Residents from 24 villages in Vidarbha and 26 villages in Marathwada joined forces on Tuesday to protest the proposed construction of a dam on the Painganga River.
Led by the Painganga Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, protesters gathered at five locations along the riverbank to perform a “jal-samadhi” (protest in the water). Their primary demand: the immediate scrapping of the lower Painganga dam project.
“We will not allow the government to build this dam,” declared Mubarak Tanvar, secretary of the Painganga Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, addressing the media in Yavatmal district. “This river is our lifeblood, and we will not give up our homes and livelihoods without a fight.”
Residents fear the dam will displace them from their homes and destroy their farmland, further impacting their agricultural livelihoods. Additionally, concerns regarding the disruption of the river’s natural flow and potential environmental damage have fueled the protest.
Despite the government justifying the dam as a necessary measure to provide irrigation and drinking water, the protesters believe alternative solutions exist that don’t involve displacement and environmental harm.
The Painganga River, a significant tributary of the Godavari, serves as a vital source of water for millions in Maharashtra. The proposed dam forms part of the controversial Marathwada Water Grid Project, aiming to address the region’s chronic water scarcity.
Opposition to the project has been vocal since its inception in the 1970s. Critics argue that it is both financially unsustainable and excessively disruptive to communities and the environment.
While the government remains committed to the project, it has expressed openness to dialogue with the protesters. However, protesters remain resolute in their demand for the project’s cancellation.
The escalating protests against the Marathwada Water Grid Project, including the recent “jal-samadhi” demonstrations, highlight the ongoing struggle between development and environmental protection in Maharashtra. The government faces a critical juncture, needing to address the water needs of the Marathwada region while finding solutions that respect the concerns of affected communities and the environment.