dam Project was progressing briskly. Excavated earth being transported from a nearby area allocated by the Revenue Department. There had been objections from a resident that the heavy vehicles plying in the area is creating pollution as well as damage to his building and he had also blocked the way. No later, an alternate route was identified. And the excavation work resumed.

Till last week, a few trucks were plying that too during evening and night hours. But, of late the number of vehicles as well as frequency has increased. The knee-jerk reaction to the Court Order! A day after, the earth cutting at that particular site has stopped.

Despite hushed resentment, people know that its a necessary evil hoping that water crisis in the area will be addressed to a large extent with completion of the project. They want the project to happen at any cost.

Objections to anything good or bad is natural. That is human nature. The merits and demerits of each project gets debated. There are groups who worry that large excavation and displacement of earth will create environmental problems. And another opine that there is a price to be paid for any development. Ecology can wait!

The authorities too were upbeat about progress of work and the deadline also looked quite achievable. The project though not fully spooked, earth cutting from one particular site is stalled. Whom should be blamed?

Earth cutting in the Islands is a very sensitive issue, and a lucrative one too. There is huge demand for earth for developmental projects. Even residential projects are hindered due to non-availability of soil.

The Kamsarat Nallah Project was delayed due to the same problem last year. High level interventions were required to sort it out. However, half-hearted steps were taken to restart the project. The identified land for excavation is revenue land.

Now, the stay order by the Court will surely delay the project. APWD is not being blamed by the petitioner. Its the Revenue Dept headed by Deputy Commissioner and the Tehsildar, who are made respondents. Why is it so?

The Petitioner alleges that his adjacent land is severely damaged due to the excavation work. In the petition, he also alleges that the area is not properly demarcated showing the writ petitioner four corners of his land. He further alleges that the said land is grazing land, and cannot be utilized for any other purposes.

The Court Order, however, sensing the urgency of the petition, says that the Administration has already started excavating the 'land of the petitioner'. And that, till 20th March status quo as of date, as regards nature, character and possession of the property in dispute should be maintained by the parties.

The copy of the Order had not reached the RCD Division of APWD according to sources.

Its quite obvious that lack of inter-departmental coordination is one core reason why so many developmental projects are affected. It takes more time to sort out issues between departments. The Revenue Department should have carried out all necessary modalities before handing over the site for excavation. Most of the time, they rely on Google map to identify and pin a location. Its same with our master plans too. Many a big project is juxtaposed on residential areas.

In this instant case, there are other issues too, where the petitioner has reasons to celebrate. The same group had launched a marathon agitation against a few officials of RCD alleging corruption and foul-play. In fact, extension of the tenure of Chief Engineer was also one among them. Though, the agitation did not get the mileage or support from the public, they had been keeping an eye over all activities surrounding RCD. Sometimes, the quality of construction of road was questioned, and sometimes they blamed foul play in off-loading construction materials meant for Kamsarat Nallah Project at Haddo or Chatham instead of Hope Town. But this one was masterstroke. One opportunity to hit their adversary, and it seems to have hit the bull's eye as of now.

This episode also shows how lack of a little care and concern while handling issues create problem. Had the issues raised by the group during the agitation given an ear by the Administration, it would not have blown to such proportion, where a major project is getting delayed.

The merits and demerits of the petition will be decided by the Court, but the project is adversely affected by this move. And, Revenue Department as well as APWD have many lessons to learn from this episode. When they search for suitable land for excavation, they need to ensure that the land is clear from all encumbrances and also does not poise pollution. Lack of proper groundwork is quite visible in this specific episode. Why demarcation of land is such a cumbersome procedure?

Certainly, The issue will be sorted out once the Court commences, and the work may also resume. But the archaic procedures of revenue department will be the only impediment, a solace for the petitioner. 

And, not the least, the Administrator, who often comment on the Island mindset gets another opportunity to reiterate what he keeps saying - Whenever I try to take one step ahead, there are people who try to pull five steps backward!

Monday, March 9, 2015

MOEF to Review Shekar Singh Commission Recommendations: Vishal Jolly

MOEF to Review Shekar Singh Commission Recommendations: Vishal Jolly

By Zubair Ahmed

BJP State Unit has demanded the Ministry of Environment and Forests to review the Recommendations of Shekar Singh Commission endorsed by the Supreme Court in to-to, which was due after ten years of its coming into effect.

Speaking to media, Vishal Jolly, State President said that a delegation comprising party functionaries visited Delhi for follow-up of various promises made by Shri Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping during his visit to the Islands.

