Land acquisition and Displacement due to Lower Suktel Irrigation Dam Project in Bolangir, Orissa

Reported by

Sibasish Ray

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

September 7, 2016

September 7, 2016

Updated on

September 7, 2016

Location of Conflict

Mugurabeda

Balangir

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Irrigation Dam

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

4160

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

3936

ha

Starting Year

1995

State

Odisha

Sector

Power

The proposed Lower Suktel Irrigation Project across river Suktel, a major tributary to Mahanadi river seeks to supply irrigation and drinking water to the Balangir district in Odisha. The initial survey for the project was conducted in 1979 and the Environment and Forest Ministry approved its environment clearance in 1998. As per the plan, a dam was to be built on the Jhareidunguri hill near village Magurbeda in Balangir. Since its inception, the estimated cost of the project has increased from the initial sum of 217.13 crore in 1998 to almost 4,500 crore in 2018.
Despite being a drought-affected district, the local community has staunchly opposed the project since the 1990's. It is estimated to submerge around 5000 hectares of land (severely impacting around 29 villages) and 583 hectares of forest area. A total of 9000 families who are dependent on these lands for their livelihood would be affected by the project. Protesters have organised themselves under the banner of Lower Suktel Budianchal Sangharsha Samiti (LSBAP). In 2013, the protestors including local farmers, adivasis and journalists were met with lathi charges. Further, dedicated resettlement efforts have been lacking with many having been denied due compensation for their lands. There have also been speculations of large scale corruption related to compensation for rehabilitation schemes for the district.
The High Court on May 18, 2016 rejected the land acquisition notification of the state government on the basis of which it had acquired land in proposed lower Suktel River Dam project. Identifying discrepancies in the land acquisition notification process -a division bench consisting of justice Ms Sanju Panda and Justice K.R.Mohapatra rejected the land acquisition for the project. At a time when the Lower Suktel project has gathered political storms the judgement comes as a setback for the state government. However, work on the irrigation project re started on 2017.
While around 70% of the spillwork for the project had already been completed, the project faced yet another derailment from 2018 due to Mahanadi Water dispute. Citing the Minister of State for Water Resources Raghunandan Das, it was reported on February 13, 2021, that the project's resumption was contingent on the verdict by the Mahanadi River Water Disputes Tribunal's. At the end of the month on 28th February, it was reported that the second phase of construction work for the project had begun and that families in 15 out of 29 at- risk villages have been compensated as per Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy, 2006. In February 2021, project chief engineer Niranjan Rout said “Dialogue is on to address other issues. Currently, base stripping work has started.” 

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for compensation

Refusal to give up land for the project

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

217.16

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 1994
Section 2 (I)(a) [Environmental Clearance to be obtained for all new projects from the Ministry of Environment and Forests]; Section 2(III)(c) [A clearance granted under this Act shall be valid for a period of five years for the commencement of construction]
Land Acquisition Act, 1894
Section 4 [A Preliminary notification shall be published and made widely available when the land in a locality is likely needed for a project]; Section 6 [State Government to make a declaration that land is required for a public purpose within one year from the date of publication of the preliminary notification]
Odisha Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, 2006
Section 9 (III) [Rehabilitation packages for projects related to water resources to include alternate land, house building allowance and assistance for agricultural land] 
Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013
Section 24(2) [If the compensation due under a land acquisition process carried out as per the 1894 Act has not been paid, the land acquisition process can start afresh as per the provisions of the new Act]; Section 27 [The Collector is to determine the amount of compensation to be paid based on the market value of the land and all the attached assets]; Section 38 [The collector is to take possession of the land only after full compensation has been paid to the affected families]  
Odisha Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Rules, 2015
Section 21(1) [The consent of the affected families needs to be obtained by the Land Acquisition Collector before the land is acquired]; Section 21(6) [The affected families cannot be forced to give their consent for the land acquisition process]; Section 28 [Compensation to be paid within 15 days from the date of passing an award];  
Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
Section 4(i) [Consultation with Gram Sabha mandatory before land acquisition for a development project]
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

Yes

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

Demand for compensation due as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and revised compensation under the LARR, 2013.

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Demand for compensation due as per the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and revised compensation under the LARR, 2013.

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Controversial land acquisition by the government

Non-payment of compensation/promised compensation

Delay in compensation

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Disposed

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Yes

Name of the adjudicatory body

National Green Tribunal

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Orissa High Court

Case Number

WP(C) No. 7193 of 2019

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

The petitioners approached the High Court claiming that the irrigation project had been delayed for more than two decades and that they were being denied basic amenities and coverage under government welfare schemes. They claimed that their lands were being submerged and they have not yet received any of the benefits that they were entitled to as per the project plan. The High Court directed the Special Land Acquisition Officer, Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, Bolangir to initiate land acquisition process under the LAAR, 2013 as soon as possible. They also directed the Land Acquisition Officer to give the affected families the opportunity to be heard and determine compensation within the statutory period.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Displacement

Lathicharge/teargas/pellets

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

No

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Boycott of official procedures/non-participation in official processes

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Strikes

Protests/marches

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Department of Water Resources, Government of Odisha, Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP) of Central Water Commission, Central Water Commission, Mahanadi River Water Disputes Tribunal

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Local farmers, Indigenous groups or traditional communities

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

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Reviewed By

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