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!

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