Lokayan Bulletin 11:5, 1995 (pp 82 -86)  

APPEAL 

To Withdraw Polavaram Dam   

We, the people of eight villages of Motu Tehsil (Malkangiri district, Orissa), Konta Tehsil (Bastar district, Madhya Pradesh) and Chintur Mandal (Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh), are writing this letter to you, the Chief Secretary/ Chief Minister of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh. 

We are Koitor (Koya, a scheduled tribe) people living on the banks of the Godavari and its tributaries – Sileru and Sabari. We have come to know that the AP government is planning to build a large dam across the Godavari river at Polavaram, and that the governments of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh have given consent to it. We have also learnt that the AP government is giving utmost importance to this project and that it is awaiting clearances from the Central Water Commission, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Welfare, etc. 

We are highly displeased that the three state governments have been pursuing this project in secrecy from us – a project that threatens to take away our lands, homes, trees, places of worship and to disintegrate our society. 

We also believe that the AP government is trying to get all the clearances on the basis of false information. The information it is giving about displacement, the loss of assets, flora & fauna, and the opinion of the people in the submergence area are false. The project authorities are claiming the submergence of 250 settlements in three states. Actually, around 365 settlements would be affected. A recent study by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad, made for the AP Irrigation Department, identified 276 settlements coming under submergence in AP alone. The claims of the benefits of the project are also shifting – first, it was primarily to irrigate lands in East & West Godavari districts which are relatively well irrigated, and now the AP government says that it is mainly for power generation. 

We, the people of the region that is going to be submerged by the Polavaram project declare that we are not in favour of this dam and that we have never given our consent to it. We do not approve of this project for the following reasons: 

1.      The project which threatens to submerge about 350 settlements at 150 ft contour would disturb and destroy our habitat and our collective identity and life as Koya people. It would displace about two lakh people out of which the tribal population is around 1,25,000. 

2.      We, the Koya people, have been already affected adversely by several projects in the past. We have been subjected to severe pressures on our resources as well as dislocation by Dandakaranya Rehabilitation Project (Bangladeshi refugees), Machkund, Balimela  project, Sileru Hydro – Electric project, etc. Any displacement or pressure on our habitat and resources would result in the disintegration of our tribe leading to the decimation of our culture and its people.  

3.      Our habitat is not a wasteland of poramboke as claimed by the Polavaram project authorities. We are not poor and primitive. We are being condemned to backwardness. We are peasants and we grow Jonna (sorghum), Makka jonna (maize), rice, mirch, tobacco, dal etc, of several varieties. We grow a variety of crops with bio-fertilisers and rain water. The crops we grow are not only free from poisonous chemicals, but also give good yields. We do not wish to allow the loss of livelihood and fertile lands.  

4.      We are people of the forest and nature. Forests are the abode of sacred spirits. They are the source and part of our economy- our daily food, agriculture, livestock, housing, implements; our belief system and worship; our song and dance; and our life world.

Our practices, lifestyles and beliefs protect nature and are shaped by it. We have festivals for the produce of all plants – Chikkudu pandum, Pacha pandum, Ippa pandum, Bhoomi pandum. We consume vegetables, cereals, pulses, mohua and several other things only after conserving the same for the next season. 

We do not like to lose our life dependent on nature for one based on and dictated by money.  

5.      We do not approve of the project also because it has violated our right to decide how we like to live. Projects that affect life and the future of our children and the tribe as a whole cannot be decided by anybody other than us. That some governments attempt to do so is a violation of our fundamental right and we reject such acts. 

6.      We also declare that it is highly improper for any government to keep this project a secret from the people it affects and not to take our opinion and consent. It is not ethical, moral, and constitutional. This is more so in the light of: 1. The Draft National Policy on Rehabilitation of Displaced Persons as a Consequence of Land Acquisition prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development and submitted to the Cabinet, and, 2. The Dilip Sing Bhuria Commission (constituted by the Government of India) on draft legislation for tribals areas harmonising the provisions of the 5, 6, 11 and 12 Schedules of the Constitution. Both suggest a participatory and democratic mode of decision making about any project on the basis of full knowledge of the project. 

7.      Our settlements are on the banks of the Godavari and its tributaries. We do not have water for irrigation. We do not have safe drinking water supply. Many of our villages do not have electrification. Our children do not have schools to get primary education. Schools, if there are, do not function. Many of the irrigation schemes proposed for our lands have not been taken up at all. Those taken up have not been completed (i.e., Potteru canal, lift irrigation schemes in Motu & Konta areas, etc.) 

We request the State Governments to provide us with basic amenities of safe drinking water, roads, health facilities, lift irrigation for our fields without further delay. 

8.      We request the State Governments and other bodies related to the developmental activities in our region and/ or Polavaram project to consider our appeal favourably and help us preserve our culture, identity, collective life and help us prosper without displacement.  

1.      Mrs. Sode Bayamma, Sarpanch, Motu, Malkangiri Dt., Orissa

2.      Sode Doola, Pedda, Reddypallem, Malkangiri

3.      Kattam Kosa, Poojari, Reddypallem, Malkangiri

4.      Mottum Lacha, Motu village, Reddypallem, Malkangiri

5.      Ch. Malikarjuna Rao, Motu, Reddypallem, Malkangiri

6.      Ms. Mottum Rami, Ward Member, Alma Village

7.      Madakamaita, Reddypallem

8.      Panda Chandrayya, Vinayakpuram, Malkangiri

9.      Kattam Bbeema, Pedda, Alma village

10.  Mottum Thammayya, Alma village

11.  Urma Lacha, Vepari, Vinayakpuram

12.  Musaaki Deva, Reddypal, Motu Panchayat, Malkangiri

13.  Madakam Ganga, Reddypallem

14.  Podiyam Adma, Reddypallem

15.  P. Srinivasa Rao, Motu Village

16.  R. Shanta Rao, Chatti Village, Chintur Mandal, Khammam Dt

17.  Raju, Chatti village

18.  Turram Veeraiah, Chatti Village

19.  Ravva Sripathi Rao, Chatti village

20.  Kovvasi DhooJa, Ward Member, Pina Maduguru

21.  Sode Rama, Pedda, Kothaguda

22.  Poonem Dhula, Kamalapuram village, Malkangiri

23.  Motum Papayya, Motu

24.  Mearthula Raju, Motu

25.  Lathif, Motu 

Note: Pedda is head of the traditional village organisation. Poojari and Vepari are also functionaries of the organisation. 

This Appeal vas drafted and approved on March 18, 1995 at a regional meeting held at Motu village, Malkangiri district. It was translated by Bharath Bhushan. 

For further details of the campaign against displacement and the Polavaram Dam, contact:

R Shanta Rao, Chatti, Chintur Mandal, Khamman-507126; M. Bharath Bhushan, Kranthi Dhamam, Rahmath Nagar, Hyderabad – 500045