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Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, Orissa, India


Lower Suktel Irrigation Project is a major irrigation scheme. It is proposed across the river Suktel, a tributary of river Tel, a major right tributary of river Mahanadi in Odisha. The Environment Clearance to the project was given by the Ministry of Environment and Forest in 1998. The dam site is located around 20 kms from the Bolangir town which will submerge more than 30 villages [1]. Project work had been halted by the immense protests from ‘Lower Suktel Budi Ancahal Sangram Parishad’ (LSBASP) and its members. They were protesting against the displacement and inadequate compensation given to the land losers of the project.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, Orissa, India
State or province:Orissa
Location of conflict:Village - Magurbeda; District - Bolangir
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Water
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project includes Construction of a 1410 m long and 30m. High Earthen Dam with a Spillway of 177 m. long to be located centrally across river Suktel. There are two main Canals, Right main canal taking off from right dyke having a length of 23.84 km. & the left main canal taking off from earth dam having a length of 10.76 km including the length of two of distributaries of about 35 kms. The total command area of the Project is 31830 hector in 189 villages in Bolangir & Sonepur District. On completion, the project will irrigate 29841 hector in Bolangir district spreading over 177 villages of Sonepur district in 12 villages. Further this project will supply 20 Cusecs of drinking water to Bolangir town. The project under implementation with Central loan assistance from Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP) under the long term action plan (LTAP) of K.B.K. District at an estimated cost of Rs. 217.13 Crores at 1994 Price level. The revised estimate of the project amounting to Rs.1041.81 Crs. has been approved by Central Water Commission (At 2009 Price Level) on 9.11.2010 [1]

Project area:127,500
Level of Investment:167,000,000: Rs. 1041.81 Crore
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:14,380
Start of the conflict:2001
Company names or state enterprises:Odisha Construction Corporation Limited from India
Relevant government actors:Department of Water Resources, Government of Odisha, Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program (AIBP) of Central Water Commission, Central Water Commission
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Lower Suktel Budi Ancahal Sangram Parishad (LSBASP), National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Pro-lower Suktel activists ‘lower Suktel action committee’ is protesting against the slow progress of work on Suktel irrigation project. The activists, who have been demanding expedition of the irrigation project work. According to them, Balangir, which has only 3% irrigated lands, would be greatly benefitted if the Suktel project is completed soon [9]
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Hunger strikes and self immolation
In August 2013, the LSBASP members staged a protest outside Odisha assembly, demanding abolition of the proposed mega irrigation project [6]
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
New legislation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of alternatives:Affected villagers continued to oppose the project demanding higher compensation for displacement and staged road blockade. They will not allow the administration acquire their land without adequate compensation. They also demand the displaced families should be compensated at the present market rate [6].
Activists of Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad, which has been spearheading the movement against the Lower Suktel Project, demanded complete scrapping of the project as it would have adverse impact on their life and livelihood [8]
Again, on 21th Jan 2014, NAPM released a press note, a call for action, which says:
'We demand:
The construction should be immediately stopped, since it violates the existing norms and procedures and is completely illegal.
Due compensation should be given for the loss of crop and other properties due to forceful construction.
The government should appoint a committee to look into the matter and the project as a whole.'
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Odisha Construction Company dug up the spillway area keeping the project work in progress. District Collector had informed that construction work would continue [2]. Some affected families have not been adequately compensated as compared to others. They demand underpaid land losers be equally compensated before the administration goes ahead with the project [3] The government has decided to start payment of full compensation and rehabilitation as soon as it started work for the mud dam of the irrigation project [5]
The number of villages to be affected as given by the government seems unrealistic and has not been updated with the changes in plans. The original height of the dam that was cited by the government was at 36 meters which is now slated to be at 56 meters. This essentially means many more villages coming under water. At least 142 villages (86 full & 56 partial) are estimated to be affected due to this dam/irrigation project [7]
Loisinga block of Balangir, with 48% tribal population, which will be affected by the project is known for its extremely fertile land. The thick forest around the area and through which Suktel river flows is known for rich flora and fauna and is said to be home for wild animals. The fertile land enables people to produce very good quality vegetables such as parwal & brinjal, mahul, mango, jamun, jackfruit etc and crops. People not only in Balangir district but also many other districts in Orissa are benefited by this produce. The area has a massive reserve for Kendu leaf [7]
There will be a loss of at least Rs.10crores due to the felling of trees which will lead to minimal rains ultimately affecting the eco-system of the area. It is not understood how a dam can be built and effectively used for irrigation on a river which is already not heavy flowing and without rain, it will be a dry river [7]
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Orissa Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy - 2006
[click to view]

Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Status Report of Lower Suktel Irrigation Project
[click to view]

[2] 14 hospitalized protesting against Lower Suktel project
[click to view]

[3] Lower Suktel work enters day XI, land losers seek equal compensation
[click to view]

[4] Lower Suktel Project: Scuffle with police leaves 40 injured, 16 arrested
[click to view]

[5] Congress condemns police excess on demonstrators in Bolangir
[click to view]

[8] Work on Lower Suktel project continues
[click to view]

[9] Balangir bandh against slow progress of Suktel project
[click to view]

Protests continue at lower Suktel dam site
[click to view]

Lower Suktel Irrigation Project: Development at gun point
[click to view]

Report on Lower Suktel Project and People’s Protest
[click to view]

Suktel oustees held
[click to view]

Organizations Condemn Police Brutality at Lower Suktel Site in Balangir
[click to view]

[6] Scrap lower Suktel project
[click to view]

[7] Why are people opposing Lower Suktel Irrigation project in Odisha ?
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Lower Suktel Project
[click to view]

Lower Indra displaced peoples tears...
[click to view]

Lower Suktel What kind of compensation is this ? (in Oriya)
[click to view]

Lower Suktel - the reality of the Suktel plateu (in Oriya)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update24/06/2014
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