Monday, June 12, 2017

MAN MOVES NGT FOR ‘GOVERNMENT HAND’ IN STREAM DIVERSION

Pune Mirror: Pune: Monday, June 12, 2017.
Chinchwad resident claims local body colluded with goons to divert water to his land, dig it up; many RTIs yielded nothing. NGT summons respondents on July 22
It was in 2012 that Nilesh Sampat Waghmare, who used to work as a visual merchandiser at the Big Bazaar outlet in Chinchwad, decided to return to his native Deo-Daithan village in Ahmednagar district, in an attempt to begin a new life, cultivating crop on his ancestral farmland.
What awaited the 34-year-old there, however, was an unpleasant surprise. According to Waghmare the ‘siddha nadi’ or natural stream passing through his farm had dried up – completely obstructed by some miscreants ‘out to encroach on his land’. Further, the troubled villager reportedly found that members of the Maharashtra Krushna Khore Vikas Mahamandal (KKVM), a government irrigation agency, colluded with local landlords to divert a part of the major water source from the nearby Ghodnadi river.
It was only last week four years after Waghmare tried the Right to Information (RTI) route multiple times to expose the nexus, but was denied any details saying they don’t come under the ambit of the Act that he finally approached the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Considering the gravity of the ecological ramifications of this development, a bench comprising Justice U D Salvi and expert member Ajay A Deshpande has now issued notices to KKVM officials, asking them to appear before the bench on July 22.
Waghmare’s petition has categorically stated that government officers conspired with local land-holders to block the natural flow of water of the locally called ‘siddha nadi’. He informed that since he had been working and residing in Chinchwad with his family for long, he had rarely visited his native village, where he owns four acres of land and a house. It was only five years ago that he came across this unforeseen development, which he believes local goons engineered, diverting the stream from the north side of his land to the west. The respondents, he alleged, encroached on his land and dug a 4x4 square feet-wide and 4-5 feet-deep pit on his land to block his entry and exit to his own property.
Waghmare added that since May 2012, he has been approaching the authorities with this grievance and requesting a site inspection and appropriate action so that his agricultural land could be made cultivable, and the illegal encroachment and natural water flow reinstated but in vain.
The complainant told Mirror, “I filed many RTI applications, but the officers kept passing the buck. I was told this information was not available under the Act. Attempt to approach police also yielded naught. During this time, the culprits claimed they had government permission and dug up more land, diverting the stream. They also threatened me saying they were not bothered about the losses I would incur.”
Advocate Aashutosh Srivastava, who is representing the petitioner, said, “A site visit revealed that this water diversion could lead to flooding and damage to agricultural land in the monsoon. RTI applications with the executive director of KKVM, irrigation department, and Shrigonda tehsildar office to gather information about permissions yielded nothing. We submitted to the bench that except the communications between the respondents and petitioner, no information was provided. This itself shows that the respondents are evading responsibility. We have produced copies of the village map, Google map and gat maps, which make it crystal clear that the stream has been illegally quenched, blocked and diverted. It has created huge risks to the Waghmare family’s life.”
The petition also alleges that government officials concerned willfully neglected to identify disturbance to the environment of the area. It has been demanded that immediate action be taken for restitution of the property which was damaged due to the negligence of the said officers, who have been asked to pay a compensation for the same.
B Chaure, sectional engineer of KKVM in charge of Shrigonda tehsil, shared, “We have still received no official information about any petition with NGT. But, we will study the case and reply after verifying ground realities. There were several transfers of land here, so we need to check exactly who is responsible for the alleged negligence.”