Wednesday, January 25, 2023

HRF demands dropping of Pumped Storage Hydro-Electric Projects in 5th Schedule region

Photo caption: Tribals protesting against the proposed Yerravaram project, at Koyyuru in ASR district (courtesy: The Hindu)

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demanded that the pumped Storage Hydro-Electric projects be dropped forthwith. The projects have been granted to various private firms in the Fifth Schedule region of Visakhapatnam and Parvathipuram-Manyam district. The HRF has issued the following statement on Tuesday:

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that the State government drop the Pumped Storage Hydro-electric Projects (PSPs) granted to various private entities in the Fifth Schedule region of Visakhapatnam and Parvathipuram-Manyam districts.

According to information available, there are four PSPs in the 5th Schedule region that have been cleared by the State government recently. These are: Yerravaram PSP in Chintapalli and Koyyuru mandals and Pedakota PSP in Ananthagiri mandal, both in Alluri Sitharama Raju (ASR) district, and Kurukutti in Salur mandal and Karrivalasa in Pachipenta mandal, both in Parvathipuram-Manyam district. While Adani Green Energy Ltd. has been permitted to set up the PSPs in Kurukutti, Karrivalasa and Pedakota, the Yerravaram project has been handed over to Shirdi Sai Electricals. The recently created New & Renewable Energy Development Corporation of AP (NREDCAP) is the nodal agency for these projects. Each of these projects are to have an installed capacity of 1000 MW and above.

HRF has visited all four sites over the past several months and interacted with local people who are predominantly Adivasis. We are shocked at the brazen manner in which these projects have been granted in open contempt of the law and various Constitutional provisions applicable in the 5th Schedule region. These include the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA).

These provisions state clearly that any decision on a project in the 5th Schedule areas without informed discussion and prior consent of the local Grama Sabhas amounts to an illegality. In fact, the PESA stipulates that no project in the Scheduled area can even be conceived without prior consent of local adivasi Grama Sabhas. In respect of these PSPs, no information has been conveyed, no discussion has taken place, there has been no transparency and adivasis in these areas have been deliberately kept in the dark.

Leasing out of land in the Scheduled areas is governed by the AP Land Transfer Regulation (LTR). The Supreme Court laid out in the Samata case of 1997 that private entities cannot undertake projects in the Scheduled areas. The present proposals are in violation of this seminal judgment. Moreover, the government has not even bothered to hold a discussion and prior consultation on these projects in the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) despite this being a statutory requirement.

Adivasis in the Scheduled areas are opposed to these projects because they rightly perceive them as being harmful to their livelihood and well-being. Each of these PSPs envisages an upper and lower reservoir which in turn requires a fairly large amount of land. For instance, the total area required for both reservoirs in the Yerravaram project (to generate 1200 MW) is 820acres and for the Pedakota PSP (1000 MW), it is over 680 acres. This would entail physical displacement of adivasis in the Scheduled areas. According to estimates by the local adivasis, not less than 34 habitations located in Gondhipakalu and Errabommala panchayats in Chintapalli mandal and P Makavaram panchayat of Koyyuru mandal will be submerged by the Yerravaram project.

What is also alarming is that these projects involve drawing water from local sources that are used by adivasis for their sustenance – for domestic needs and agriculture. It was clear to us that the streams and water bodies from which this drawal will take place are part of the catchment for various reservoirs. In the Yerravaram PSP, it is the Thandava reservoir, for Pedakota PSP it is the Raiwada reservoir and PSPs in the Parvathipuram-Manyam district will pilfer water from the catchment of the Suvarnamukhi river that feeds the Vengalrayasagar reservoir. In effect, this will negatively impact water security of not just the adivasis in the vicinity of the project areas, but also farmers in the plains.

The approvals accorded to Shirdi Sai Electricals and Adani Energy, apart from undermining the livelihood rights of adivasis and physically displacing thousands of them, are legally untenable. Is the government at all aware of the express Constitutional guarantees for the 5th Schedule region? Is it not cognisant of the protective legislation meant for adivasis? Or does it imagine that it can ride roughshod over them? HRF calls for these projects to be cancelled forthwith.

Y Rajesh – HRF AP State general secretary 

VS Krishna – HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member

17-1-2023

Visakhapatnam

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