Expressing satisfaction, he said that the Minister had already issued directions to all Ministries to look into the demands of the Islanders raised at various platforms during his visit.

On Shekar Singh Commission's recommendations, Vishal Jolly informed that the delegation met Shri Prakash Javdekar, Union Minister of Environment and Forests and requested to review it as per the clause in the recommendations.

The Union Minister assured that the Ministry will initiate the process of review within a week.

"The Government was supposed to review it after ten years, although twelve years has already elapsed after the Supreme Court Order came into effect," he added.

"Once its reviewed and the sanctions on timber and sand extraction lifted, opportunities for livelihood will open up for the Islanders. Wood-based industries like saw mills and furniture units will come up providing employment opportunities for the Islanders.," Vishal said.

He also said that procurement of minor non-timber produce like Bamboo and Cane will create livelihood options for the Islanders.

He also mentioned about the letter Nitin Gadkari wrote to the Home Minister requesting to address the issues of Pradesh Council and Tsunami affected farmers.

Vishal Jolly informed that the National President of BJP will be holding a meeting of all functionaries of Union Territories on 18 March 2015 to examine the distinctive issues of UTs which are different from the states. He appealed the Islanders to submit in writing before 15 March suggestions pertaining to the Islands to be taken up in the meeting.

He said that the party will take up all major issues, especially a trans-shipment port in Campbell Bay, Extending the facility of on arrival Visa to Port Blair for foreign tourists and Opening of Indian Consulate at Phuket and Bali.

To facilitate and ease visit of yachts and cruise liners to the Islanders, Vishal said that they have already sought the Lieutenant Governor to open an online portal for receiving applications, processing and issuing necessary permits within a week or fortnight.

Vishal Jolly informed that the delegation also met the Union Minister of Agriculture and demanded development of fisheries sector in the Islands. The Minister had directed a member of National Fisheries Development Board to visit the Islands and explore the possibilities.

"The Ministry on the recommendation of the member has already sanctioned an amount of Rs 1.5 crores to build Fish markets at Dugnabad and Junglighat," he informed.

The Ministry has further approved the proposal to start a Fish Mill to process fish waste and produce fish feed, Ice Plants and Cold Storages either through public private participation or cooperatives, two 50-tonne Carrier boats with deep freezer facility to transport fish from Diglipur, Campbell Bay and Little Andaman to Port Blair, and installation of more Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), which were extensively damaged after Cyclone Lehar.

Vishal Jolly also informed that the party has demanded to exempt fish-related activities like Fish Processing Plant, Ice Plants and Storage Units  from CRZ Regulations.

Gadkari writes to Home Minister Advocating Pradesh Council for ANI

Gadkari writes to Home Minister Advocating Pradesh Council for ANI

Shri Nitin Gadkari in a letter to the Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh has requested to look into the erstwhile governance system of Pradesh Council for Andaman and Nicobar Islands to ensure people's participation in the governance. he has also requested to the Home Minister to consider necessary decision to return the land surrendered by tsunami affected farmers.

After his visit to the Islands to review various development projects of the ministry, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping has sought the intervention of the Home Ministry to consider the demands of the Islanders.

In his letter he mentioned that earlier there was a governing body like Pradesh Council which used to work as a good platform for interaction of people with the government/council responsible for governance of the area. However, this mechanism was abolished and as a result people were deprived of this platform where they could interact and discuss the important issues concerning them.

"It was much desired that this decision of earlier regime should be reviewed and this system of Council should be revised with more participation and authority for its members as it will prove to be beneficial to the people. In the absence of legislative assembly, it is very much necessary to have some democratic platform to ensure people's participation in the governance," he wrote in his letter to Rajnath Singh.

On another crucial issue which was brought to his notice by the Islanders, Gadkari wrote about the plight of farmers affected by Tsunami which ravaged the area a few years ago.

"Though the government then provided them relief after eight long years of wait for the damages they incurred. But their land was taken over by the government in token of this relief. This action by the last government has totally taken away their only means of livelihood and they are forced to live a life with hands-to-mouth situation," he wrote.

Gadkari further mentioned that this decision of the last government needs to be reviewed and their land may be given back to the farmers for bringing back their only means of livelihood. He asked the Government to consider necessary decision in this regard for the benefit of tsunami-affected poor farmers.

This was briefed by Vishal Jolly, State President, BJP in a press conference after his return from New Delhi.