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Irrigation dept report shadow on Mumbai SEZ

September 22, 2008 11:11 IST

It is not just the referendum that will decide the fate of RIL-promoted Mumbai SEZ in Pen.

The state irrigation department's report can also mar the project. The Centre's rehabilitation and resettlement policy for special economic zones  prohibits acquisition of irrigated land.

Therefore, the question of whether the Hetavane dam in the region is beneficial to the 22 villages going to tomorrow's referendum, is a hugely debated issue among the pro- and anti-SEZ activists.

The pro-SEZ lobby is claiming that the benefits of dam are going to be minimal for these villages as the irrigation department has already committed water for various other purposes.

However, the anti-SEZ activists are claiming that enough water is still available in the dam to irrigate the land in 22 villages.

Raigad district collector Nipun Vinayak told Business Standard: "I will be submitting my report on the public hearing that we are holding, along with our analysis of the irrigation department's report, which will tell us how much work on the dam and canal has been completed, and for which purpose it (water) is reserved.

I will be submitting my report to the government through the Konkan divisional commissioner within next 7 to 15 days. The government will take a final decision on what to do with the SEZ."

According to sources in the irrigation department, out of the 144.98 thousand million cubic metre live storage capacity of the dam, the department is supplying 49.19 TMC to CIDCO for meeting the potable water demand in Navi Mumbai.

Besides, talks are on between CIDCO and irrigation department for supply of additional 6.56 TMC.

The department has also reserved 21.90 TMC water for Ispat Industries steel project, 5.90 TMC for Tata Power Company, 9.50 TMC water for Mumbai SEZ project and 2.90 TMC for drinking water supply in Pen town. This leaves around 30.88 TMC water for irrigation purposes.

Considering the geographical condition of this region, sources said, 1 TMC water can irrigate 68 hectares. And according to the figures provided by the district collector's office, 2,993 hectares of land from these 22 villages is notified for the Mumbai SEZ.

However, the sources added, this 30.88 TMC water is not going to be shared by only these 22 villages, but another 30 villages that are not part of the SEZ.

An anti-SEZ activist, Vaishali Patil, said: "The irrigation department figures clearly show that water is available for irrigation purpose, contrary to what Reliance claims."

However, the anti-SEZ lobby led by local NCP president D M  Mhatre contested Patil's claim and said: "Currently, agriculture in this area barely gives a net income of Rs 1,000 per hectare.

"Though we are unhappy with the package announced by RIL, but even if we assume that the compensation offered by them is final, then it has the potential to increase the farmers' income level by 80 per cent, he added.

Makarand Gadgil in Pen (Raigad)